Friday, December 17, 2004

Merry Christmas to all who visit my blog...

I'll be taking a break from my blogging for the next couple of weeks as my family and I head to Texas to spend the Christmas holidays with my mom, my son and his wife, my sister and her family, and my brother's wife and daughters.

My sincere wish is for all of you to have a blessed Christmas. I pray you'll take the time to reflect on the import and wonder of Jesus' birth!

One song that never fails to underscore that message in my heart is Chris Rice's beautiful "Welcome to Our World."

Here are the lyrics, copied from this site. (For a sound clip of Chris playing the song on his The living Room Sessions Christmas CD, go here.)

"Welcome to Our World"

Tears are falling, hearts are breaking
How we need to hear from God
You've been promised, we've been waiting
Welcome Holy Child
Welcome Holy Child

Hope that you don't mind our manger
How I wish we would have known
But long awaited Holy Stranger
Make yourself at home
Please make yourself at home

Bring your peace into our violence
Bid our hungry souls be filled
Word now breaking Heaven's silence
Welcome to our world
Welcome to our world

Fragile finger sent to heal us
Tender brow prepared for thorn
Tiny heart whose blood will save us
Unto us is born
Unto us is born

So wrap our injured flesh around You
Breathe our air and walk our sod
Rob our sin and make us holy
Perfect Son of God
Perfect Son of God
Welcome to our world--Chris Rice

Max Lucado, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, and Alistair Begg...

...are among pastors whose church's Christmas celebrations are featured today in USA Today's article, 10 Great Places to Hear the Christmas Gospel.

Alistair Begg

I've mentioned here before that I really like Alistair Begg, and even blogged not too long ago about his acting debut in a movie about golf legend Bobby Jones starring Jim Caviezel.

I first became aware of Begg when he was a guest speaker at Cedarville University , from which my son Jonathan is a graduate and where my son Justin is now a student.

Then, my husband and I greatly enjoyed hearing him in September 2003 at a "Rekindling the Romance" seminar in Chicago.

Today's USA Today article says of the Scottish-born Ohio pastor: "Newcomers may be drawn to Begg's Scottish lilt, but they stay for the passionate and inspiring preaching. 'We will have a tasteful and traditional gathering,' says the Scottish native, known for his uniquely unconventional conservatism."

Begg pastors Parkside Church near Cleveland.

I don't like Chrismukkah...

I believe the pop culture marriage of Christmas and Hannukah serves only to water down both holidays, and reeks of uber-political correctness.

But here is an interesting analysis of it.

Frankly, I hope "Chrismukkah" is NOT a trend that will sweep the nation.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

It only took one child to change the world...

Are you ever suddenly blindsided with the full impact of a truth you've generally taken for granted? That happened to me last night.

Oh, it wasn't the first time I've been overwhelmed by the reality of this truth. But it had been a while since it punched me in the gut with its power and awe.

My daughter and I had been out Christmas shopping, and I was a bit edgy from dealing with traffic that is much more hectic than usual. Driving along, I realized that the song 101QFL was playing was Natalie Grant's "One Child."

I began to let the lyrics seep into my heart through the medium of Natalie's soulful voice:

"One million chains could never hold back this moment in time
One thousand dreams could never dream what this moment truly means
Heaven and earth, they cradle the infinite Joy born on this night
For it only takes one Child to forever change the world"

This line in particular is laden with significance:

"This Baby cries and for the first time
The world hears the voice of God weep"

And that's when it hit me again...the inexplicable, ineffable, ungraspable truth...that the creator of the Universe "wrapped his love in flesh and blood" and became a human being.

And he did it because he loved us. He loved me.

"Why are you crying, Mom?" Elizabeth asked.

Because I am humbled. I am awestruck. I am blown away once again, at God's unfathomable grace.

For the rest of the lyrics to "One Child," go here.

Me with Natalie Grant at GMA in Nashville, 2003

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

My favorite Christmas presents as a child...

"Auntie Robbo," by Ann Scott-Moncrieff

...were always books.

I was always a bookworm as a child, and my favorite gifts were books. Oh, I played with Barbie dolls and baby dolls, and spent plenty of time outdoors (in those days kids actually PLAYED OUTSIDE), but other than that, you could find me curled up with a book--sometimes to the annoyance of my friends and family.

When I was a little girl, my parents were missionaries to Beirut, Lebanon. There were many bookstores containing books in English, and I can remember exactly how they smelled and how I was in paradise when inside one.

Christmas wasn't Christmas if I didn't get several books. They were very inexpensive in Beirut, so it was no problem for my parents to obtain nice, hardcover books.

I went to a British school for two years, and read "Jane Eyre" at the age of eight or nine. It remains one of my favorite books of all time other than the Bible...probably my very favorite.

I remember one Christmas, when I was nine or ten, I got several classics, including "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen, "Gulliver's Travels" by Jonathan Swift, and "Villette" by Charlotte Bronte. But probably one of my very favorites was a large anthology of Enid Blyton.

Enid Blyton was a British writer who was very prolific. I loved everything she wrote, including a series she did about a girl's boarding school called "Malory Towers."

The anthology was a huge,almost coffee-table size book full of her stories. I loved that book and wish I knew where it was today. (By the way, I still have many of the hardcover books my parents gave me in those days, and re-read them every now and then...even the ones that were for children.)

(I blogged last year about my delight in finding one of my childhood favorites, "Red Knights from Hy Brasil," by Christine Savery.)

It was during this era that I also fell in love with Noel Streatfield's "shoes" books, C.S.Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, and anything by Louisa May Alcott.

Beirut also had a Christian bookstore in those days, owned by a British missionary society. They had a great selection of books from Moody Press (anybody remember the Danny Orlis series?) as well as many by British authors. Again, I still have many of those books. favorite Christmas presents were definitely BOOKS. To this day a new book, especially a new fiction book, is like a treasure trove to invitation to step out of my reality for a while and enjoy a different world.

And today I ordered another of my childhood favorites...

It's "Auntie Robbo," by Ann Scott-Moncrieff.

I've probably read this book at least once a year throughout my entire life. The problem is, my copy--yes, the paperback one my parents bought for me circa 1966--is coverless and missing the last couple of pages of the book.

The engaging, quirkily humorous story is about an eighty-something Scottish lady who is highly eccentric and stubbornly independent, and who totally refuses to act her age.

Seen through the eyes of her great-nephew Hector, who is a boy of eight or nine, Auntie Robbo is a highly admirable and fascinating character. The two live a carefree and rather undisciplined life in the Scottish hills, and Hector's perfectly happy with the status quo.

When the second wife of Hector's late father shows up to claim him as her own--Hector has never met this obnoxiously annoying lady until now--Auntie Robbo and Hector go on the run. Their adventures make for delightfully absorbing reading, even at my advanced age.

So, on a whim today I decided to try to find the book online. Sure enough, it was available on several used and rare book sites, but I ended up getting the best deal on (yes, they do sell used books.)

I can't wait to get my new copy of "Auntie Robbo." Just as "Red Knights" was, this will be a wonderful gift for myself.

And after all, books are still some of my very favorite presents.

So, what were your favorite childhood books? Do you own copies of them today? Do you share them with your own children? Tell me about it in my comments section.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The very best spinach salad recipe

My co-worker, Sherry, brought this to a potluck here yesterday, and it was outstinkingstanding! The dressing alone is worth the price of this recipe (and hey, you're getting it for free!)

Spinach Salad/Dressing

12 cups torn fresh spinach
8 green onions, chopped
6 hard-cooked eggs, sliced
1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 8-ounce can sliced water chestnuts, drained
8 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled


1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground mustard
1 tsp. grated onion
1 cup vegetable oil

In large bowl, mix first six ingredients (spinach, etc.)

Combine vinegar, sugar, salt, mustard and onion in blender. Cover: process until smooth. Gradually add oil and blend well. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

My five best posts of the year? (well, in my humble opinion, anyway...)

Via Bene Diction Blogs On, I found out that The Corner is inviting bloggers to submit what they believe are their top five posts of 2004.

If you want to participate, the instructions are here.

I don't always wax eloquent on my blog, but here are what I believe are my Five Best of 2004:

January 22nd...a day to mourn

Happy Mother's Day

In Loving Memory


Rockford's abortion doctor dies

Fellow bloggers, hope you'll participate!

