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.
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