Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Men, chainsaw and dead trees

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Conundrum - Good from Evil

Oh, the enthusiasm of 7-, 8- and 9-year-olds!

At Good News Club last week, I told the story of an outstanding young man of the Old Testament who persevered in doing what was right his entire life and how God blessed him for his faithfulness and used him to bless others.

At age 17 he was thrown into a pit by his jealous older brothers because of their father’s favoritism toward him, and then sold as a slave to traveling salesmen on their way to Egypt. He trusted God. In Egypt, he was bought by Potipher, the captain of the Pharaoh’s bodyguards, and was assigned the most menial of jobs. He trusted God. Potipher’s wife falsely accused him of sexual assault so he was imprisoned in a dark, filthy jail. He trusted God. Hearing of his ability to interpret dreams of two other prisoners, Pharaoh brought him out of jail and asked him to interpret the two strange dreams he (Pharaoh) had had. Still he trusted God.

By now, you have probably figured out that his name was Joseph, son of Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham. He lived from 1915 BC until 1805 BC (110 years!) and he was a man of integrity and high moral character. The dreams meant, he told Pharaoh, that there would be plenty of rain and good crops for 7 years and then 7 years of terrible drought and famine. When Pharaoh asked Joseph what they should do to keep the people from starving, Joseph said they should take one fifth of every farmer’s crops during the seven good years, store them in huge storehouses in cities throughout Egypt, and then sell them to those who needed food during the 7 years of famine.

Pharaoh was so impressed with Joseph’s reply and his history of being responsible, reliable and hard-working, he put Joseph in charge of his palace, all those under Pharaoh, and all of the collection of grain and building of storehouses. Pharaoh completely trusted Joseph and Joseph became Governor, the second-in-command of Egypt, the second most powerful man in the country.

Eventually the terrible drought began and not only Egypt, but also surrounding countries began suffering from the famine, including the land of Canaan (present-day Israel), where Joseph’s family lived. Thus, Jacob sent his ten older sons to Egypt to buy grain, as word had spread that Egypt had stored grain. Throughout the various twists and turns of events that followed, including two trips by the brothers to Egypt to meet with Joseph and to buy grain, Joseph did not reveal to them that he was their brother. Twenty-two years had passed since his brothers had sold him as a slave; now he was a powerful man of 39, fluent, of course, in the Egyptian language, and so his brothers had no idea that this powerful man was their brother.

At long last, Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, saying "I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.” Word reached Pharaoh that Joseph’s brothers had come, so Pharaoh told Joseph to tell his brothers to go back to Canaan and bring his father, their families and all their animals and belongings back to Egypt and they would be given the best land. They did so. Jacob lived another 17 years after moving to Egypt.

After Jacob died, Joseph again said to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)

This illustrates Paul's words over 1900 years later, "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)
The review game (there are always 12 questions to answer about the story) involved answering the question correctly and then reaching into a cloth sack of rice with little prizes hidden in it. In the story, Joseph's silver cup was secretly hidden in Benjamin's sack of grain that the brothers had bought and were taking home to their father in Canaan

Monday, March 29, 2010

Apricot Chicken

I was looking online for a chicken recipe, just because we have chicken so often and roast chicken gets boring after having it too frequently. My husband Jerry really loves sweet and sour dishes, so when I came across this one, I knew I had to try it. The apricot preserves and vinegar listed in the ingredients pointed to a sweet-and-sour taste. I added sliced red bell peppers for additional color, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, because, as Jerry says, Everything tastes better with garlic in it and 2 tablespoons corn starch.

Apricot Chicken

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 chicken breasts, cut in cubes or thin slices
Salt and pepper
1 large onion, chopped
1 thinly sliced red bell pepper (optional)
2 tablespoons cider or white wine vinegar
12 dried pitted apricots, chopped
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup apricot all fruit spread or apricot preserves
1 tsp garlic powder (optional)
2 Tbs corn starch (optional)
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.
Add oil and chicken and season with salt and pepper. Lightly brown the chicken a few minutes on each side, then add onions (and red bell pepper). Cook 5 minutes.
Add vinegar to the pan and let it evaporate. Add apricots, (garlic powder) and stock.
When stock comes to a bubble, add preserves and stir to combine. Optional for a thicker sauce: Pour off liquid into a saucepan, add corn starch, whisk well and heat while stirring, till it thickens. Add back to the chicken mixture.
Cover pan, reduce heat and simmer 10 to 15 minutes. Serve chicken over rice with a sprinkle of chopped parsley.