Monday, December 13, 2004

What are your favorite Christmas movies?

My radio co-host Darren Marlar got ahold of Blockbuster's top 10 holiday rentals (my faves on the list are in boldface):

1. The Santa Clause
2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the 2000 live-action version with Jim Carrey)
3. A Charlie Brown Christmas
4. White Christmas
5. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the 1966 animated version)
6. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
7. It's a Wonderful Life
8. A Christmas Story
9. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
10. The Santa Clause II

It's a Wonderful Life, is in my opinion one of the best movies of all time, let alone Christmas movie. It definitely makes my top 5 list of best movies ever.

A few of my absolute favorites that didn't make the list:

Holiday Inn--Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, the debut of "White Christmas"--what more could you ask?

Scrooged--Bill Murray at his best--a little over the top, but definitely fun and ultimately heartwarming.

Home Alone--a classic...never fails to put me in the Christmas spirit. I can't hear the theme song, "Somewhere in My Memory" without getting all emotional (click here for a sound clip.

The sequels fail to engender the same magic as the original. Home Alone 2 was all about how much pain could be inflicted on the two criminals played by Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci, and I didn't even bother with Home Alone 3.

What are your favorites?

A must-read

Katy Raymond's blog is one of my favorites anyway, but this post is not to be missed.

What kind of intelligence do you have?

Your Dominant Intelligence is Linguistic Intelligence

You are excellent with words and language. You explain yourself well.
An elegant speaker, you can converse well with anyone on the fly.
You are also good at remembering information and convicing someone of your point of view.
A master of creative phrasing and unique words, you enjoy expanding your vocabulary.

You would make a fantastic poet, journalist, writer, teacher, lawyer, politician, or translator.

I love these quizzes!

Friday, December 10, 2004

It's FRIDAY!!! And it's my birthday!!!

I don't think I'm getting a birthday cake today, but if I did, 48 candles is a LOT...I think I'd have the fire department on standby.

You'd think that at this advanced age, I would be over the silly little expectations of hoping today will somehow be "special." But there you go, hope springs eternal. :)

I did get an e-birthday greeting from my friend Audrey (thanks Audz!), and this very kind e-mail from a listener:

"Goodmorning Cindy,

HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Did you you there are exactly 86,400 seconds in your birthday? Did you know my daughter and I listen every day for 5,400 seconds? Do you know that you bless us each day? Nina can not wait to tune in QFL. Everyday is started on a positive note because of your show! You do such a great job! Thank you for each second you give! May love, laughter, and contentment decorate your day and fill your year. Wishing for you a day that holds all the happiness your heart can imagine.


Nina's mom"

Thanks so much, Nina's mom! You made my day.

Oh, I forgot. When the puppy started yelping at 4 o'clock this morning (I had to get up anyway), my husband did turn over and sleepily murmur, "Happy birthday."

Looking for Nicholas Jonas lyrics?

I've received several e-mail requests from people who want to sing Nicholas Jonas' "Joy to the World-A Christmas Prayer."

I've checked all my sources and can't find voice tracks or sheet music for this song. One enterprising pastor actually scored it for his daughter to sing, but was getting hung up on some of the lyrics.

If you're interested, I found the lyrics here.

Nicholas' people really should check into marketing this song as sheet music and/or sound tracks...looks like there's a healthy interest in it!

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Still ringing those bells...

My interview with Evie Tornquist Karlsson

I finally got to interview Evie! Here is a transcript of an interview I did for Radio91 and 101QFL.

CINDY: As many of you know, I have a website and a weblog. A couple of years ago, I mentioned a certain singer in an article I wrote on my website about my favorite Christmas music. Amazingly, I found that many of the hits on my website were consistently from people looking for information about that singer. That singer is Evie Tornquist Karlsson, and I'm so delighted to have you as my guest today.

EVIE: (laughing) Thank you so much, Cindy, and we're still ringing those bells after all these years!

CINDY: Well, you know, it's almost surreal actually talking to you, because I can remember that when I was student at Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missouri, way back in the 1970's, I almost wore out your "Mirror" album.

I loved every song on that album, I just about memorized the whole thing. Also, half the guys at my college were in love with you, so I was even a little jealous of you, and can't believe I'm actually talking to Evie!...

You know, I want to recap your career and of course update people on what you're doing now, but first I need to ask you about something that apparently is still huge...and that is the Christmas song, "Come On, Ring Those Bells."

Most of the hits that I get on my website that are looking for info on you specifically often contain the phrase "Come On, Ring Those Bells"--people wanting to get the lyrics, the guitar tabs, find out where they can get the sheet music, whatever.

Tell me, first of all, how you came to record that song?

EVIE: Well, it was back in the mid-70's, when the folks at Word Records were helping me put together the very first Christmas album that we did.

We did two with them, and this was the first one...and just like in every other situation, the A and R people,whose specific job it is find music that sort of makes sense for the different artists to do, they bring just a big briefcase over with demos and chord charts and we just take several days and look over them.

And I knew I wanted to do some of the older traditional songs like "O Holy Night" and "Silent Night" and "O Little Town of Bethlehem," and such, but we also needed some fresh new things. And so, which was sort of uncharacteristic for record companies back then,they pitched a song called "Come On, Ring Those Bells" to me which was not part of their roster.

They went to Manna Music, which was another Christian publishing company, and got this song "Come On, Ring Those Bells," written by Andrew Culverwell, and played it for me, and said, "What do you think?" And I immediately loved the song. I thought it had such a great combination of zeroing in first of all on what the season truly is all about, and that is it's Jesus birthday, it's our time to celebrate Him, and keep the focus on Him.

But it also had a very folksy way of applying this to all of us, y'know: (singing)

"Everybody likes to take a holiday/ everybody likes to take a rest/ spending time together with the family/ Sharing
lots of love and happiness...."

All of us could listen to that and say, "Oh, yeah...that's absolutely right. And let's, come on, let's ring the bells of Christmas, and remember that Jesus, we remember this is YOUR birthday." And it just had a wonderful arrangement...and I think it was just something that obviously the Lord wanted to have that be embraced the way it was. It was His plan from the get-go, we just got to be part of it and watch it happen.

The background vocals are done by a lady who is a very well-known country artist herself in her own right, by the name of Janie Fricke.

CINDY: Oh my goodness, really?

EVIE: Janie Fricke is the gal who got two other young women together and did the background vocals for that entire Christmas album. But the "Come On Ring those bells" tune is where you can really hear her beautiful voice.

CINDY: Now that is a little bit of trivia that I had never heard before, Evie. Now, why do you think that it has so endured, obviously stood the test of time?

Enduring appeal

EVIE: Oh, I haven't a clue, Cindy, other than...I don't know, perhaps at that very moment in the mid-70's, contemporary Christian music was in its early stages. There were many of us that were trying to sort of push the envelope a little bit, within reason, not get people upset with us...but sort of bring Christian music to a kind of grassroots, folksy, embraceable way. Because, the purpose here for what we do what we do, and I'm sure it's the same with you, we want to introduce people to the Lord Jesus Christ.

CINDY: Absolutely.

EVIE: And whether it takes a website or a blog or a radio program or a song or a book or words over the fence with our neighbors, that's the whole purpose of why we're here.

So, to do music then, that would be easily embraced by those who perhaps aren't in church on a regular basis....perhaps those who would rather hear an album with Janie Fricke than a Christian singer. I suppose, maybe at that very moment there was sort of an open ear for it, and then as in most cases with holiday music and holiday traditions, something occurs within our hearts. It brings back warm, wonderful memories...And you know how they say the smell or the scent is a very strong memory with us--well, I think Christmas memories are also a tremendous trigger.

CINDY: That is very true. And I also think this song really lends itself well to being sung by children's choirs and children's groups...

EVIE: Sure.

CINDY: There's nothing that sounds as cute as a bunch of little voices singing this song, and I've heard it many times. But the question, Evie, that I've got to ask you is, can people still ahold of the Christmas album that it's on, or can they get ahold of the sheet music or the that available out there?

EVIE: Well, I have to be perfectly honest and say that I really don't know the best answer to that question. We did, or rather Word did a "Christmas Memories" CD about four or five years ago, and included a few new songs as well as "Come On, Ring Those Bells." But to my understanding, that is now out of print.

