Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Permit me, if you will, as we move toward Easter, to muse on a promise from Scripture most often associated with Christmas.

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." (Luke 2:14)

As this verse is rendered in the King James Version, it reflects some common misconceptions among the Jews of Jesus' day concerning the coming Messiah, as well as misconceptions of Christ's work in our lives today. The Jews believed that the Messiah would come in militant might to overthrow their enemies and establish a peaceful earthly kingdom. However, as Jesus himself taught, that was not his purpose.

"Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division." (Luke 12:51)

The peace that God brings through Christ is found in an inner work of the Holy Spirit, wrought in His children alone. More mysterious in nature and far more profound in its effect in the life of the believer than any earthly peace could be, this peace of heart, mind and soul cannot be found in any other fashion. Though circumstances all around may scream fear and panic, the one who has been given such peace can calmly look to God in trust. While keeping his eyes on his Lord, Peter was able to do the impossible, step out of the boat and walk across the waves to Jesus. It was only when his circumstances drew his focus away from the Savior that he begin to sink. And yet, even then, crying out for help, the Lord pulled him from the waters that threatened to drown him. (Matt 14:25-31)

I have had many opportunities to learn this lesson from my loving and merciful Heavenly Father. Psalm 139 has been a particular comfort to me as it has taught me that God is with me no matter where I am or how lonely or afraid I feel. My feelings can be particularly untrustworthy- but I know for a FACT that my God is Good, and that he exercises Sovereign control over all that happens. All.

I therefore find within my heart a peace that no amount of sunshine and flowers has been able to plant, and no amount of thundering storms can wash away.

"...do not be anxious about anything,B)"> but in everything by prayer and supplicationC)"> with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. AndD)"> the peace of God,E)"> which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (Philippians 4:5-8)

And so once again to our "Christmas passage",

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." (Luke 2:14) [ESV this time]

So, though today I face circumstances that would have me bound in fear and uncertainty, I am able instead to focus on my true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy Lord and sing with the angels today, Glory to God in the highest!

I Wonder Who Opens the Mail...?

So today is March 31st, this year also known as "Red Envelope Day". (I have no idea why this is all underlined by the way... make it stop!) Anyway, my envelopes are waiting out in the mailbox to be taken away by my friendly neighborhood mail delivery person and sent to the White House.

Who opens the President's mail? Will he even be awaer that these empty red envelopes are being sent by the truckload to his door? Or will he consider this a terroristic act somehow...? Will the media pick up on this? What will Katie Couric say? Should an investigative reporter be sent to the scene to uncover the conspiracy of hate aimed at the President? Should the First Family be whisked away into protective custody in an undisclosed location until the crisis passes?

Will anyone in the White House take pause and consider the message being sent; that millions of innocents have been mercilessly slaughtered in the name of convenience.

One can only hope...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Now We Come to Providence...

Having been reading John Calvin's Institutes of Christian Religion for almost three months now, I finally get to his treatment of God's Providence in chapter XVI of the first book. One would think, from Calvinism's reputation, that this would be the Very First Topic about which Calvin wrote. But he carefully and systematically treated the whole of the Christian Religion, with no unbalanced focus on any one aspect. Only now, 500 years later, do we think of Election and Predestination as being his areas of specialty, since these ideas seem to have been lost, or at least muted, to the wider church. John Calvin was not alone in teaching the doctrines of election or predestination, but his name has endured down the ages in relation to them.

So, without further ado, here are some of the highlights from Chapter XVI that jumped off the pages for me.

In opening this chapter Calvin begins;
..."to make God a momentary Creator, who once for all finished his work, would be cold and barren, and we must differ from profane men especially in that we see the presence of divine power shining as much in the continuing state of the universe as in its inception."
Nice place to begin- lay a foundation upon which to build. And so:

"But faith ought to penetrate more deeply, namely, having found him Creator of all, forthwith to conclude that he is also everlasting Governor and Preserver - not only in that he drives the celestial frame as well as its several parts by a universal motion, but also in that he sustains, nourishes, and cares for, everything he has made, even to the least sparrow [Matt. 10:29]."

