Friday, December 28, 2012

Katrina's Musings (Anniversary)

Today we celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary. Greg planned an overnight trip to Door County, Wisconsin (6+ hours from our home). When asked if I would like to spend most of the time at our destination or most of our time on the road, I chose "on the road" because real life happens on the road trip. It was a lovely time. I'm very grateful to God for Greg and for our marriage and for sustaining us these 18 years. May He be glorified for it. 

(P.S. Many couples are dependent upon a stranger taking their picture on trips such as these, if they both want to appear in the picture that is, but not us, my husband always travels with a tripod and his camera. We had ourselves a regular ol' photo shoot next to this lovely downtown tree). 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Katrina's Musings (26 Acts of Kindness)

On December 14, I, like many people around the country started to hear the news reports of the tragic massacre of 20 children and 6 adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

A few days later, my brother-in-law e-mailed me an article written by Al Mohler Jr. that started with these words:

Thus says the LORD: “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.”[Jeremiah 31:15]

 It has happened again. This time tragedy came to Connecticut, where a lone gunman entered two classrooms at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown and opened fire, killing at least twenty children and six adults, before turning his weapons of death upon himself. The young victims, ranged in age from five to ten years. The murderer was himself young, reported to be twenty years old. According to press reports, he murdered his mother in her home before the rampage at the school.

Just a few days before Christmas, I was out running a few last minute errands. As I was leaving one place of business (in a very busy shopping area) and heading toward the parking lot, a young man stopped his car in front of me and rolled down his window. Without a smile on his face and without uttering a single word, he stuck his arm out of the window and handed me a piece of paper. Then he drove off.

The piece of paper said this:

In honor of the 26 children and adults that were taken from us in Newtown, Connecticut, we offer you this random act of kindness, in hopes of bringing a smile to your face this holiday season. 

Your free Red Box movie code is ____________. It has no expiration date. 

You are number 19 of 26. 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

I pondered this for awhile. And here's what came to my mind:
  • Our nation is hurting, confused, and in shock over what happened in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14 and desperately trying to do something to make it better. 
  • If I was wondering why this tragedy in Newtown happened and if God is truly in control of this world, I would be no closer to an answer through this act of kindness performed for me. 
  • This was not a "random" act of kindness but a motivated act of kindness resulting from a recent tragedy (part of a plea to America made by news personality Ann Curry to perform acts of kindness "to honor the lost children and adults of Newtown" and as a way to "help heal us all.") My piece of paper also contained an address to a Facebook page where people could talk about the various acts of kindness they have performed in honor of this movement. 
  • This act of kindness gave me a free movie of my choice but no more hope than I had moments before I received it. 
Returning to Dr. Mohler's article, he went on to say:

First, we must recognize that this tragedy is just as evil, horrible, and ugly as it appears. Christianity does not deny the reality and power of evil, but instead calls evil by its necessary names — murder, massacre, killing, homicide, slaughter. The closer we look at this tragedy, the more it will appear unfathomable and more grotesque than the human imagination can take in.

What else can we say about the murder of children and their teachers? How can we understand the evil of killing little children one by one, forcing them to watch their little friends die and realizing that they were to be next? How can we bear this? 

 Resisting our instinct toward a coping mechanism, we cannot accept the inevitable claims that this young murderer is to be understood as merely sick. His heinous acts will be dismissed and minimized by some as the result of psychiatric or psychological causation, or mitigated by cultural, economic, political, or emotional factors. His crimes were sick beyond words, and he was undoubtedly unbalanced, but he pulled off a cold, calculated, and premeditated crime, monstrous in its design and accomplishment. 

 Christians know that this is the result of sin and the horrifying effects of The Fall. Every answer for this evil must affirm the reality and power of sin. The sinfulness of sin is never more clearly revealed than when we look into the heart of a crime like this and see the hatred toward God that precedes the murderous hatred he poured out on his little victims."

I think that is a good and Biblical explanation of what happened on December 14. I read some of the articles pertaining to "26 acts of kindness" and part of the idea behind it is to prove that people are basically good and that good still exists in the world. I don't think we can prove that people are basically good. I think the Bible tells us otherwise ("None is righteous, no, not one." Romans 3:10)  Even the "26 acts of kindness" movement, though certainly kind, is not pure in its motives. It appeals to the need in us to work out our goodness and to tell of it to others (one example of this is the woman who anonymously bought dessert for the table of people seated next to her in a restaurant and then shared her example of "random, anonymous" kindness on the "26 acts of kindness" Facebook page).

The senseless murder of 26 people on December 14, in Newtown, Connecticut (28 when counting the murderer himself and his mother) is impossible for us to wrap our brains around (the fact that 20 of the victims were children between the ages of 6 and 10 years old makes it unthinkable for us). I think the truly wicked condition of human hearts and the fact that evil exists in the world is the only explanation that makes any sense at all.

Dr. Mohler went on to say this in his article:

There is one and only one reason that evil does not have the last word, and that is the fact that evil, sin, death, and the devil were defeated at the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. There they were defeated conclusively, comprehensively, and publicly. 