CINDY: Well let me put my vote in right now, and I'm sure a lot of people will agree with me, for you to make another Christmas album, Evie. I think it's time.

A new Christmas project in the works

EVIE: Well, believe it or not, Cindy, what we did--and I wish I had something available for people right now--but I have a hunch that it's going to be available soon, certainly by next Christmas--what we've done is we've actually put together another compilation album. We're calling it "Come On, Ring Those Bells." It's not available on the Internet or in stores right now, but it will be.

CINDY: Wonderful.

EVIE: It will be for next season, and we've added a few new songs. We're just so thankful for the interest that is still there. I was in Dayton, Ohio a couple of weeks ago with a wonderful Christian radio station there that had invited me to come, WFCJ, and do a concert.

It was sort of the opening of the Christmas season, and we did "Come On, Ring Those Bells" until we were green in the face, and the folks that came out, it just warmed my heart so much. So, we're grateful for it, and we're encouraged and believe that, for sure for next season, it'll be available, and I will definitely let you know, Cindy.


Evie is entering yet another new season in her life and ministry. After some 20 years of working with SkyAngel, Evie tells me that she and her husband, Pelle Karlsson, are involved in an effort called "LightSat."

Evie says LightSat is a missions effort, in her words, "using television and radio
with indigenous programming to areas of the world that are still so, so dark. And actually, being simply a facilitator for denominations, missions groups, Bible translators, programmers that are already praying night and day for a vehicle that would help them reach these areas with the indigenous programming. Language that people can understand, culture that they can understand, from a face or from a group of people that they can directly relate to...not just a bunch of Americans with sub-titles."

Evie and Pelle have been married nearly 26 years, and have a 23-old-son and a 20-year-old daughter.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Just finished a really good book

Like a Watered Garden, by Patti Hill

In her fiction debut, Like a Watered Garden, author Patti Hill has given us a book about grieving that manages to be warm, comforting, wryly humorous and realistic at the same small feat for any writer, much less a first-time novelist.

We learn right away that Mibby Garrett is a widow, and we are instantly pulled into her world. While still struggling to cope with the painful loss of her beloved Scott, Mibby immerses herself in her garden design business. Indeed, plants and gardens are an ongoing theme in the story, with each chapter opening with Mibby's daily forecast and updates on her own garden.

But as Mibby takes comfort in frequent "blubberfests" and avoiding what she calls "whammies o' grief," her 12-year-old son Ky is enduring his own confusion and loss, and acting out accordingly.

And just as she thinks things can't get any worse, a young girl enters her life with stunning news that sends Mibby reeling with questions about how well she really knew her late husband.

The book is peopled with memorable characters, some eccentric and some just plain wonderful, like Mibby's ever-optimistic Southern neighbor, Louise--who bolsters Mibby's faith with frequent sermons and lots of love, humor and baked goods left over from her bed-and-breakfast.

Complicating matters is Mibby's growing attraction to Ben, one of her male clients, over which she feels confusion and even guilt.

Like the comforting touch of a good friend, this book captures a widow's journey from pain and grief to growing faith and hopefulness, and does so absorbingly and with gentle humor and realism.

Patti Hill is a gifted storyteller who possesses a lovely and engaging way with words. I look forward to future books from this talented new author.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

And the Grinchiness goes on...

My interview with John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute

CINDY: John, thank you so much for being with us today.

JOHN: Thank you for having me on.

CINDY: We're having some people call in and tell us some things that are
going on around the area in relation to Christmas programs in local public schools, specifically the Harlem School District [in northern Illinois.]

And apparently they had a Christmas program and some parents called us upset because the use of the word Christmas was specifically banned, apparently, from the the extent that instead of singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" they changed it to "We Wish You a Happy Season"..."O Christmas Tree" changed to "O Turkey Dear"...and "The Twelve Day of Christmas" they actually changed to a cute little song about McDonald's.

And it got us thinking, what exactly is allowed? What can be done as far as Christmas?

And that took me to your website, John, to the Rutherford Institute website. You have a thing there called The Twelve Rules of Christmas that goes into detail explaining about that. And I want to get into that, but first of all, John, for people who may not be familiar with it, what is the Rutherford Institute?

JOHN: It's an organization I started a little over 20 years ago to fight in the courtroom and educate on public issues.

We've taken on literally thousands of lawsuits over the years since then, and when we take a case we do not charge, that was the idea. I raise money from public donations and when we take on a case we make sure the client doesn't have to pay, because most people can't afford lawyers and they can't afford a court battle. We use attorneys across the country in all 50 states that donate their time, and without that, we couldn't move forward.

So that's what we do, and we specialize in religious freedom over the years and have won number of cases.

CINDY: Well John, it seems to me--maybe it's just my imagination--but it seems to me that this Christmas is worse than it's ever been, as far as the thought police and the politically correct police being out and about making sure that this holiday, which is in fact the celebration of Jesus' birth, is completely taken away from Christ and from any mention of Jesus.

Is that my imagination or do you see it getting worse in some quarters?

"...more ludicrous and crazy each year"

JOHN: It's happening all over the country. It's not getting better, it's getting worse, you're absolutely correct. You know, we really started seeing these cases worsen in the mid-90's. And I thought, with some Christian resurgence in the country and those kind of things, that maybe things would get better. But the thing is, it has worsened; the cases become more ludicrous and more crazy each year. There is, in my opinion, and I don't know where it's coming from, but if you want to use the word "agenda" in the public schools of America to completely secularize the public schools,and specifically, do away with any Christian references.

We had a weird case four or five years ago where in a Christmas play a child wore in a green and red scarf and the child was told he couldn't wear the scarf because it was the "Christian" color. So, it's gotten worse, I mean, just some of the examples you've given me of what's happening in your area. The "O Turkey Dear" is one of the craziest things I've ever heard, or singing hymns to McDonald's of all places.

So it's gotten worse, yeah. And the thing is that we emphasize with our Twelve Rules of Christmas, is that none of this stuff is illegal. You can celebrate Christmas in the schools, you can do all kinds of things.

"Offend no one"

What it is, and you nailed it, is political correctness, and the golden rule of our public schools which is "Don't offend anyone...offend no one." So that's what's happening. But I think, unfortunately, a lot of schools allow Hannukah and Kwaanza (but) at the same time they don't allow any kind of Christian references in songs.

CINDY: You were saying their mantra is "Don't offend anyone," but they ARE offending a sizable group of people, and that's the Christians.

JOHN: Exactly. I think the one group they don't care about offending is the Christians.

CINDY: Tell me far as the Christmas songs...what is allowed?

JOHN: Well, you can have Christmas songs and Christmas plays, as long as it's part of a larger program where you have the so-called secular songs. You can sing "O Come All Ye Faithful" or the traditional Christmas songs. You can teach about it in the classroom, the Christmas can mention the baby Jesus and Joseph and know, Luke 2, in the New Testament--you can tell that, that's history. As long as it's taught objectively and it's part of history. So there's all kinds of things teachers and students can do.

Yeah, you can have Christmas programs in the schools. The only reason they're not occurring is that the schools just don't want to do it.

CINDY: What should parents do to battle this kind of political correctness that's run amuck?

"What it takes is a fight"

JOHN: Get educated, number one. I'd get a copy of "The Twelve Rules of Christmas" which you can download from our website, or call our toll-free number (1-800-225-1791) we can give you a free copy of the pamphlet. Take it to your teacher, take it to your schools right now, get it right away, and say "This is legal, why aren't you doing it?" I'd pressure 'em, get together a group of parents that are concerned...go to them in a group.

Usually it takes one parent that says, "Hey, I don't like these Christian Christmas songs," and they cancel 'em. Unfortunately, the Christians very seldom stand up.

So, what it takes is a fight. You have to get educated and go in armed with your pamphlets. You know, we've actually written schools and threatened to sue them, and the reason they back down is it's not against the law. And the reason we
send those letters or call schools is because parents call us and say, "We want you to stand up for us," and you have to stand up and fight back.

"One parent can change history"

CINDY: Do you know of instances where parents have gone to the school board and actually gotten things changed, just through being vocal?

JOHN: Yes. That's the key, being vocal. To show you, we just won a case in northern Virginia where the PTA ,to raise money, the parents could buy bricks to put around the flagpole, and they could put names or symbols. So a few parents bought the bricks for 25 dollars and put a little cross on them and their child's name, and one parent complained that they didn't like the crosses... and the school went out and took metal plates and put over those bricks.

