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Tuesday, November 26, 2013


As I walked through my day, I found myself repeating, “Thank you”, to clerks and those who helped me, no matter how insignificant the help was.  Then I wondered, Are my ‘thank you’s’ a habit, or was I truly grateful?  Grateful???  How odd.  Does a Grateful rate more than a thank you?  Is there a scale by which we can tell the difference?

During a Bible Study in RCC (Rogers), we were having prayer time.  The prayer requests range from Aunt Fanny’s gout to the stay in the hospital for Granny.  Then our minister asked for praises.  Silence enveloped the room. No one could think of a single praise.  Finally one lady prefacing her ‘praise’ with, “This isn’t very big, but I love to sit on my porch and pray where I can smell the honeysuckle blooms.”  This opened a flood of ‘small’ praises.  No gift is ever too small to be grateful to the Ultimate Giver.

It's a Honeysuckle Day when....
...The sun shines and breezes rise
...The clouds play peek-a-boo in the skies
...I give God all the praise
...For each gift, all my days.

It's a Honeysuckle Day when...
...My family is all around
...And God's joy abounds.
...I sit as quiet as can be
...And all His glory I see.

It's a Honeysuckle Day when...
...I pray to my Father above
...So thankful for His sacrificial love.
...I know without a doubt
...What life is all about.

It's living for Jesus
.....Serving Him, with Him I stay
.....Though darkness clouds my way
.....I give praise for my Honeysuckle Days.
                                    EAC 2012

In this era of anger, cruel words and physical abuse, True Gratitude is rare. 
Much less utilizing an absent-minded, ‘thank you’.  Last Sunday, our minister, Randy, gave us a thought, “Gratitude is not an act of etiquette, it is an act of worship.” That is the essence of our gratefulness. It is not to prime the pump of the giver or to repay the giver. Gratitude is an act of thankfulness in all humility. 

During the time that Mom spent in the hospital with colon cancer, she was concerned about all the remembrances, prayers and gifts given to her.  She wanted to give back and couldn’t.  It was difficult for her to learn to be the recipient and just be grateful for the love that was poured out upon her.

Recognizing that for which we are thankful as a gift is the premise of one of my favorite books by Anne Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts.  Ann gives thanks for the many gifts all around her – the sunset, the sunrise, the harvest, kneading bread for a hungry family, those around the kitchen table, each child and the music of rain falling.  When you consider the gifts she is thankful for, their genesis is from God.

We used to play a game when our children were small…. We would name any object that we saw in the room, and play, “Where did that come from?”  Each time, following the succession of “Where did that come from?”,  the answers go back to a gift from God.  That makes the statement from behind the times:
The proclaims, The word "thank" comes from the Old English word "thancian" (to give thanks). "Thank you" is attested from circa 1400, short for "I thank you."

I wonder if Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden were grateful for their lovely garden? Did they recognize their gift of home.  Do we? Sometimes it is the hindsight that makes things clear to us. It is then we are able to see the hand of God in our lives.  The God of Love.  The God of Sacrifice.  The Eternal One is our all in all, the beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega of all life.

What has God given us?  What am I grateful for?  First and foremost, Hope and Salvation through the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God has given us his Son because of His love for us, we who are created by Him.  The evidences of His Glory and Love surround us.  Yesterday on our journey to keep three appointments with three doctors for my dear husband, there were no less than five strangers who smiled and wished us a “Happy Thanksgiving!”  Each time, it was a gift!

No matter how difficult a day is, no matter how trying, hanging on to God’s Hand fills me with gratitude and joy to be His.  I love the scripture in Revelation 5:8 that declares: and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.   Our prayers are not useless for there is no Circular File 13 in Heaven!

"If God does something in your life, would you change it? If you'd change it, you'd make it worse. …"  James Montgomery Boise.

In this week of Thanksgiving, and every day, we remember to be thankful to God. - And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28

And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.  Colossians 3:15

God is good….all the time….


Tuesday, November 19, 2013


When I smell bread baking or gingerbread….I remember Mom’s kitchen and her smile.  When I hear the piano playing, the music reminds me of Mom’s hands making beautiful sounds on the piano that could make me fall asleep or wake up. When I see a garden, I think of my Dad. My earliest memory is feeding our pet goat with a baby bottle in our back yard with my two brothers.  The memory of the fear I felt on a summer afternoon.  I sat by the screen door and with a clacking of nails, a cat swooshed from nowhere and its claws came through the screen.  Why do I remember these things, and more?  The senses have a way of evoking emotion that causes us to remember events in our lives.