 On the cross, Christ bore our sins, dying in our place, offering himself freely as the perfect sacrifice for sin. The devil delighted in Christ’s agony and death on the cross, realizing too late that Christ’s substitutionary atonement spelled the devil’s own defeat and utter destruction. 

 Christ’s victory over sin, evil, and death was declared by the Father in raising Jesus from the dead. The resurrection of Christ is the ground of our hope and the assurance of the final and total victory of Christ over all powers, principalities, and perpetrators. 

 A tragedy like this cannot be answered with superficial and sentimental Christian emotivism, nor with glib dismissals of the enormity and transience of this crime. Such a tragedy calls for the most Gospel-centered Christian thinking, for the substance of biblical theology, and the solace that only the full wealth of Christian conviction can provide. 

In the face of such horror, we are driven again and again to the cross and resurrection of Christ, knowing that the reconciling power of God in Christ is the only adequate answer to such a depraved and diabolical power.

America, it is okay to weep over this tragedy. And, if you have opportunity to tangibly assist those directly (and indirectly) affected by this horrific event, please do so and do so without hesitation. But let's not numb ourselves from thinking about it by "doing nice things so we can feel better." Use this time to think deeply about the God who controls this universe, about the evil that exists within our own hearts and the heart of every human being on this planet, about Jesus Christ and His sacrifice upon a cross (payment for our sins) so we can be reconciled to our Creator and spend the rest of our days glorifying Him for it. Think deeply, America. Now is the time.

Click here to read the full article by Dr. R Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Luke 2:1-16 (NIV) from memory

1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register. 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. 8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Evangelism Musings (Christmas Packs Update)

Christmas pack season is coming to a close, and I'm going to miss it. As mentioned in a previous post (click here to read), I fill my purse with these Christmas packs from the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas day and hand them out everywhere I go (gas station, grocery store, restaurant, coffee shop, drive-thru, bell ringers, etc.) Each pack contains a gospel tract, a message from me about the meaning of Christmas, and a few pieces of candy (and of course, I think it just makes good sense to make them look pretty with a ribbon and a cute sticker---if you're going to do this thing then let's do it well). I have found not an easier gospel-giving vehicle to exist during this time of year.

But, why do it? Answer: To share the gospel message (Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures...1 Corinthians 15:3-5). There are many ways to share the gospel. If you're doing one of those, then, Christian, carry on I say. If you're not, why not give this idea a try? Too late this year? Then there's always next year (and....Easter pack season is right around the corner :)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Cookie Baking Night 12/17/12

Tonight was Cookie Baking Night. In attendance this evening: Ethan and Carissa. We made frosted sugar cookies, read lesson 84 from Leading Little Ones to God by Marian Schoolland titled "What Will Happen When Jesus Comes" (just 2 lessons left, and we will have completed the book), and took a short trip around the neighborhood to look at Christmas lights. I also managed to catch a little bit of the live action for you tonight. See video below. 

Hmm. Does the color really matter when you plan to douse them in candy sprinkles anyway? I think not. 

As usual, a fun time was had by all.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Cookie Baking Musings

Tonight is an off night for Cookie Baking Night, but in Future Cookie Baking News, our nephew Rylar turned 1 year old last week. We celebrated with him and family on Sunday. In two more years, he will qualify to join us at Cookie Baking Nights. We look forward to his arrival.

(It's alright, you can say it, he's adorable)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Katrina's Musings (Niece & Nephew Christmas Party)

Today was our 9th annual Niece and Nephew Christmas Party. Once the children turn 3, this is our gift to them each year instead of traditional presents. In attendance this year: Kylie (13), Emily (12), Ethan (9), and Carissa (7).

This party has involved many different activities and many different themes. This year we decided to stay put in our home, and we went with the theme of "A Charlie Brown Christmas".

So, to do this theme right, we needed a "Charlie Brown Christmas Tree". We knew just the place for that. Greg's parents literally live in a pine tree forest. Because of that, they have many little trees growing up all the time. They graciously agreed to let us uproot one of these trees for our party.

Our 2-year-old niece, Allison, was at Grandma and Grandpa's house this morning, so she joined us in our tree hunting expedition (she also serves as a pretty good visual aid as to the size of the trees). 

 In this picture, Allison and I are next to the tree we chose.

Phil, my father-in-law, said he had a pot we could put the tree in instead of cutting it. We thought that sounded like a good idea, so Greg and Phil dug up the tree and potted it. And off it went to our home.

Once the children arrived at our home, I had them go to the "art room" and make paper chains with some decorative paper I had pre-cut for just the occasion. They didn't know what they were making the chains for, but they happily complied with my wishes.

After lunch, we watched "A Charlie Brown Christmas"in the basement, complete with movie concessions for purchase (25 cents each; pop, candy, and popcorn).

My favorite part about the choice of watching "A Charlie Brown Christmas" is that the true meaning of Christmas (a Savior is born; Christ the Lord) is defined (in a very basic form) within the movie and Scripture is quoted (Luke 2:8-14).