We sued the school and won in court, but it took that one parent to change, then we had to go in and file a lawsuit to get those right back. But like I said, one parent can change history.

Weight Watchers Graham Cracker Dessert

Looking for a dessert for holiday gatherings that won't destroy your diet, but is so good no one will ever guess it isn't fattening?

This one has been a hit wherever I've taken it, and even my low-fat-phobic husband and sons love it.


Graham crackers (your choice...I use the chocolate ones)
2 boxes fat-free,sugar free vanilla OR white chocolate Jello pudding
3 cups milk
1 carton Cool Whip (fat free or Lite if you wish)
chocolate syrup

Make pudding with 3 cups of milk. Mix the Cool Whip in with it.

Line 9 by 13 pan with graham crackers (don't crush them, just lay them'll have to break them off some to make them fit).

Cover with pudding/Cool Whip mixture.

Add another layer of graham crackers. Drizzle with chocolate syrup.

This does not have to be frozen, but if you put it in the freezer for a while, it tastes like ice cream sandwiches. It really tastes like something sinfully fattening, but it isn't at all!

Monday, December 06, 2004

And my 2004 Grinch Award goes to...

Actually, at this point it's a tie:

1) Target for excluding the Salvation Army bellringers--I already blogged about that here.

2) On the local level, Harlem School District elementary schools for banning the use of the word "Christmas" from its holiday Christmas programs.

Darren Marlar
and I started getting calls a few weeks ago from Harlem District parents who were upset about the line-up of songs in the holiday (we daren't say Christmas!) program.

Apparently, "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" was to be sung as "We Wish You a Happy Season." (Gag!) "O Christmas Tree" became "O Turkey Dear" (!!!), and instead of "The Twelve Days of Christmas," a parody called "The Twelve Days of McDonald's" was to be sung (sample lyric: "On the first day of McDonald's, my good friend gave to me, a cheeseburger...").

"Feliz Navidad" was apparently to have been included, but was scratched, perhaps after someone figured out that "Navidad" means Christmas in Spanish?

People, this is political correctness run stark raving out of control. I did some checking at the Rutherford Institute's site, and it's fine to sing Christmas songs in public school under certain guidelines:

"Public schools may include Christmas music, including those with religious themes, in their choral programs if the songs are included for a secular purpose such as their musical quality or cultural value or if the songs are part of an overall performance including other holiday songs relating to Chanukah, Kwanzaa, or other similar holidays."

You can read the Rutherford Institute's complete "Twelve Rules of Christmas" here.

Can you imagine how many things would have to be revised if the political correctness thought police had their way? It staggers the imagination, but some people have given it a shot--click here for a list of politically correct Christmas songs that actually don't sound like much of an exaggeration anymore. After all, "We Wish You a Nonsectarian Holiday" isn't any crazier than "We Wish You a Happy Season"!

I was going to include Federated Department Stores...

...on my Grinch List, but now I'm not so sure they belong there.

Federated is the parent company of department stores like Bloomingdale's, Macy's and Goldsmith's.

A group calling itself the Committee to Save Merry Christmas was calling for a boycott of Federated because of a policy banning the use of the words "Merry Christmas" in pre-holiday advertising and in in-store

As World Net Daily noted in this article last week, that was particularly ironic since Macy's will be forever linked with Christmas through the "Miracles on 34th Street" movies.

After getting the news story about the boycott (by the way, I'm not particularly sold on boycotts, but that's another story), I went to the Federated website, where I saw a "Merry Christmas" greeting along with the words: "Have questions about our use of Merry Christmas? Click here."

Frankly, their statement is good enough for me--it seems reasonable enough--but apparently it's not good enough for the Committee to Save Merry Christmas.

I do understand the need for a department store to want to be inclusive. So, don't make all of your holiday greetings include the word "Christmas."

But at least make some of them do so. Don't ban the word entirely!

After least for is still CHRISTMAS TIME.

Not just "the season" or "the winter solstice."


Friday, December 03, 2004

Thanksgiving revisited

As I head off into the weekend, I thought I'd share a few pics from our Wyoming Thanksgiving.

My sister Lisa, my son Justin and my husband Doug

My sister Beverly, me, my sister Lisa and my beautiful mom

My niece Katie and my daughter Elizabeth

Have a blessed weekend, everyone!

Why do I blog? Why do you blog?

Bene of Bene Diction Blogs On is asking bloggers to answer the question: why do you blog? He then wants you to post the link in his comments section.

So...why do I blog?

Well, in my case, it helps satisfy a need for written self-expression that has been a part of me since I first learned to string together sentences on paper. Writing has always been an outlet for me.

An outlet, but not always necessarily a private one. As a radio personality, I enjoy interaction with listeners. As a news announcer, I enjoy imparting information to people that they might not otherwise hear. As a blogger, I find my self eager to share things with my readers--fun stuff, trivia, my thoughts and opinions on books, music, entertainment, politics, faith.

When I read or hear or experience something, I want to share it. Sharing it in writing is fun and enjoyable for me.

I suppose that, in a nutshell, is why I blog. I want to write for others to read, and this is the easiest way I know how.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

We celebrated "Strange Names Day"

Maybe you missed it. Tuesday was, and evermore shall be on the last Tuesday in November, Strange Names Day.

It all started when Darren Marlar and I were a little taken aback by the names actress Julia Roberts bestowed on her newborn twins: Hazel and Phinneas.

Then there are some of the other names of celebrity offspring, like:

--Coco(daughter of Courtney Cox and David Arquette)
--Magnus (kid to Will Ferrel)
--Indiana August (kid of Casey Afleck)
--Rumor, Scout (children of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore)
--Apple (Gwyneth Paltrow’s baby)
--Romeo (son of Jon Bon Jovi)

So, we opened the phone lines for listeners to call in with strange or just unusual names...and we got a slew of them. Some were names of the callers themselves; some were names they had named their own children, others were names of relatives or acquaintances.

As you can see, "strange" or "unusual" doesn't have to mean "ugly" (and isn't ugly just a matter of opinion, anyway? I'm sure Julia thinks Hazel is a lovely name, or she wouldn't have given it to her child.)

Anyway, here are some that were called in:

--Kandra (can-drah)
--Sherese (shah-reese) named for Cyd Charrise
--Shayleigh (Shay-lee)
--Paige Turner
--Odetta Pearl
--Anita Shower (this is her MARRIED name, by the way – she chose not to keep her maiden name, and ended up with this one!)
--Rainy Shower (believe it or not, daughter of Anita Shower)
--Ori (No surprise, gets called “Oreo” quite often...but named for the Patrick Swayze character, Orry Mains, in "North and South")
--Tindle (A woman’s middle-name)
--Xne (pronounced Zyne – like Sign)
--Holly Wood
--Sandy Hare
--Candy Barr
--Dartagnan (All for one, and one for all!--this is the 2-year-old son of a listener who called in)
--Candy Cane (The Science teacher of one of our listeners)

Got any you'd like to add to the list?

Is this adorable or what???

My little niece Channing and our new toy poodle, Brandy

Reax to my "Poisonwood Bible" review

Joy's comments were too long for my comments section, so she e-mailed them to me...and I find that she was better at wording some of my own feelings about the book:

"having a heart for reform in the church, reform in the way churches 'do'
missions, and for africa itself, i was very eager to read The Poisonwood Bible.

"i agree with you on the lyrical style and literary beauty of this novel.
it was well worth the read from the artistic standpoint.

"i even liked it from the cross-cultural learning standpoint because it helped me see how most foreigners must come across, particularly americans, to nationals, whether they are believers or not.

"i do think that the author's worldview taints her writing, and i'll go so far as to say this taint spoils the book. while i recognize that my own worldview and experience and even personal makeup influence my reading of her work, i believe that it's the author's responsibility to not only demonstrate her prerogative to say what she wants to say but also to be honest about the big picture and where her story fits into the big picture.

"when she perpetuates a presupposition that white Baptist missionaries are narrowminded Bible-thumpers (but not really Bible readers or gracious God-loving people-lovers), then she perpetuates a distorted view of the whole, and thereby dissolves her own credibility."

Excellent point, Joy!