Conversations that begin….where were you when JFK was assassinated?…bring many different memories.  Or when Apollo 13 exploded in space?  Personal memories I remember -- like walking down the aisle to be married, and giggling as Dad tried to get in step.  Or, when I nudged Ed when it was time to ‘kiss the bride’. Remembering the moment I became the Lord’s through baptism.  Remembering the births of our five children. 

We all tend to forget and shuffle memories that ‘we will never forget’, to the back yard of our memory land.  Then there are illnesses that cause the loss of memories – even our identities – that which makes us who we are.   Our experiences and memories of those experiences motivate our decisions and our next step in life.

Memory is a like a golden coin with two sides –Remembering and Forgetting.  Remembering is bright and shiny.  Forgetting is dull and worn.  Which side is up in our lives?

Memories of hurts, slights and the times we are angry with others tarnish and makes our life dull.  Some fearful experiences teach us discernment, a lesson in protecting ourselves.  Memories of love, birth, kindnesses given or received and positive achievements give us the bright and shiny life. The choice is ours.  A ‘pity party’ of one  is succumbing to hopelessness.  Remembering is an active art of renewing hope.

The book, Blood Work by Anthony J Carter reveals how often God calls us to remember Him and what He has done for us.  Curious, I searched for the word ‘remember’ in the Scriptures.  In the English Standard Version there are 234 listed.  In The Voice, remember is listed 440 times.  In New International Version the number is 231.  Remembering is an important act.  Genesis has five ‘remembers’ that says God remembers.  The one we remember the most – Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”  Genesis 9:16

Do we still see the rainbow?  Yes.  It is God’s promise to us.  It is His love note to us. When we love Him, we respond by remembering His goodness and greatness.

When we forget God, we live in a dry dusty land with no purpose.  We forget how tenuous this life is – just a vapor without hope.  And we forget how awesome it is to live in the circle of God’s will and love and joy. 

Today I reflect on the legacy that our parents left us – the introduction to us of God our Father.  Little did we know as restless children and teens the precious gift they gave us – a faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.  That faith is a tiny seed and grows as we mature and realize the preciousness of the sacrifice Jesus made of giving us his life on the cross.  And the miraculous hope that becomes ours when Jesus defied death and was resurrected from the tomb.  Each of us walk this earth that He created.  Each of us breathe the air that He gave us.  All around us are tokens of his Creation to help us remember that we ourselves were created as eternal beings and belong to Him.  Yet, He stands back and lets us choose Him of our own accord.  He wants to deepen our relationship with Him and abide in Him.   

David wrote these words, even as I would say, Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.  Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!” Psalm 25:6-7

Remembering Jesus, being alert to His leading every hour and every moment brings joy “You see, all that is God, all His fullness, resides in His body. You, too, are being completed in Him, the One who has dominion over all rule, all authority. Colossians 2:9-10

As you remember this day, a day of remembering, May you be blessed by the Lord, who made heaven and earth!”  Psalm 115:15


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Cookie is a Cookie!

Last Thursday I attended the sweet Bible Study in an Assisted Living Facility.  A small room with a long table covered with a white tablecloth is where we gathered.  Water and lemonade are available along with a plate of cookies in the center of the table..  About seventeen ladies with shining faces and hair of silver sit around the table.  One lady asked someone to pass her a cookie.  “What kind do you want?” asked the lady sitting near the plate of cookies.  The lady who asked for a cookie replied, “Oh any cookie, a cookie is a cookie!” 

Laughing, I wondered if this is so.  To me a cookie is a delight, a celebration, no matter the diameter of the cookie, or its shape or its contents.  Curious, I continued to ponder a cookie.  Whether it is a wafer, a scone, a sandwich cookie, a biscuit or a foreign sounding name (to me), a cookie is more than a cookie. This food is found in many forms and the stories abound as to their ingenious flavors, shapes and varieties.  One baker ran out of nuts and added bits of chocolate.  Voila – Chocolate Chip Cookies!  

When our four teenagers came home in the afternoon and I was still at school, they found a large, new metal trash can sitting on the kitchen counter filled with cookies.  The cookies were purchased from the local grocery store, and each cookie said, “I love you,” from Mom.  Now we have a small glass jar of cookies on the cabinet, and my ‘cookie monster’ husband has three every morning with his breakfast. 