After carefully explaining that there is no such thing as "fortune" or "chance", Calvin moves to the heart of God's providential governance of all:

"And truly God claims, and would have us grant him, Omnipotence - not the empty, idle, and almost unconscious sort that the Sophists imagine, but a watchful, effective, active sort, engaged in ceaseless activity."
..."governing heaven and earth by his providence, he so regulates all things that nothing takes place without his deliberation. For when, in the Psalms, it is said that "he does whatever he wills", [Ps. 115:3; Ps. 113:3] a certain and deliberate will is meant. ...in times of adversity believers comfort themselves with the solace that they suffer nothing except by God's ordinance and command, for they are under his hand."

"Let (us) ...ever remember that there is no erratic power, or action, or motion in creatures, but that they are governed by God's secret plan in such a way that nothing happens except what is knowingly and willingly decreed by him."

Having dealt in a previous chapter with "free will", (which I am not smart enough or inclined to sum up on my own here) Calvin now briefly relates the Providence of God to the actions of men and natural occurrences:

"...man is moved by God according to the inclination of his nature, but he (God) himself turns that motion whither he pleases. ...it is clear that the prophet and Solomon ascribe to God not only might but also choice and determination...
[Prov. 16:1, 9]."

Now, to make clear that the belief in providence is no Stoic belief in fate:

"...we make God the ruler and governor of all things, who in accordance with his wisdom has from the farthest limit of eternity decreed what he was going to do, and now by his might carries out what he has decreed. From this we declare that not only heaven and earth and the inanimate creatures, but also the plans and intentions of men, are so governed by his providence that they are borne by it straight to their appointed end."

"...nothing is more absurd than that anything should happen without God's ordaining it, because it would then happen without any cause."

So how do we apply this doctrine to our greatest benefit? Understanding that there is much mystery in God's ways being so very far above our own ways, therefore...

"... we must so cherish moderation that we do not try to make God render account to us, but so reverence his secret judgments as to consider his will the truly just cause of all things. When dense clouds darken the sky, and a violent tempest arises, because a gloomy mist is cast over our eyes, thunder strikes our ears and all our senses are benumbed with fright, everything seems to us to be confused and mixed up; but all the while a constant and quiet serenity ever remain in heaven. So we must infer that, while the disturbances of the world deprive us of our judgment, God out of the pure light of his justice and wisdom tempers and directs these very movements in the best-conceived order to a right end."

For those who wish to argue and explain away events without giving God his place as Sovereign over all that happens, Calvin answers:

"...they wish nothing to be lawful for God beyond what their own reason prescribes for themselves."
(Hence, "When Bad Things Happen to Good People", and other such explanations.)

I'll end with these thoughts on the happiness of recognizing God's hand in the acts of providence.

"Therefore the Christian heart, since it has been thoroughly persuaded that all things happen by God's plan, and that nothing takes place by chance, will ever look to him as the principle cause of things, yet will give attention to the secondary causes in their proper place. Then the heart will not doubt that God's singular providence keeps watch to preserve it, and will not suffer anything to happen but what may turn out to its good and salvation."

"Gratitude of mind for the favorable outcome of things, patience in adversity, and also incredible freedom from worry about the future all necessarily follow upon this knowledge."

"...when that light of divine providence has once shone upon a godly man, he is then relieved and set free not only from the extreme anxiety and fear that were pressing him before, but from every care. For as he justly dreads fortune, so he fearlessly dares commit himself to God. For his solace, I say, is to know that his Heavenly Father so holds all things in his power, so rules by his authority and will, so governs by his wisdom, that nothing can befall except he determine it. Moreover, it comforts him to know that he has been received into God's safekeeping and entrusted to the care of his angels, and that neither water, nor fire, nor iron can harm him, except insofar as it pleases God as governor to give them occasion. Thus indeed the Psalm sings: ' For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. Under his wings he will protect you, and in his pinions you will have assurance; his truth will be your shield. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the flying arrow by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at midday' [Ps. 91:3-6; Ps. 90: 3-6]."

"...ignorance of providence is the ultimate of all miseries; the highest blessedness lies in the knowledge of it."