Also, author Robin Lee Hatcher recommends another missionary-based book: "My problem with the book is that everybody loses. Even going into the future, what we see are ruined lives, a future without hope. I kept thinking I wish this story had been written by a Christian. A few years later, my wish was granted. Catherine Palmer wrote THE HAPPY ROOM, a story of missionaries in Africa. So if you haven't read Palmer's book (she is the daughter of missionaries - also Baptist if I'm not mistaken), give it a try."

I certainly will, Robin. I've read a few books by Catherine and really enjoyed them.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Quote o' The Day

"I really wouldn't want to be a dumb bimbo. (I'd love to be a hot genius, though.)"--Julie Anne Fidler

I finally read "The Poisonwood Bible"

Call me contrary, but my kneejerk reaction to Oprah Book Club titles is generally to ignore them. (It's true, I read Christian fiction more than any other kind of fiction, but not exclusively by any means.)

At any rate, I've seen The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver everywhere from airport newstands to Wal-Mart, and heard great things about it, but never even had an urge to pick it up.

However,my sister Bev gave me her copy to read on the way home from Wyoming. I picked it up, and was hooked from the first page.

Kingsolver's writing is beautiful, powerful and lyrical, and she genuinely inhabits the voices of each of her narrators--whether missionary wife Orleanna Price or her daughters, Rachel, Leah, Adah and Ruth May. Without question, Kingsolver is a singularly gifted writer and storyteller.

An unusual missionary story

The premise resonated with me on a few levels anyway, because it's the story of a Baptist missionary taking his family to a foreign land in the early 60's. This was my own situation as a child in the mid-60's, as my family uprooted from the United States and moved to Beirut, Lebanon.

However, a lot of things were different in my own case, as I'll mention later.

In the book, World War Two veteran Nathan Price takes his family to a remote, primitive village in the Belgian Congo, and proceeds to try to forcefully shove Christianity down the throats of the villagers, completely insensitive to their native ways and customs. Headstrong and bullying, Price also coldly disregards his family's safety and stubbornly stays in the village, even when his mission board urges him to leave and cuts off his stipend amid swirling political turmoil.

Kingsolver tells the story through the eyes of Price's family, alternating the narrative among his wife and four daughters.

Authentic narrative voices

Wife Orleanna tells her part of the story from the future, where she is living a safe distance away in her native Georgia.

Teen-aged daughter Rachel is vain, shallow and not too bright, as reflected in her numerous spelling errors and mixed up phrases like "my feminine wilds" and calling the marriage state "monotony" instead of "monogamy." Yet Rachel's easygoing humor, even in the bleakest of situations, makes her narratives some of the most fun to read.

Leah and Adah are twins, both highly sensitive and intelligent. Yet while Leah is whole, her twin was born with a birth defect that causes her to limp, and for some reason renders her voluntarily mute.

Leah worships her father and longs for his approval, but we see her view of her father changing as the story progresses. She is fair-minded, likable and insightful.

Meantime her twin Adah, living in a silent and highly imaginative inner world, is contemptous of her father and everything he stands for. She is obsessed with palindromes and Emily Dickinson poetry, and her narratives are among the most whimsical and poetic.

The five-year-old, Ruth May, also gets her chance at narration, and Kingsolver perfectly captures the mind of a small child.

We are prepared, but no less shocked, when the story careens to catastrophe.

I was glad that the book doesn't leave the family picking up the pieces of the tragedy, but follows them into the future as we see their lives unfold and how they are permanently affected by their experience in Africa.

However, I do have some problems with Kingsolver's view of Christianity and missionaries.

An unflattering view

I will admit I've seen my share of legalistic, bullying Baptist preachers, but Nathan Price is worse than anything I've ever seen. And as far as Christian missionaries go, I've had a great deal of experience with them. The vast majority are gentle, sacrificing souls who have devoted their lives to bringing Christ's love to others. They have done an immeasurable amount of good, much of which will endure for eternity, and they are true heroes of the faith, in my opinion.

[For another beautifully written but true story of missionary selflessness and love, read Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot. In fact, read just about anything by Elisabeth Elliot and you can't go wrong.]

As I read The Poisonwood Bible with its extremely unflattering picture of a missionary, I couldn't help but think of Elmer and Mary Deal. The Deals were missionaries to the Congo until the political situation forced them out, and they were missions professors at Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missouri, when I was a student there. As I understand it, they've since returned to the Congo as missionaries.

You could never meet sweeter, kinder or more loving people than the Deals...the polar opposite of Nathan Price.

My missionary father

As the daughter of a Baptist missionary, I also had to look at the differences between Price and my own father.

First of all, although you could have called my father dogmatic about some things, he would never have tried to force someone--much less an entire village--into converting to Christ. My dad believed that the Holy Spirit convicts people.

He also had a sense of humor and fun, loved his wife and children dearly, and would never have allowed us to stay in harm's way. In fact, political turmoil forced us out of Lebanon in June of 1967.

Some inaccuracies

Kingsolver gets a few other things wrong when it comes to Baptist preachers. First of all, I have never in my life met a Baptist preacher who thought the Apocrypha should have been included in the cannon of Scriptures, as Price does in the book, and to preach a sermon from the Apocrypha (as Price does) is something I have never heard of in my 48 Baptist years of life.

Also, I have never met a preacher, no matter how hardcore, who goes around spouting Bible verses in lieu of conversation. That's simply a cartoonish exaggeration of a minister.

I understand that Nathan Price had to be written as thoroughly detestable, since he is the genuine villain of the book. And detestable and despicable he is. But in making him so, Kingsolver also makes him one-dimensional, a cardboard cut-out caricature of a wild-eyed fanatic, without a shred of humor or loving feeling.

Would I recommend reading the book? Certainly. It's gripping, beautifully written, and ultimately uplifting.

I'm not naive enough to believe that Christian missionaries haven't made some serious mistakes in their well-intentioned efforts to carry out the Great Commission...and I happen to agree with what one of the characters says in the book: "There are Christians, and there are Christians."

May we all be the best kind.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The corniest Christmas music ever...

Author Lisa Samson has her own ideas about the dumbest song line ever--which happens to be from a Christmas song. And I have to agree with her, that's a pretty dumb song line.

But apparently, when it comes to Christmas music, there's quite a bit of corn thrown in there with the holly and mistletoe.

On the way to work this morning, surfing through the radio dial, I heard one I hadn't even thought of in years: "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas." Apparently it was recorded in 1953 by one Gail Peevey, and you can actually read trivia about it on this site. Some of the inspiring, Christmas-spirit-inducing lyrics:

"I want a hippopotamus for Christmas
Only a hippopotamus will do
Don't want a doll, no dinky Tinker Toy
I want a hippopotamus to play with and enjoy"


My son Jonathan, who worked at a Franklin Covey store in a mall for a while, was subjected to all kinds of Christmas songs ad infinitum...and he's sort of a grinch when it comes to Christmas music anyway. He especially detested "Santa Baby" and "We Wish You the Merriest" (read his thoughts on Christmas music here.)

Anyway, thanks so much... those of you who left their favorite Christmas music suggestions in my comment section. I'm going to read and digest them and of course, blog about them, within the next day or so.

And to you Evie fans...and you are legion...good news!

I got an e-mail today from a Sky Angel representative answering my query on how to get a hold of Evie Tornquist Karlsson. I hope to set up an interview with her soon. Won't that be cool? A hefty percentage of hits on both my website and my blog are from searches for info about her and/or her perennial Christmas favorite, "Come On Ring Those Bells." I'll let you know about it as soon as I know more.

And we're back from the wild, wild West...

It was indeed a whirlwind trip. We went to Casper, Wyoming to my sister Bev's house for Thanksgiving. We were joined by both my sisters and their families, my brother's wife and youngest daughter (my brother is in Amman, Jordan), and my mom. There were bittersweet moments because of the absence of my dad, but overall it was a wonderful time.

And we came back with a new addition to our family: a little black toy poodle puppy named Brandy. Right now she's more "puddle" than "poodle" as we try to potty-train her. But she's ridiculously cute. She looks like a Boyd's bear!

