Commentary

Hopping John ~ Hoppin’ John

Posted by on Dec 28, 2013 in Blog, Commentary, Uncategorized | 2 comments

For many years we have begun each New Year with Hopping John.  This traditional southern dish, also known as ‘Hoppin’ John in America, originated in North Africa and was probably brought to these shores as a result of the slave trade. The use of black-eyed peas dates back at least 3000 years when it was part of the Greek and Roman diet. There are many theories on how the name Hopping John started, from folks inviting guests into their homes at the new year with “hop in John” to children hopping around the table before sitting to enjoy the meal. Black-eyed peas are generally considered to assure good luck.

There are many recipes for Hopping John, but the primary ingredients in this tasty dish are black-eyed peas, also known as cow peas, rice and pork. Typically the dried peas are first soaked then cooked. Salt pork is added later. I started out doing just that, however, I’ve gone to a far simpler recipe in recent years. Let me share my recipe, and also how I’ve recently updated it at the urging of my husband who prefers it a bit spicier.

 Hopping John

 

Hopping John

2 cups of canned black eyed peas

½ – 1 lb bacon

(reserve 2 Tablesp of bacon drippings)

½ teasp. Black pepper

½ teasp. Salt

1 cup white uncooked white rice

Cook rice according to directions. Fry bacon and set aside. When rice is done, add black eyed peas, cooked bacon with a couple of Tablespoons of drippings, and salt and pepper. Stir together and heat on low heat for 10 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Chill leftovers and reheat when you are ready for more.

 

Spicier Hopping John 

2 cups of canned black eyed peas

½ lb bacon

(reserve 2 Tablesp of bacon drippings)

1 medium chopped onion

2 minced garlic cloves

1/ teasp of crushed red pepper flakes

½ teasp. Black pepper

½ teasp. Salt

1 cup white uncooked white rice

Cook rice according to directions. Fry bacon and set aside. Sauté chopped onion in reserved bacon drippings until soft and clear. Add garlic and pepper flakes to onion and heat for a couple of minutes. When rice is done, add black eyed peas, cooked bacon, and salt and pepper. Stir together and heat on low heat for 10 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Chill leftovers and reheat when you are ready for more.

There are many variations for this southern dish so feel free to experiment and make it your own.

My sons enjoyed it, and wondered why we only had it once a year. While we never ate it because it would bring good luck, we enjoyed Hopping John every New Years and hope that our new year would be blessed.

 

I hope your New Year will be filled with blessings galore.

 

 

 

 

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TIME WELL SPENT IN GOD’S WAITING ROOM

Posted by on Dec 3, 2013 in Blog, Commentary, Devotions, Uncategorized | 6 comments

How many times have you been in the midst of a difficult situation, whether it’s related to a job, financial struggles, damaged relationships, a health crisis, or a profound loss? Perhaps you are in the whirlwind of just such circumstances right now and are wondering how you are going to get through it.  It’s so easy in the midst of difficulties to grow discouraged and focus inward. This is when it can be helpful to remember, everyone has “stuff” they are dealing with. As we age, and experience more of these “detours”, it can grow easier to weather these storms, because we have reached safe shores in the past.
 
Ever notice how solutions rarely come when we want them? For Christians, we reach out to God for answers, all the while reminding ourselves that He’s in control. We know we need to be walking with Him, seeking His guidance, and waiting for His answers. Meanwhile our emotions can range from shock, confusion, denial, grief, anger, fear, anxiety, anticipation, impatience, and finally acceptance. 
 
“To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven”
Ecclesiastes 3:1
 
I remember reading a blogpost some time ago that referred to this time as “God’s Waiting Room”, a place where God meets us, and if we allow Him, He guides us through this season. While none of us seek trials, it is often in the midst of such events when we realize our limitations, gain some humility, and are finally willing to let go and let God. Isn’t that really what God wants from us, to be submissive, open to Him, and allow the One who has our best interests at heart to guide us?
 
God’s Waiting Room may be a lonely spot, but it is also a refuge, where life slows, and in its stillness, provides an opportunity for us to draw closer to Him. Here, we quietly acknowledge what is past, honestly evaluate where we are, and think about what is next. So what do we do A woman at prayerwhile we are in this sanctuary? We can read God’s Word, and pray. And we can listen. We find encouragement as we recall all the people and things for which to be thankful. As we enumerate how the Lord has brought us through other challenges, our perceptions change. It will probably not alter our current circumstances, but it can revise our attitude as we navigate our way through them. 
 
It is human nature to try to orchestrate our lives, whether about family, jobs or other pursuits. However, how often have you heard from someone, whose life has been involuntarily disrupted and sent in an unintended direction, that they could never have anticipated the benefits or blessings missed had they remained in their previous situation? 
 
“pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17, 18
 
 
“Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.”
Proverbs 16:3
 
So, when we face the changes that come into our lives, do we have to navigate that journey alone? No! It is often in God’s waiting room that He does His finest work.
 
 
“Change is always in your favor when you’re walking with the Lord.”
Words from a wise friend
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FIFTY YEARS LATER ~ REMEMBERING THE DEATH OF C. S. LEWIS

Posted by on Nov 20, 2013 in Blog, Commentary, History, Uncategorized | 6 comments

I was a teenager sitting in a high school English class on November 22, 1963, when we heard through the PA system of the assassination of President Kennedy. Most people over the age of sixty remember exactly where they were when they learned of this horrific event.

What has sadly been overlooked is that on that same day, a gifted man and devout Christian evangelist, with an incredible resume, and Irish roots, also passed away. The vast work of Clive Staples Lewis, better known to the world as C. S. Lewis, and to his friends and family as “Jack”, has entertained and influenced many generations. He was a renowned scholar, poet, novelist, academic, essayist, and Christian apologist. Six by Lewis

C. S. Lewis was born November 29, 1898 near Belfast, Ireland. His father was a solicitor and his mother was the daughter of a Church of Ireland (Anglican) priest.  He was brought up in the Christian church, but abandoned his faith as a teenager and became an atheist. His mother died when he was a young child and his relationship with his father was distant. Lewis was educated at boarding schools and by tutors. After serving in the British Army, he completed his university education at Oxford with a focus on literature and philosophy.

In 1925 Lewis was elected as a Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, where he spent nearly thirty years on the staff. He left Oxford in 1954 to accept the position of chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University.

It was while he was at Oxford that he joined fellow faculty members, his brother, Warren Lewis, and a group of writers, in a guild known as the “Inklings”. His close friendship with J. R. R. Tolkien and other members of the group, as well as his interest in the works of George MacDonald, made him discard atheism, return to the Anglican Communion, and embrace a relationship with Jesus Christ. 

Three by LewisDuring World War II, he gave very popular wartime radio broadcasts on the subject of Christianity, and his talks brought many listeners into a living faith with Christ. These broadcast speeches would later make up one of his most famous works, Mere Christianity.

Lewis, a long time bachelor, struck up a relationship through correspondence with Joy Davidman Gresham, an author and American educator. She was an intellectual of Jewish background, and a former Communist, whose troubled marriage finally ended when she converted to Christianity. She and Lewis renewed their friendship when she traveled to England with her two sons. In 1956 they learned Joy’s visa could not be renewed, so to insure she could remain in Great Britain, they chose to have a civil marriage even though they continued to live apart. However when Joy was diagnosed with bone cancer, they realized the depth of their affection. Joy and Jack wanted to be married in the church, but as a divorcee that was not possible. However an Anglican priest, and close personal friend, performed the ceremony at Joy’s hospital bedside on March 21, 1957. Her cancer went into remission and they enjoyed three happy years together until she died in July of 1960. Lewis’s book, A Grief Observed, originally published under a pseudonym, describes his struggles with his faith and his intense grief after her death. C. S. Lewis developed a heart condition and passed away three years later.

His scholarly work has perhaps been overshadowed by his many Christian non-fiction and fiction books that have continued to be reprinted and enjoyed by people throughout the world. Here are just a few:

 

Fiction

The Chronicles Of Narnia

The Chronicles Of Narnia

The Pilgrim’s Regress

The Screwtape Letters

The Chronicles of Narnia

The Space Trilogy

 

Non-fiction

Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life (autobiography)

Mere Christianity

Miracles

The Problem of Pain

The Abolition of Man

A Grief Observed (1961; first published under the pseudonym N. W. Clerk)

 

On the 50th anniversary of C.S. Lewis’s death, he will be honored with a memorial in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-20426778

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HONORING AN AMERICAN HERO

Posted by on Sep 26, 2013 in Blog, Commentary, Journal, Uncategorized | 11 comments

A couple of days ago, an old friend sent me an e-mail with a you Tube attachment about a 40th reunion documentary for the POW’s held captive during the Viet Nam War. It brought to mind an unexpected encounter I had with one of those POW’s shortly after their release, which in a surprising way, was an answer to prayer.

Early in 1973 my father startled me with an idea he, and I suspect my mother, hatched to stretch my social skills. They knew the previous year had been a very difficult and painful time in my life and they were concerned that I had cut myself off from people, content to go to work and avoid all other social contact.

Seabee emblemMy father and maternal grandfather had been career naval officers, both serving in the Civil Engineer Corps (CEC), also known as the Seabees. Each year Seabee Balls were held at various locations around the country. Retired officers as well as those currently on active duty would frequent these festivities with their spouses or dates. It was always a fun time for them to connect with old friends. A queen, often the daughter or wife of one of the engineers, was selected to “reign” over these festivities.