This is good stuff; stay tuned, there's more to come!

A Gift

Hello. My name is Barbaranne, and I'm a Facebook user.

There, it's out. I too am addicted. A member of the cult, as it were. I have plenty of good excuses though. A son living on one side of the globe, a husband and daughter on the other. Many dear friends dispersed hither and yon. And I don't like to talk on the phone for more than the bare exchange of information. Facebook is one of the best ways to share pictures with friends, near or far. The running commentary and back and forth chit-chat are fun. But nothing beats actually being in the same room with one's dearest friends, looking through their eyes and straight to their hearts. Which explains why I drove five hours on Thursday to have lunch with two of my oldest friends. (No, they're not old, the friendship is... but it never gets old with them... You know what I mean.)

Somehow it all worked. Wednesday the friendly FB banter about them having lunch together turned to, "why don't you join us?" As I laughed it off, I ran down the list of reasons why there was no way it would work,... and each one fell away. There was no good reason why I couldn't take a day trip across the state to see these heart-mates from whom I have been too long separated! So I brewed up some serious coffee, packed some great sermon cds to listen to on the drive, left Bekah pizza money, and off I went!

I am sure that we are each different in our capacity for close friendships. For myself, there are a handful of people who have entered my life and taken up residence in my heart. Few and far between, these people can be absent for years, and yet, when we see one another, we can pick right up where we left off.

Looking into their eyes Thursday I could clearly see that, though experiences and situations have changed each of us, and even left their marks, these were the same women with whom I shared such close and sweet fellowship 19-10 years ago. Three different people, for whom the Lord has given three very different paths in life, and we can read one another like open books. All of a sudden the years apart fall away and we are 25 again, laughing and giggling over the least things. Finishing each others' sentences and finding such joy together.

I thought that I might need to keep a protective barrier around myself, that caution may be a wiser course to take. How very vain; how very untrusting. My Father gave me these women for sisters. Mutual love instantly melted away any concerns that I held, and God hugged me with their arms.

Praise God for Facebook. Okay,... maybe not. But praise God for friends,... sisters.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Two Weeks Already?!

My, how time flies! While there has been much going on, there have been a few major highlights which I'd like to cover here. I thought that Jim getting himself off to the other side of the world would cause things to quiet down here considerably. I was technically right, but the quantity of quiet was certainly overestimated.

My last post, being Sunday, March 1st, was right before our snow storm that evening. Snow began falling on Sunday evening and didn't stop until Monday afternoon. School was canceled for Monday and the kids had a blast outdoors in the perfect, fluffy, ice-free snow!

Playing in the snow can be exhausting, so once he was finished, Isaac relaxed on his bed with Calvin and Hobbes while listening to the cd of John Silva playing Chopin. Amazing. Monday evening the kids and I went to the Roeder's for dinner. Rebekah is "friends" with their son, Isaiah, who has joined the Army. It was one of his last evenings at home and we were blessed to join them. Rebekah made a Tiramisu for dessert- yum.

Tuesday, with snow still on the ground, yet with sunshine as well, I had to grab my camera and head outdoors. Our yard was a study in shadows and fascinating to shoot. Then the thought of the creek at Nolde Forest crossed my mind, so I went for a short snow hike in the woods to capture some water and ice. Lovely day, it appeared that many others had the same thought as there were plenty of tracks and I saw folks walking- some with their dogs! I am pleased with the shots I got, but look forward to a better knowledge of my camera in order to more accurately capture what I'm seeing in my mind's eye.

Spring is on the way, snow or not, and I have found a lot of bulbs poking their way through the dirt and frost out in the flower beds!

But the beds outside aren't the only places to find flowers here these days. On Saturday a beautiful bouquet arrived, with chocolates to accompany it, from my sweet husband so far away. Sunday was our 23rd Wedding Anniversary, and though we were separated by most of the globe, we were able to speak on the phone and enjoy our memories together. Chocolate doesn't hurt either...