Hope everyone reading had a great holiday. Oh, and about the Thanksgiving forecast...that's not original to me. I got it in a e-mail a couple of years ago, and the author (as far as I know) is unknown.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Thanksgiving forecast

Turkeys will thaw in the morning, then warm in the oven to an afternoon high near 190F. The kitchen will turn hot and humid, and if you bother the cook, be ready for a severe squall or cold shoulder.

During the late afternoon and evening, the cold front of a knife will slice through the turkey, causing an accumulation of one to two inches on plates. Mashed potatoes will drift across one side while cranberry sauce creates slippery spots on the other. Please pass the gravy.

A weight watch and indigestion warning have been issued for the entire area, with increased stuffiness around the beltway. During the evening, the turkey will dimish and taper off to leftovers, dropping to a low of 34F in the refrigerator.

Looking ahead to Friday and Saturday, high pressure to eat sandwiches will be established. Flurries of leftovers can be expected both days with a 50 percent chance of scattered soup late in the day. We expect a warming trend where soup develops. By early next week, eating pressure will be low as the only wish left will be the bone.

Don't forget--I need your feedback...

I need you to tell me about your favorite Christmas CD's! I have my favorites, but I need an infusion of new stuff this Christmas season. Post your faves here in my comments section.

Everyone have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2004

It is so Monday....

Have you ever started out a day eating wrong despite your best intentions? That's what I did today, when Charmel brought coffee cake from Panera Bread. I'm hoping to redeem myself before the damage goes any further!

(By the way, Panera Bread has one of the best chicken salad sandwiches ANYWHERE.)

Disjointed random thoughts today...

To aspiring writers

I continue to be impressed with author Robin Lee Hatcher's blog. She, like author B.J. Hoff, are kind enough to share their practical wisdom about writing for publication. This post, Getting Published 101, has some really good stuff.

Like B.J, Robin stresses the importance of seeking God's will and examining your motives when it comes to writing.

Ladies, thanks so much for being kind enough to share your wise advice.

And I thought last year's holiday season was hectic...

Last year at this time, I was getting ready to host the entire Swanson family for Christmas, and for my oldest son's January 3rd wedding.

This year I'll be out of town for Thanksgiving AND Christmas...all the while preparing our current home to sell, and our new home to move into. Will I survive it? Oy vey...

Two thoughts about the Scott Peterson trial...

First of all, why?????? How does it happen that a seemingly normal guy purposely takes the lives of his beautiful wife and unborn son...his flesh and blood?

So he wanted to be a carefree bachelor and cavort with his new girlfriend. Why didn't he just divorce Laci? If it was a matter of avoiding financial obligations to an ex-wife and son, wouldn't that be preferable to spending life in prison or being executed?

I look at Laci's dazzling smile, I see the stark pain of her mother and empathize, because I have a beloved daughter and I cannot fathom her being murdered by her husband. My heart goes out to that family.

My other question...why don't similar cases get as much publicity as Laci's?

My sister worked at Dell Computers in Round Rock, Texas, with a woman named Christina Moore who was pregnant when she was murdered over a year ago. Police have just now arrested a suspect in her killing. You can read the story here.

Like Laci, Christina Moore was beautiful, beloved, and pregnant at the time of her murder, but her case generated only a tiny fraction of the publicity.

The only thing I can figure is that it was because Laci's case began with her disappearance and a massive search.

In any case, such stories are profoundly sad. We really do live in a fallen world.

Talk to me...

We're entering one of my favorite times of the year, musically-speaking, here at 101QFL and Radio 91. A sprinkling of Christmas music begins in late November, gradually increasing till Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, when it's ALL Christmas music, ALL the time.

I talk about some of my favorite Christmas music on my website, but the time has come to add some new blood to my old favorites.

Any suggestions, anyone? Please tell me about YOUR favorite Christmas CD's, here in my comments section. Tell me what your faves are, and why. I'll include your comments and link to your blog or site (if you have one) in an upcoming special post about Christmas music!

Friday, November 19, 2004

Uh, because I feel like it....

It's FRIDAY!!!

...and it's been a while since I did the Fridays Feast quiz, so here goes! (Feel free to answer the questions on your own blog, or on the comments section here.)


What do you think is the perfect age to get married? To have a first child? To retire?--28, 30 and 65.

If you could change occupations tomorrow, what would you want to do for a living?--I'd love to write Christian fiction.

What does the color green make you think of?--IRELAND!!!! (Did I ever tell you I dream of going there?)

Main Course
What is something that has happened to you over the last year that you didn't expect?--The opportunity to move into a new (at least, new to us) home. That will be happening over the next few months. We've lived in our current house for 16 years, and I didn't see that changing.

How old were you when you had your first kiss?--Sixteen. Yes, I was an innocent. I didn't even like the kiss because it was--well, too much, too soon! It was at least two years before I really found out how nice a kiss can be.

In other news...

--Stones Cry Out has posted some beautiful, touching photos of American servicemen with Iraqi children. Beautiful.
This one is my favorite.

--I am amazed and appalled at the denigrating vitriol being spewed in the media against Condoleezza Rice. I find it racist and ugly. Rice is a classy, brilliant and admirable woman...why can't they celebrate the fact that she has risen to such a high position in the world? Anyway, here is one good article about her.

The Carnival of the Recipes is up at Boudicca's Voice. Looks like some great stuff! I've got to try this Fiesta Chowder from a blog called Brown Hound.

Anyone can submit to the Carnival of the Recipes. It's hosted by different bloggers each week, but is permanently based by Beth at She Who Will Be Obeyed.

A daughter's grief observed

It hasn't been quite four months since my father passed away, and I find his loss affecting me in many ways.

The grief for my father seems to be like a dark cloud. Sometimes it overhangs my life with dense cover, blanketing everything with sadness. Other times it recedes and even dissipates to the point where life is sunny and I think of him fleetingly or even happily.

The only predictable thing about it, though, is that it is unpredictable. I can be going about my business fairly cheerfully, only to be suddenly blindsided by the dark cloud.

My sister Lisa told me that the other day, she was singing along to a Mariah Carey song as she drove, when she was suddenly and quite unexpectedly blindsided by the grief, and she burst into tears.

That has happened to me so many times. Sometimes it's an unbidden memory, image, or even scent that triggers the feeling...but I suppose it's fitting that most often it's music, because music was such a huge part of my father's life.

When it happens, I completely give in to it. I find that letting the tears flow freely is healing and restorative.

I suppose it's like other forms of pain and loss I've experienced in my life. Life does go on--in fact, it sweeps along like a raging river, whether you like it or not. You smile, and laugh, and enjoy. But that grief will always be there; sometimes a dense cloud cover, sometimes only a wispy cloud. But never far away.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Quote o' The Day

Peggy Noonan on a criticism that Condoleezza Rice doesn't "give off sparks of sexuality": "We don't want a secretary of state running around giving off sparks of sexuality, do we. We don't want a secretary of state giving off sparks at all. We want a nice, quiet, calming, competent, sophisticated, even-keeled person to do a good, solid, nonshowy job."

It's not to late to pack a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child...

I brought two good-sized shoe-boxes to work with me today, one filled with presents for a little boy and one for a little girl.

It's amazing to think that about fifteen dollars worth of toys, hygiene products and hard candy from the dollar store will bring a world of joy to a child in a country like Sudan, Afghanistan, Liberia, or more than 90 other countries around the world.

Operation Christmas Child is a ministry of Samaritan's Purse. This from the official website:

"Operation Christmas Child brings joy and hope to children in desperate situations around the world through gift-filled shoe boxes and the Good News of God’s love. This program of Samaritan’s Purse provides an opportunity for people of all ages to be involved in a simple, hands-on missions project while focusing on the true meaning of Christmas—Jesus Christ, God’s greatest gift. Along with shoe box gifts, millions of children are given Gospel booklets in their own language. In 2003, we collected over 6.6 million shoe box gifts worldwide and distributed them to children in some 95 countries."

My 17-year-old daughter Elizabeth decided to pack a box for a little boy, using her own money to buy the stuff. She flitted excitedly through the dollar store, adding things to her cart with the occasional, "Mom, do you think a little boy would like this? All little boys like cars, right? What about basketball cards? Do you think a little boy in a foreign country would know about basketball?" She ended up cramming a big L.E.I. shoebox with all sorts of fun things.

You know, you can buy a whole lot of stuff at the dollar store for fifteen or sixteen bucks.