When we visited my Grosmom Emilie Brunn Siemens, all I had to say was ‘High-Hoopa” (phonetic spelling) and the diminutive lady crinkled up in smiles and opened the tin drawer of the old cabinet that held spicy molasses cookies that crunched with sugar.  I never learned what ‘High-Hoopa’ meant, and assumed it was the name of the molasses cookies. 

From Mother’s kitchen came molasses cookies, crepe suzettes filled with sugar (flat pancakes to us), oatmeal cookies, bars of various flavors, Brownies or Blondies, and on New Year’s Day she made a tiny crust enclosed raisin.  At Christmas time there were the koekie from Holland, later called Pfeffernüsse  or in the low Dutch, päpanät (peppernuts).

One of my favorite cookies is peppernuts.  It is in my Mennonite heritage.  I thank Norma Jost Yost, author of Mennonite Foods and Folkways from South Russia, Volume I, for giving a comprehensive background of my favorite Christmas Cookie.  It contains not only 32 recipes of different flavoured peppernuts, but a history of the tiny cookies.  (Bet you can’t just eat one!)  A church in Hillsboro, Kansas, bakes Peppernuts to sell at its annual Hillsboro Arts and Crafts Fair in September. 

This Christmas cookie is named for pepper because it contained pepper as one of the spices and was later mixed with ginger and added to honey, eggs, flour.  In the 14th century, cinnamon was added. Spices were expensive then, a pound of ginger would buy a sheep during the middle ages.  A pound pepper could buy a serf his freedom in medieval France.   Pfeffer means spices, and brings us our Pfeffernusse.  Peppernuts have been a part of Russian Mennonite baking traditions for several centuries.  Recipes travel with people as they travel, and many American Mennonite people still bake peppernuts from some of these very old recipes.  The use of candied fruit, walnuts, pecans, brown sugar and coconut or dates would have been unthinkable to our grandmothers in Russia.  They baked very plain peppernuts.  (Page 366 – Norma Jost Vogt).  Mother devised her own Peppernut Recipe found here -

The month long trip across the Atlantic Ocean for the Mennonites included packing the staple foods of well toasted rye bread and Zwiebach plus a kettle to collect hot water at the stations for coffee.

According to the Easton Bible Dictionary, small cakes made of wheat or barley and unleavened were made by the Israelites after they were driven out of Egypt.  As it was unleavened it travelled well and brought sustenance. Exodus 12:39. Later in Leviticus 2:4, And if thou bring an oblation of a meat offering baken in the oven, it shall be unleavened cakes of fine flour mingled with oil, or unleavened wafers anointed with oil.  KJV (NLT - "When you present some kind of baked bread as a grain offering, it must be made of choice flour mixed with olive oil but without any yeast. It may be presented in the form of cakes mixed with olive oil or wafers spread with olive oil.”  In I Samuel 30: 11-12 NIV - They found an Egyptian in a field and brought him to David. They gave him water to drink and food to eat-- part of a cake of pressed figs and two cakes of raisins. He ate and was revived, for he had not eaten any food or drunk any water for three days and three nights.

 Anna, our daughter, wrote, “Is a cookie a cookie?  When are we satisfied with anything? Is a cookie just another thing to munch because I need the sugar and don’t care what kind it is, or am I looking for a specific experience? I remember that one lovely time before all the allergies interrupted me, when I had a white chocolate, chocolate chip macadamia nut cookie with a hint of nutmeg? And I ask, “What should I take?  Should I look for a specific experience or should I be thankful for whatever is there and grateful that I get a cookie.”

As I contemplated this cookie thing, I see that through the ages it has been a matter of survival, nostalgia, a crisp delightful way to say I love you or just a S’more way of saying comfort and security.  I considered the idea of a cookie further back to Moses’ Day in the Wilderness.  Exodus 16:31 – “The people of Israel called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey.”

I hear the clink of the cookie jar lid in the kitchen as I write and I wonder if God liked cookies, too.  He fed his people manna, until they were tired of the blessing from Heaven and wanted more.  Then he sent quail.

Is God still giving us His Manna from Heaven today?  His blessings?  Yes.  We only have to open our eyes and our hearts to the world around us to see His Manna Blessings all around us filled with sweetness like honey, spices to keep us alert to Him and sustenance to have faith and walk in His Way. 