With Jim overseas, our church is so very supportive and wanting to "rally 'round" and help us; one of our friends is organizing a bunch of the guys to come take care of some big things in our yard that are beyond me. The initial aim was to get the fallen tree in the yard cut up and dealt with. Big tree, covering a lot of yard, will naturally take a whole team of guys most of a day to deal with. The day they picked didn't work for our friend and small group leader, John, so he came on over on Saturday morning to do "his part". Once he started up his chainsaw, our neighbor, Keith, joined him,bringing his teenage son, a tractor, and his own chainsaw. I went with Erin to run some errands while Isaac lent the men a hand. Upon return home- maybe an hour later, the tree was gone. Completely. Gone. Isaac was putting away the last of the tools, grinning from ear to ear. Done. A couple of times over the rest of the weekend Isaac took the initiative to go out and split some of the wood that had been neatly stacked in the woodshed... That boy is growing up so fast.

So as far as surviving on the home front, we seem to be doing just fine. Never fear, I'll find some things for that team of well-intentioned fellas from church to take care of. Spring has come and there is much to do!

There has been much else happening, and John Calvin is still instructing me with beautiful truth that stands the test of time. But that must all wait for tomorrow.

Sunday, March 01, 2009


Might as well share the recipe for these yummy dumplings,... noodles,... Doodles!

From Gourmet magazine, February 2009. (photographs mine.)

Tiny Dumplings With Dill

If you love gnocchi or spaetzle, you’ll love these tiny dumplings known as galushkas, buoyed here with fresh dill. They are a breeze to make and so comforting with the veal's creamy paprika sauce. Sauté any leftovers in butter until the edges are browned and crisp.
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons chopped dill
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • Equipment: a spaetzlemaker or a colander with 1/4-inch holes

Bring a 6-quart pot of salted water (2 teaspoon salt for 5 qt water) to a simmer.

Meanwhile, whisk together flour, dill, 2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl.

Whisk together eggs and water in a bowl, then add to flour mixture and whisk until batter is smooth.

Working over barely simmering water, force batter through spaetzlemaker (or through colander with a rubber spatula) into water and cook, stirring occasionally, until dumplings have risen to surface and are firm, 2 to 3 minutes.

Drain dumplings in a colander, then return to warm pot. Toss with butter and salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Cooks' note: Dumplings, without butter, can be made 1 day ahead and rinsed under cold water, then drained thoroughly. Toss with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and chill. Reheat in a shallow baking dish, covered with foil, in a 400°F oven for about 20 minutes. Toss with butter and season with salt and pepper.

Of course, only now I notice that I have no photos of the finished product... Oh well, I'll just have to make more! Yum!

From Clay to Gourmet!

Saturday held some fun events for us here. In the morning the kids and I went with our neighbors, Erin and Michele Bleacher down to our neighbor Nancy's home to make bowls for this year's "Souper Bowl". We had such fun last year that we must do this again! Since we were a small group we each got to make two or three bowls. Erin and Erin are pros at this now, but for Isaac and Rebekah this is a first. What fun playing with the clay can be!

Nancy helps Isaac with his first bowl.

The Erins are moving right along.

Attention to detail.

Some of the things with which we'll decorate our bowls.

Slippery work.

A fringe benefit: Isaac learns to dial a rotary dial phone-
he called my cell a couple of times...

Saturday evening I joined some friends for a Gourmet ladies dinner. Ann, from church, had invited me a month before, passed out the menu (from an issue of Gourmet magazine) with recipes, and we each made one of the dishes to bring. I volunteered to make the dumplings right away since they were described as a Hungarian version of Spaetzle. Spaetzle had been one of our favorite culinary discoveries in Germany and while there I bought a special press to make them at home! So out comes the nearly-forgotten Spaetzle press, and I don't think I'll be hiding it away any time soon!

Ann set such a lovely table.

Clarissa with her appetizer.

The conversation was so easy and fun.

Clarissa and Debbie.

Rachel came home for Spring Break just in time to join us!

Beautiful Elaine so resisted being photographed
that I'll just put in this background shot of her.

The Hostess with the mostest, Ann.

Such a lovely way to end the week. For the entire menu with recipes see here. I am really looking forward to next month!