Last year I interviewed Kathy Klag of Operation Christmas Child. She told me that small stuffed animals are one of the favorite gifts of the children, because many of them have no toys, no pets, nothing to hang onto and love. The kids are starved for color and fun. You can include hygiene items, warm socks and gloves, hard candy and chewing gum.

The website will also give you drop-off locations near where you live. I encourage you to do it. What a great way to spread the love of Christ, and to teach your children about giving.

OK, I thought I was posting the very best corn casserole recipe...
But Ashley posted this one in my comments section, and it looks like a winner! Ashley tells me, "I always get asked for this recipe after I take it to a potluck or a church social."

The unique touches of the rice and the Mexicorn really call out to me. I'm definitely trying this one:

Ashley's Corn Casserole

1 pkg. saffron rice
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can Mexicorn
shredded cheddar cheese

Prepare rice according to package directions. Mix with cream of chicken soup and Mexicorn. Pour into a buttered casserole dish, top with cheese, and bake at 350 until cheese is melted.

Thanks a bunch, Ashley!

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

The very best corn casserole recipe...

...just in time for Thanksgiving! This one is easy to make, has gotten great reviews when I've made it for holiday gatherings, and makes a nice change from the corn casserole that's made with cornbread mix. Enjoy!

Shoe-Peg Corn Casserole

-1/2 cup chopped onion

-1 c. chopped celery

-1/2 c. chopped green pepper

-1 c. grated cheese

-3 or 4 cans of regular corn,drained

-1 can cream of chicken or cream of celery soup

-1 cup sour cream

-salt and pepper to taste

-for topping: 1 stick of butter or margarine and Ritz crackers

Mix ingredients together (except for Ritz crackers) in casserole dish. Crush 1 stack of Ritz crackers, mix with 1 stick butter or margarine and put on top. Bake for 45 minutes at 350.

Quote o' The Day

"I don't think God has a hissy fit when we dig into a pack of Reeses Peanut Butter Cups. He knows how good they are. :-)
But I DO think He has a hissy when we rip into a pack out of depression, boredom, anger, or any other emotion we should be taking to HIM instead."--Julie Ann Fidler

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

A Grinch named Target?

Shame on Target for banning the Salvation Army bell-ringers this year.

Salvation Army national spokesman, Major George Hood, says Target's exclusion of the bell-ringers could cost the Christian charity up to nine million dollars in lost holiday collections this year.

Hood says despite the Army's pleas that banning the red kettles would only hurt the needy, homeless and disabled in local communities, Target stood firm. Company officials say they've had a long-standing policy against solicitations, and can no longer make an exception for the Salvation Army while refusing others.

The familiar tinkle of the Salvation Army bells has become part of the background music of Christmas for me. I've even rung the bells myself several times. Each time I only spent a couple of hours at the post as a "guest celebrity bellringer," but it gave me a taste of what it's like for hundreds of volunteers who do the same thing for hours every year.

Yes, waving that little red bell back and forth continuously gets monotonous, but every time someone shoves a few bills into the slot, you think about how that money will go to help someone in need. And when a little child gets to do the honors, the look of happy enthusiasm on their face as they learn a small lesson about giving, makes it all worthwhile.

Oh well, the bell-ringers will still be at Wal-Mart. :)

Monday, November 15, 2004

Those stuffy Christians are spoiling all our fun!

After the first rush of satisfaction after learning that "morals and values" played a key role in the presidential election, I am now sensing a backlash.

We thought that good things would come out of this discovery, and for the first several days, I was hearing some good things. News media, political parties and even Hollywood seemed to be saying: "They want morals and values? OK, obviously we've been ignoring a sizable part of America. We will now endeavor to be sensitive to that part of the population."

Now I'm getting the feeling that these same prevailing cultural outlets are taking it a bit too far...on purpose?

OK, maybe I'm a bit paranoid. But maybe not, when I read quotes like Garrison Keillor's (albeit tongue-in-cheek) announcement that his new project is to take away born-again Christians' right to vote.

And take the airing of Saving Private Ryan. Network affiliates backing out of airing this movie because they fear offending the sensibilities of those who voted morals and values? Oh, what party-pooping spoilsports those morals-and-values people are!

There's Bill Maher talking about how the world would be more "sane" without religion, and basically spewing hate towards Christians. (Granted, Maher's comments came pre-election, but I'd venture to say the election has only intensified the sentiments.)

Then you've got the CNN special, The Fight over Faith. I saw only bits and pieces of it, and no, I don't closely identify with every Christian depicted...but why do I get the feeling that the general theme is, "Beware of Christians! They're out to ruin everything!"

Am I the only one who worries that the now medium-voiced cry of "Those stuffy Christians are spoiling all our fun!" could well develop into an angry roar at some point? Am I the only one who is seeing shades of Hitler's Germany in which the disdain of Jews turned murderously fanatic?

Am I the only one who thinks the prevailing view these days is that it's unacceptable to be intolerant of anyone EXCEPT Christians? That the only acceptable hate speech is hate against Christians?

I know the Bible never promised us that we would be loved by fact, just the opposite. "Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you."--I John 3:13.

But you know those liberal Democrats who are so aghast, wondering, "What happened to the country I know and love? I don't recognize it..."

Well, I don't recognize a country where it's OK to despise me because I'm a Christian.

It's been happening for some time now. I should be getting used to it, but I guess I'm not.

I read "Great Expectations" over the weekend....

"Mrs. Joe was a very clean housekeeper, but had an exquisite art of making her cleanliness more uncomfortable and unacceptable than dirt itself."--from Great Expectations

Yes, I had read the book before, but it was many years ago. Elizabeth brought it home from school recently, thinking about reading it for a book report. I picked it up, and that was it.

Classics are classics for a reason. They stand the test of time. I've never been that big of a Charles Dickens fan, but I could see why he is one of the greats. Intriguing story, vividly drawn characters, and a sense of humor...great book. The fact that it was written in the 18-hundreds doesn't diminish its appeal.

As always when I read a great book or see a great movie, my interest was stirred up and I had to do some Dickens research. I found this great Dickens website, chockful of everything you could possibly want to know about the man and his writings. Cool.

I leave you with another great quote from Great Expectations:

"Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts."--Charles Dickens

Garrison Keillor doesn't think I should be voting...

Again I have to give credit to Robin Lee Hatcher, this time for this quote from Garrison Keillor.

Scary, perhaps more because of the audience reaction than even for the remark.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Cartoon yourself!


By way of Robin Lee Hatcher's blog, this site where you can create a cartoon pic of yourself.

I reckon this pic is much kinder to me than an actual caricature artist would be, but hey, it's fun! :)

Immersed in a good book...

Several days ago, I realized that it had been some time since I had delved into a good fiction book.

My library card is maxed out (it's a long story! Well, it has to do with lost books and books literally chewed up by the dog...none of it my fault, but now my library fine resembles the national debt and I'll probably have to take a second job just to pay it off, and so for now I've been avoiding the library :()...Anyway, that means I have to rely on publishers to send me books (which they kindly do, but they aren't all fiction, which is my favorite), or I have to resort to actually buying a book myself...novel (pardon the pun!) concept! :)

By the way, please librarians, don't get mad at me...I AM going to pay that enormous library fine. It makes me wish, though, that the Rockford Public Library would have an Amnesty Day. I've heard of other public libraries doing that, and it sure would be nice in my case.

But I digress. I ended up picking up a book at Wal-Mart that at first glance I thought was fiction, but could actually fit in the stranger-than category. I devoured Ann Rule's Heart Full of Lies in one day, unable to put it down.

It's the true story of Liysa Northon, who I believe (Ann Rule makes a great case for it!) killed her husband Chris in cold blood. Amazingly, she is serving time for a manslaughter charge. The story is fascinating, and told well, without sensationalism or gratuitousness. Liysa is a fascinating character, and I was totally engrossed.

Just when I was starting to need another book fix, I get a package in the mail from B and B Media Group containing two fiction books by Sam Yarney.

I'm more than halfway through Ninety Days, and I've been swept away on a fast-paced journey of international intrigue that includes a potent mix of high finance, spiritual warfare, occultic skulduggery and prophetic fulfillment, along with a dash of romance.

The author is apparently British, the story takes place mostly in England and the book is permeated with the kind of British flavor I love so much... from their unique speaking patterns and wry humor, to a cup of tea being the perfect antidote for everything.