Dad had put forth my name and I was selected as the 1973 Seabee Queen for the Western Division Naval Facilities Engineering Command. I knew my selection had absolutely nothing to do with me, or any of my accomplishments, attributes, or abilities; it was merely a way of honoring my father and grandfather for their sixty years of combined naval service.

When my father told me what he had done I was stunned. Always shy, the quintessential wall flower, I had never even been asked to a prom in high school. How would the Lord help me carry off this royal role and be the center of attention for an entire evening?

The weeks leading up to the Seabee Ball were exciting, but for an entirely different reason. In January 1973, the Vietnam War turned a corner. With the Paris peace accords signed, negotiations progressed to free the remaining 658 POW’s held captive. Like most people, I watched the return of these American heroes on television. It was humbling and so moving to see these men arrive on American soil, some who had been absent from our shores for six and seven years. Vietnam was still a raw and very real memory for me. It had taken a toll on many of us, directly or indirectly. But now, those who had survived captivity were coming home.

March 7th, the day of the Ball arrived and I was the only one there without a date. Somehow I Seabee Queensurvived everything associated with the ceremony, though I felt unbelievably awkward seated at the elevated head table with the Admiral, his wife and several other dignitaries, including my parents. From there I could easily see a room full of people enjoying each other in conversation. As I sat on the dais and watched the smartly dressed assembly, I tried not to let my self-consciousness show.

Then I glanced to the opposite side of the room and noticed a man standing in an open doorway. He was wearing a khaki uniform, definitely not the dress uniform or dark suit the other men were wearing. One of the guests went to the door, spoke with the young man a moment and headed quickly to the Admiral seated beside me. The man standing in the doorway with the “deer in the headlights” look was Gary Thornton, one of the POWs who had just returned from six years of captivity. He was suddenly being ushered into the room, and as news spread throughout the room, a receiving line automatically formed. Everyone wanted to shake Gary’s hand and welcome him home, including me. When everyone finished greeting Gary, shy Janet forgot herself, and asked him to dance. I have never seen such a joy-filled face; here was a person who understood freedom more than anyone else there. I no longer feared being the center of attention because I wasn’t  it wasn’t about me ― it was about him and a well deserved tribute to an American hero. God had the evening well under control and it turned out so much better than I could have ever imagined.

Come back later this week for a shorter postscript to learn how God answered two more of my prayers concerning Gary Thornton.  

Referenced youTube attachment http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=LemllfcAY8A&sns=em                       

See more about Gary Thornton and a photo http://projects.militarytimes.com/citations-medals-awards/recipient.php?recipientid=23959

 

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A WRITING CONFERENCE ~ What’s That All About?

Posted by on Sep 20, 2013 in Blog, Commentary, Journal, Uncategorized | 9 comments

A WRITING CONFERENCE

What’s That All About?

 

Earlier this week I returned from the 2013 American Christian Fiction Writer’s (ACFW) Conference in Indianapolis, IN. This was my second ACFW Conference. The first one I attended was in 2011. A friend (not a writer) asked me some pointed questions when I told her of my three day odyssey. “So you like to write, why do you go to a conference for that? Do the attendees get together and sit around and write?” It was evident she thought my trip to Indianapolis was more than a bit odd.

Her questions brought to mind a comment I heard while I was at this year’s conference.  It was announced early on that those of us who wanted to dress in the clothing of our genre* should only do this for the Friday evening dinner because there were also normal people registered at the Indianapolis Hyatt. Hmm, was that a subtle suggestion that writers aren’t normal folks? But hearkening back to the 2011 conference, I do recall seeing tables of inter-galactic creatures obviously representing the speculative fiction genre. Perhaps we are a “little different”.

I tried to explain the reasons why I, and many others, attend writer’s conferences. This is by no means an exhaustive explanation:                        

1. Fiction writing, or any writing, can be a very solitary endeavor. Most of us spend a good portion of our lives in front of a computer, or with a tablet, sharing life with our imaginary characters. Some of us spend just as much time doing research which

Sarah Ladd, Carrie Fancett Pagels, Melanie Dickerson

Sarah Ladd, Carrie Fancett Pagels, Melanie Dickerson

may be an activity we do alone. Being with other people who enjoy the same pursuit is energizing. It’s also a wonderful time to catch up with old friends and make new ones. (Old friends might be other writers we hardly ever meet face to face since our friendships might be initiated or grow over e-mails and the internet.) Attendees at the conferences come from far and wide; this year I know of some who came from Australia and Norway.