After the movie was over we went back upstairs and revealed our own "Charlie Brown tree" to decorate.

Our tree didn't have quite the spectacular transformation the Charlie Brown gang experienced, but it was definitely a well decorated tree (we used our paper chains, tiny Christmas bulbs, and Kylie even made a star for the top).

Next we decorated a Snoopy gingerbread dog house (I found a kit at WalMart that came complete with little gummy Snoopys).

Ethan is a fan of the "I love frosting" approach to decorating gingerbread.

Emily takes a similar decorating approach (both Ethan and Emily's houses actually collapsed under the weight of the frosting, which meant they could commence with eating, which was fine with them).

Kylie is pretty artistic and likes decorating in general. She takes the planned out approach. She comes up with a plan and executes from start to finish.

Carissa also has a plan. She is very specific about the colors she chooses and the kind of candy she uses to decorate it. She doesn't overdo it, but she doesn't stop until it's just right either.

Now, Uncle Greg, he's slow and methodical in his approach to gingerbread decorating. The engineer in him definitely comes out during this process. And he always produces a fine looking product.

Myself, I'm a fan of simple and colorful (pretty much the approach I take in most arenas of life).

This year, my mom sent along gifts for each of the children. A fan of themes (much like her daughter), my mom got everyone an apron (a very appropriate choice for the "Cookie Baking gang"). They really liked them. You may have noticed, they wore them while we decorated our gingerbread houses.

Another successful Christmas party has come and gone. As usual, a fun time was had by all. Merry Christmas nieces and nephews! We love you all.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Katrina's Musings (The Hired Help)

If I don't keep careful watch over my activities during the Christmas season, I could spend most of my time baking cute things. I used to host cookie exchanges and make lots and lots of candies and cookies and sell them at Christmas time. After God regenerated my heart, He started to change my focus at Christmas as well. At first, the change came in that I would pick a Christian charity (like Voice of the Martyrs) and all the proceeds from my baking sales would go toward that charity (I raised quite a bit of money that way). Slowly, as God shows me that my activities at Christmas time and my focus (obsession really) on baking speaks what I care about to the world, my baking activities have taken a back seat. I still have one "order" that I fill at Christmas time for 10 boxes of chocolate mice. This year, I sublet the job. I told my niece Emily that if she wanted to make the mice I would give her the proceeds (minus a small supply fee) from the job. She eagerly agreed. 

So, Emily came over to my house tonight, ate supper with us, and then we (some me, mostly she) made the 10 boxes of mice. It was good for her to see all that is involved in "completing an order". She will receive $40.00 for her efforts this evening, and she earned every penny of it. 

First, you sort out the "ears" (sliced almonds)

Then you unwrap the "heads" (Hershey kisses)

Then you dip the cherry in melted almond bark as the "body", put the cherry and the candy and the almonds together to form the mouse. 

Then you decorate them with "holly and berries" (frosting)

Then you box them up and send them on their way. 

Good job, kiddo!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Evangelism Musings (Christmas Packs)

Ahh, it's Christmas pack season again. (I love Christmas pack season). I make up several of these "Christmas packs" and hand them out starting the day after Thanksgiving through Christmas day. I keep my purse loaded with them at all times. I hand them out everywhere I go, every time I make a purchase somewhere (grocery store, gas station, etc.) or sometimes I just hand them to people as I'm walking into stores (I also give them to the bell ringers if I put money in one of their buckets). I simply hand them to a person and say "This is for you. Merry Christmas!"

Each pack contains a gospel tract, a couple pieces of candy, and a half sheet of paper with the following info:

"Peace on earth. Goodwill to men." That's a popular phrase this time of year. Do you know where it comes from? It comes from the Bible. Many people think of peace as the absence of conflict or the absence of fighting, but the peace spoken of int he Bible is much greater than that. "Peace on earth. Goodwill to men" refers to peace between you and God. It's the message the angels brought to the shepherds in the field the night Jesus was born on this earth. "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men!" Luke 2:14. It's the message we proclaim when we sing that classic Christmas carol Hark the Herald Angels Sing ("Peace on earth and mercy mild. God and sinners reconciled). Over 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ was born on this earth. He came here to provide us with the peace of reconciliation with God. That is why we celebrate Christmas. 

 I have provided two things for your today: 

 A treat (Merry Christmas! Enjoy!) 
A gospel tract (my hope is that you will read the message in the tract and spend some time considering it today). 

 Merry Christmas and enjoy your day!

This is a very easy time of year to spread the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ, and this is an easy vehicle for doing that. Even if you don't do a lot of Christmas shopping, errands abound this time of year, more trips here and there for various reasons. It's a good time of year to think outside the box in terms of evangelism.

(My purse filled with Christmas Packs)

Cookie Baking Night 06/25/18

Tonight was Cookie Baking Night. In attendance this evening: Ethan, Carissa, and Enzo (Allison and Rylar were attending a birthday party els...