Number of Servings: 8

I forgot to add in the flat leaf parsley, and I even had it in the fridge! That would have made it more colorful, too.
Serve it over brown rice for a healthier meal. I'm just trying to use up our Y2K boring white rice. It wasn't terribly colorful, but it really tasted delicious.
To make it look more colorful in my blog photo, I put cooked mixed vegetables (from a frozen package of mixed vegetables) on top...definitely more colorful. But, as I said before, it tasted delicious even without the mixed vegetables on top.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Manzanita blossoms and bark

Manzanita shrubs grow wild throughout the mountains and hills of California. They are at their prettiest in the springtime when they are laden with little pink and white bell-shaped flowers. Some folks buy them at nurseries as ornamental shrubs for their yards, but we get them for free---they grow wild here.
After the pretty little pink and white flowers are finished blooming, the white berries develop.

The blossoms are lovely against the grayish-green leaves...
...and lovelier still are the pink blossoms and gray-green leaves against the deep blue sky.
I look forward each year to the blossoming of the manzanita bushes and I'm never disappointed.
The bark of the manzanita is smooth and dark red.
It is also a very hard wood, high in oil content. One time a friend of ours learned how hot manzanita wood burns when he used it in a fire in his old wood-burning stove. It melted through the steel in the bottom of his stove and the burning wood fell right through to the hearth. Needless to say, after he told us of that experience, we never burned manzanita wood in our wood-burning stove!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Mario who?

Why do most of us revel in seeing a celebrity in person, be (s)he a major or minor celebrity?

Is it our perceived reflected glory with which we are seemingly endowed?

Is it to feel a notch above others because we were so privileged?

Is it the pure excitement of seeing someone in person whom we have seen in the media so many times?

Even if it’s a famous person we don’t like, for some reason it’s fun to be able to share with our friends and acquaintances the various celebrities we have seen.

And the ironic part is usually no one cares that we saw such-and-such a person, and the hearer of our exciting news finds it not exciting at all, unless the hearer has always wanted to see that celebrity in person.

The hearer of such tidings usually acts interested only to be polite.

How do I know this?

Because I am seldom impressed by others’ accounts of their celebrity sightings, but, to be polite, I act impressed.

There, I said it.

I’m not proud of my hypocrisy; it’s just the way I am.

But at least I don’t hurt the other person’s feelings by saying, “I don’t really care who you saw” or “So what?!”

So now that I’ve confessed to my hypocrisy I will indulge myself in a reprise of euphoria by telling you all the major and minor celebrities I have seen:

Dwight D. Eisenhower
Lyndon B. Johnson
Bobby Kennedy (JFK’s brother)
the Beach Boys
Mario Lopez (TV celebrity)
Patricia Heaton (TV celebrity)
George W. Bush
Neil Diamond
John Kennedy (my pastor's father....hey--he's a celebrity to me!)

I feel energized just by telling you that.

P.S. Most unusual place I spotted a celeb? At the lowest-most cavern of Carlsbad Caverns in Carlsbad, New Mexico. I saw Mario Lopez, surrounded by admiring, photo-taking, autograph-collecting fans in that deepest underground cavern where they had a snack bar. There were also more stalactites and stalagmites to view. As I pulled out my camera to snap a picture of Mario, my sons, aged 14, 12 and 10 at the time, groaned, "Oh, MOM!! You are so embarrassing!"

I pulled out my 1993 photo album to scan that photo into my computer, but the photo was missing! I won't name names, but I suspect that one of my sons pulled it out and "lost" it.

Now, please tell me what celebrities you have seen in person. Don’t worry what I think about it. I’ll be happy that you left a comment!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Sunset through the tall trees

These photos were taken the evening of the first day of spring.
Where my husband and I live we are surrounded by tall trees---there is no distant flat horizon which lends itself well to gorgeous sunsets, so we rarely see the sun actually setting, just some pale pink sky occasionally.
So I must confess that I used PhotoShop to make a warmer color in the sky. I used the slider for a warmer tone to enhance the sunset color.
Ah, almost a fiery sky with the help of PhotoShop!
This is the view of the sunset from halfway up the hill to our house...tall pines and cedars surrounding the path down the hill, the road and the lake.