I can so picture this book as a movie in the vein of The Bourne Identity...if done well, it would make a terrific action thriller.

Of course, I've yet to reach the conclusion, so I'll withhold my actual review until then, but it's looking good. And when I do finish it, thankfully they sent me the sequel, Air Rage.

Life is a Carnival!

I've been trying to participate in a couple of blogging "carnivals" lately...partly, quite frankly, to try to attract more readership to my blog.

This week, I entered my post about the passing of abortionist Richard Ragsdale in the Christian Carnival, hosted this week by Digitus, Finger and Co.

I also entered my Hash Brown Casserole recipe in the Carnival of the Recipes, hosted this week by The Common Virtue.

If you're a blogger whose looking to get a bit of attention, you may want to submit your own posts next time. The Christian Carnival will be hosted next week by ChristWeb.
The Carnival of the Recipes is always based at She Who Will Be Obeyed (I LOVE that title!).

Join the fun.

And have a happy Friday, everyone!

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Happy Veteran's Day!

My heartfelt thanks and deepest appreciation to all who have served or are serving our country, whether in peace time or war, and my fervent prayers for those in harm's way now in the Middle East.

A cool story

One of my personal heroes, Marine veteran Tim Lee, received this note:

"You touched my life today. You may not remember me...but I carried you on my passenger cart at D/FW Airport. I had a female trainee on my cart driving and I was right after you tried to make some upgrade accomodations for a mother on the way to Twenty-nine Palms...for her marine sons funeral. For a gave me $2.00 and your tract'Deadline VietNam.' I looked at the tract and immeadietly had her return to the gate we dropped you I could find you and return the $2.00 and ask for another tract. We could not find were no where to be found...much like a messanger from god himself...that left after his job was done. I am a former Marine..0311 by MOS...and was in 1stBn7th Marines 1st Marine Div at Chu Lia.

"I have read and re-read the tract...I have been 'corrected' by the Lord..on several occasions...and I prayed the prayer in the tract...with tears in my eyes. You touched my life..during that brief time you were on my cart.

"You said that you have seen me there before at the is my sincere hope and prayer ...that I get to drive you again. Your tract is now a treasured keepsake and treasure of this day..and my brief encounter with you."

Read or listen to "Deadline Vietnam: The Day My Running Stopped" here.

Once again I'm overwhelmed... the kindness and just downright niceness of 101qfl listeners!

Yesterday, Darren Marlar and I had a "Midday Munch" (kind of a glorified meet-n-greet) at The Square Cow in Durand, IL.

Owner/operator Lynette Mitchell and her delightful family rolled out the red carpet for us. The food was delicious...I got chili and a salad, and even splurged on a chocolate malt, and it was all top-notch. Darren had a double cheeseburger and onion rings, which looked fantastic. I could tell just by looking at the cheeseburger that my husband could love it, so we are definitely going to take a trip out there soon.

Last Saturday, I had the privilege of speaking and singing to the ladies of the Park Hills Evangelical Free Church in Freeport, IL.

Everyone couldn't have been nicer or more hospitable. Many thanks to Cindy and Dawn for planning it all and making the whole experience so awesome.

Each time I speak to a women's group, I think how much I enjoy it and would like to do more of it.

Happy Birthday to Nathan!

And last but not least, happy birthday wishes to my dear nephew Nathan, who (can it be?!?) celebrates his 14th birhday today. Fittingly, Nathan was born not only on Veteran's Day, but also during Operation Desert Shield.

Love you, Nathan!

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Quote o' The Day

"Can you look yourself in the mirror, in the eyes, and say what you believe without laughing or feeling stupid? If so, you’re on the right track, even if you believe Martians walk among us. It’s about conviction."--LaShawn Barber

Internet/election burnout?

My son Jonathan says he has an "election-sized hole" in his internet reading life:

"A week ago the internet was a treasure trove of breaking news on the election. I was keeping an eye on upwards of ten different sites, and each one had a take that was worth reading. Today my browsing has reverted back to a toggle between the triumvirate of web greatness: The Drudge Report , , and"

Jon's asking for suggestions to "lift him out of his internet doldrums." If you can help him out, drop by his blog and leave recommendations in his comments section.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Quote o' The Day

"These days, is a grandma a facelifted, tummy tucked woman who lives six months out of every year in Europe, but sends personal emails to all her grandkids while she's away?... I want to be a wonderful grandma, when the time comes. What does that even look like these days? What should it look like?"--Katy Raymond,

Marines seek God's help

From the Drudge Report, by way of Nick at Patriot Paradox, this heartening story about US Marines preparing for battle.

Please continue to pray for our troops.

(By the way, the above pic is not of the troops in the's from a story a few months back about Marine Chaplain Carey Cash.)

God is doing a work in Baghdad

I sat spellbound at the culmination of our church's Missions Conference last night, as my old friend Edgar Feghaly showed a video about the New Testament Baptist Church--the church he planted in Baghdad, Iraq. (Edgar was a teen-ager and I was a little girl when our families were friends in Beirut, Lebanon in the mid-60's.)

I watched Iraqis being baptized and worshipping God in their sanctuary in an apartment building in central Baghdad. Edgar says the Iraqis are hungry for and open to the gospel. Awesome.

The picture above is of a worship service at the church, from Edgar's website,

Read on the site to find out how you can help. Right now, Edgar is asking for financial contributions to help children in the Baghdad church have a wonderful Christmas.

You can send checks payable to:

Dr. Edgar Feghaly
Christmas Gift to Children

Send to:

WWNTBM (World Wide New Testament Baptist Missions)
P. O. Box 725
Kings Mountain, NC 28086

Later I'll be talking about another wonderful and worthy Christmas project for needy children around the world, Operation Christmas Child. The staff here at 101QFL will be playing an active role in that project this season.

The popularity of Evie lives on...

When I first started my website (it's separate from my blog--check it out!), I wrote an article about my favorite Christmas music and made an offhand comment about Evie Tornquist's "Come On, Ring Those Bells."

You wouldn't believe the number of hits I get seeking info on Evie and that song in particular, not just as Christmas, but all year long.

I even did a little update on Evie in my blog during last year's Christmas season.

Today I got an e-mail from someone who found my site in an Evie search:
"I'm looking for lyrics and chords for Evie's 'Come on Ring those bells'. ( My sister brother and I used to sing it with my mother every year for christmas at our church growing up. Since my mother passed away 10 years ago it holds sentimental value for us! We would like to sing it with her grandchildren now!)

"Anyway the link on your website will no longer work and I'm having a tough time finding it elsewhere. I was wondering if you might know where I can find it?

"Thank you for any help you can give!"

She's right...the lyric/guitar tab link no longer works. However, here are a couple of sites where you can order songbooks containing the sheet music:

And here is a page where you can find the lyrics.

Meanwhile, getting an interview with Evie is on my to-do list for this holiday season...there's definitely plenty of interest in what she's up to!

Friday, November 05, 2004

TGIF, indeed...

This has been an incredibly busy week, and actually, it's not over yet!

This afternoon I have to do some voice-over work (thankfully, just a small amount), go grocery-shopping, make a Hash Brown Casserole (recipe to follow, if you're interested) for a Missions Conference dinner tonight, go to the dinner and meeting...

Then early tomorrow I have to get up, get ready, and go speak and sing at a ladies' meeting in Freeport. This is something I am always a little nervous about, but I truly enjoy it. I'll let you know how it went.

Tomorrow night we may be going out with friends, then our Missions Conference winds up Sunday morning and Sunday night.

Hopefully I'll be able to squeeze in a nap or two somewhere in there.

So here ya go...the recipe:

Hash Brown Casserole

--2 lb. bag frozen hash brown potatoes
--1 sm. sour cream
--1 can Cream of Chicken soup
--1 to 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
--1 sm. onion, chopped
--Crushed Corn Flakes (2 cups)
--Melted butter (about 1/4 to 1/2 cup)
--Salt and pepper to taste

Mix sour cream, soup, cheese, onion, salt and pepper together. Stir in the potatoes. In small bowl, pour in melted butter. Use enough butter to make the Corn Flakes stick together. Pour potato mixture into a casserole dish (I actually use a 9 by 13 pan.) Spread corn flakes over top. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Happy Weekend, Everybody!

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