Next time I see a child smile, or feel the touch of a supporting hand, or hear a song of praise to Him, or taste the sweetness of His love, or someone touches my heart, I know it is Manna from God.  Blessings come from my Father in Heaven.  I will never ever ask for more variety or love than He gives me. 

But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise. Psalm 79:13

Can ‘a cookie just be a cookie?’


Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Tree of Thankfulness

What do the words, ‘Thank You’, mean?  These two words reveal an understanding that a sacrificial gift is freely given.  A sacrificial gift is from the heart. How we acknowledge the gift can bring joy or it can bring pain to the giver.  A quick thanks, brushes off the price and the thought behind the gift.

We moved from one small town to another in 1945. The cost of the move took its toll on our family’s finances.  We moved in the fall and Christmas was upon us.  There was no money for ‘store-bought’ gifts.  Dad and Mom had a financial meeting with us and explained the difficulty.  Dad, Mom and my two brothers gathered around the small Christmas tree in the living room on Christmas Eve. The lights twinkled and our hearts were warmed by the season and the circle of family.  We listened to the story from Luke 2, of the birth of the baby Jesus in a stable.  We sang Silent Night and knelt around the room to pray.  The silence, the voices, the moment is indelibly printed on my heart.  Would it always be this way?  I remember opening my gift, wondering what it could be.  Mom kept saying, “It isn’t much.”  In the wrapping lay a pair of knitted brown mittens made with love by Mom’s hands.  I still have one mitten after 70 years hidden in my cedar chest that attests to sacrificial gifts.  A reminder of how important a heart-felt ‘thank you’ is to the giver was in her eyes. 

‘Thank You’, takes on a shape of a tree of blessings in my mind, with fruit hanging heavy.  The tree bears trust, faithfulness, joy, peace, love, encouragement, hope, faith and a sense of otherness, not self.  Often we hear the phrase, “It isn’t about you.”  What is it about?  When we say a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to someone, it is the recognition of another person’s very being and heart.

One by one, our four children sent us cards and letters as they grew to adulthood that contained ‘Thank You’s’ for being the parents we were.  There is nothing that cures an ‘empty nest syndrome’ as quickly as hearing from your children as young adults.  Their
‘Thank You’ reminded us of memories from long ago and we know their words were from the heart.

I thank God for the glorious colors of this fall season.  Each brilliant tree draws an another exclamation of joy.  Winter is coming when the earth becomes a charcoal drawing. I thank God for the gift of the seasons yet to come that He is planning.  For without the winter ‘charcoal’ rest, the following spring will not be as beautiful and remind me of the blessing of life that God has given.

While reading the autobiography of Hudson Taylor, missionary to China for 51 years in the 1800’s, I was drawn to his faith and trust and thankfulness.  One of the thoughts he included is that having to trust God for the next meal creates a need to trust and belief in our Heavenly Father.  The peace that comes from truly trusting our Lord, gives us the strength to endure and grow in faith in this life to prepare for the next. 

Why is thanking God so important? He is the genesis of ‘Thank You’ and giving of precious gifts.  We have three sons and a daughter, we cannot imagine giving even one child for any reason.  No matter how old our children become, they are precious to us.  God, our Father, gave His only begotten son to save us from our sins. Then I think of how God ‘knit his Son’ in the womb of Mary. (Psalm 139:13)  I can see God hovering about the stable protecting His One and only Son, who left all the riches in Heaven to become poor and despised and rejected.  Then Jesus was nailed to the cross and suffered death.  He arose on the third day, triumphant.  He defeated death to give us hope of eternal life.  He rose so that we might be rich with the hope of Heaven. 

We are not made for a temporary life, but an everlasting life with our Father in Heaven.  We cannot control our final Destiny except by choosing to follow Jesus. The longer I live, the more deeply I know that Jesus is my Lord and Master.  No matter what befalls me, when I am His, I know his guidance and strength will protect me. 

If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.  Romans 14:8

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.  He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  Colossians 1:11-14

            How can I ever thank you,
            With all my heart always?
            From depths of darkness
            You are my light and way.

            How can I fathom your love?
            That reaches before the beginning
            To beyond the curtain of forever
            You grace writes the song I sing.
            When I open my eyes and see
            Your love all about me
            Happy tears well in my eyes
            For I know, I know, I am free.