2. Writer’s conferences can provide an opportunity to network not only with other writers, but specifically with those people who write in our particular area of interest. Ten different genres were represented there. It is also a place to meet and have appointments with literary agents and publishers who have come from all over the country to meet with writers and listen to our

My agent, Linda Glaz with Hartline Literary Agency & me

My agent, Linda Glaz with Hartline Literary Agency & me

“pitches”, manuscripts we are hoping to publish.

3. Like other conferences, ACFW provides workshops for every learning level. These are taught by experts representing various aspects of the industry, whether it’s learning more about the craft, what is involved with working with literary agents and publishers, and what the present and future book selling market looks like.     

 4. Since ACFW refers to itself as The Voice of Christian Fiction – a professional organization devoted to the craft of Christian Fiction, it is a venue that provides inspiration and encouragement. There are wonderful times of worship, prayer, and fellowship, inspirational talks given by the keynote speakers (This years was Robin Jones Gunn **). 

5. The last night of the conference is the awards gala, a time to recognize some very special people.

  • The Lifetime Achievement Award (awarded this year to Frank Peretti ***)

    Frank Peretti

    Frank Peretti

  • The best Literary Agent of the Year
  • The best Editor  of the Year
  • The Mentor of the Year
  • The winners of the 2013 Genesis contest (pre-published writers) in each genre
  • The winners of the 2013 Carol Awards for the best Christian fiction published in each genre by traditional publishing houses in the previous calendar year.
  • Other awards were given for service to ACFW

So it was an exciting, inspirational, affirming, and challenging three days for a bunch of folks who may not be normal, but we are a lot of fun.

 

*Webster’s defines genre as: a particular type or category of writing literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content.

**Robin Jones Gunn is the best selling Christian author of over 82 books including The Christy Miller Series for teen girls as well as Christian fiction for older women and a few non-fiction books.

***Frank Peretti generated an interest in spiritual warfare with This Present Darkness and Piercing The Darkness, his first two books. He’s gone on to publish many more books with 15 million novels in print.

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Maximizing Your Influence

Posted by on Aug 27, 2013 in Blog, Commentary, Devotions, Journal, Uncategorized | 6 comments

I have to admit it, creating and maintaining my own website was not on my bucket list. My preference would be to spend my “computer time” catching up on news, communicating with friends and family, or working on writing projects. However, successful writers, agents, and publishers stress the importance of having a web presence, a platform, where we can maximize our influence.

So, almost two years ago when I was invited to become a regular contributor to a group blog, Colonial Quills http://colonialquills.blogspot.com/ I was thrilled. Most of the other writers who contribute to this site were multi-published authors and all share a common interest in our colonial past. This would give me a chance to write about topics dear to me, our incredible history and the Christian faith.  Terrific! Now I had a web presence.

In 2012, Michael S. Hyatt, the former Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, one of the largest trade book publishing companies in the U.S. produced a bestseller on just this topic. Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. Wanting to be current, I read this excellent book about getting our message out, and getting Platform 1noticed. http://michaelhyatt.com/platform

Perusing the web and checking out many author’s blog and websites was fascinating with so much talent, creativity, and my goodness, so many published books on display. Hmm, I would certainly need to get a website as soon as my manuscript was picked up by a publisher. It didn’t take long to notice that almost all the writers that I knew, published or not, already were on the web. I needed to take the plunge and not put it off any longer

Now, two weeks after launching my website, I’ve learned so much, and like so many other things in my life, I’ve learned some important lessons the hard way. My first lesson was; after you post, ALWAYS review it again to be sure it is ALL there, no missing paragraphs, words, or letters.

In addition to reading Jesus Calling every morning, I also receive a wonderful devotional from Nicky Gumbel, the Vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton, the largest Anglican Church in Britain. He pioneered the Alpha Course, an evangelism ministry that I was involved with for many years. http://www.alphausa.org/Groups/1000065342/Alt_Home_page.aspx

On August 14th, the very day my website went live Nicky’s devotional was waiting for me in my inbox. Now, why would I be surprised at the timing of his message?

“Maximizing Your Influence”

(used with Nicky’s permission)

1.  Use your influence for the good of everyone   Psalm 96:1-13

2.  Use your influence to spread the good news 1 Corinthians 9:1-18

3.  Use your influence to plant good seeds Ecclesiastes 9:13-12:14

          •        Watch your words

          •        Take risks

          •        Spread your efforts

          •        Take your opportunities

I particularly appreciated his closing prayer.

“Lord, help me and help our community to make the most of every opportunity that you have given us.  Help us to fear you and keep your commandments.  Help us to use our influence for good and not for evil.  Help us to make the most of every opportunity that you have put before us.”

‘Of the making of books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.’ 

Ecclesiastes 12:12  NIV – UK

http://www.htb.org.uk/bioy

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