Check out other lovely sunsets, blue skies and cloudy skies around the world at SkywatchFriday. Thank you Klaus, Sandy, Wren, Fishing guy, Louise and Sylvia for keeping up this site!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Light dispels darkness

I’ll call her Renee. I first met her four and a half years ago in a kindergarten class where I volunteered. She was an extremely quiet five-year-old, one who was always lost in thought and almost never smiled. Renee definitely never laughed, at least from what I could see.She seemed to be in a sad dreamland state most of the time. Rarely able to finish her work in the expected amount of time, Renee spent most of the time lost in thought, mulling over….what? …playing what movie in her mind?The sadness emanating from little Renee was almost palpable. Each Tuesday morning that I helped in kindergarten a cloud of gloom seemed to hover over her. Renee was often absent and I began hearing about problems at home—possible drug abuse by someone in her family—talk of her parents separating.I began to understand the quiet anguish of this little girl. Her day-dreaming and staring into space did not frustrate me so much anymore. I finally understood that instead of acting out in aggressive ways because of the turmoil going on at home, Renee retreated into her inner world, her thoughts replaying the unhappy events of her home life.Once Renee became a first-grader, I didn’t see her so often—just occasionally on the playground as I walked by, but I’d get a wave and a shy “Hi, Mrs. VanderBeek.” I wondered occasionally about Renee, how things were going for her, but as the years went by, I didn’t think much about her…until last year when she came with a friend to my Good News Club. By now a third-grader, Renee listened intently as I talked about God’s love for us, even though He knows we are sinners. Because of our sin we’re separated from Him.I explained that God loved us so much that He made a way for our sins to be forgiven so that we don’t have to be separated from Him anymore. He sent God the Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to die on the cross for us, taking our penalty for sin, and all we have to do is ask Him to forgive our sins and come into our lives. And immediately we are washed clean on the inside (in our inmost being) and we have eternal life, never to be separated from God again.Renee was totally focused on me as I shared this with the class; she was absorbing it like a sponge. This was something brand new to her, the idea that she was in darkness, but that Jesus could bring light and purity to her soul. It resonated with her; she knew she was in darkness. When I gave the invitation to those who wanted to ask Jesus to forgive their sin and come into their lives, Renee raised her hand. She prayed with me and trusted in Jesus for salvation.This year, as a fourth-grader, Renee began coming again to GNC. One of my adult helpers, Larry, occasionally takes kids who come from difficult home situations to activities like miniature golf, a water park, a trampoline place, and so on. Last week, he took a group of kids, including Renee, to Sky High, a trampoline place.

Renee was laughing and smiling in the car coming home. Larry said, “Renee, you look so great when you’re smiling! I remember in the past you never smiled. You always looked sad. What changed?” She replied, “I’m not lost any more.”...and that’s why I keep on teaching the good news at my Good News Clubs.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Say Cheese

Two of my three sons had a lisp when they were very young. I think the lisp finally corrected itself for both of them by the time they were about 8. In November of 1989, our youngest son, Timmy (I still called him Timmy at the time), age 7, brought home his school pictures and I saw that his tongue was showing a little bit between his teeth.
I said, "Timmy, did the lady tell you to say cheese?" He thought about it for a moment, and then he said, "Yeah, she did thay to thay cheethe."

By the inflection of his voice, I could tell he was mystified by how I knew that.

Take a walk down other people's memory lanes at Remember Whensday, hosted by Sally in Washington.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring has sprung

What a difference two days make...
Here is our Oak Lane Reservoir on the last day of winter, a cloudy day, but still with beautiful "watercolor" reflections.
And two days later on the second day of spring, the sky is a brilliant blue and the reflections of the trees on the lake's surface dazzle me.
Sir Swannee Swimsalot paddles serenely on the still water...back...
...and forth. I think he was showing off just for me. I must admit, I was charmed by his genteel aloofness.
This goose couple paddle nonchalantly along, knowing they are among the elite of the large flock of geese who call Oak Lane Reservoir home, because they have a nest somewhere in the rushes here, prepared for the arrival of their little goslings.
But alas for this goose couple. I have a gut feeling that they have been driven out of the Oak Lane Reservoir sanctuary and they now lead a nomadic life trudging up and down Oak Lane to and from their secret nest somewhere on one of our neighbors' property.
I probably add to their feelings of persecution as I walk along behind them on the road snapping pictures. The gander takes the lead, honking louder and louder as I come closer, and finally he flaps up the bank from the road, leading his wife away from danger.
...and up the hill they go, waddling away from the pesky paparazzi, past our neighbor's house to a safe haven.

I still haven't seen any signs of new little goslings, but I'll let you know when the blessed events occur.

See other fascinating and beautiful places at My World Tuesday, hosted by Klaus, Ivar, Sandy, Wren, and Fishing Guy.