Sunday, December 15, 2019

Sunday Musings | Are You Watching For Jesus?

The day Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the temple to present Him to the Lord, a man named Simeon was there. We find Simeon's story in Luke 2:25-35.

And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said:

“Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,

According to Your word;
For my eyes have seen Your salvation
Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,
A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”

And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him. Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

We learn from this passage that Simeon was waiting to see Christ! He knew, by the Holy Spirit, that he would see the Consolation of Israel in his lifetime, so he was watching for Jesus! He was rewarded for his devotion and gave thanks to God at His fulfillment of the promise of a Messiah.

We, too, have a promise to watch for! Jesus said:

In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. (John 14:2-3)

Jesus promised to return again! Like Simeon, we don't know when that time will come. But we do know that God always fulfills his promises!

As you look forward to Christmas and the celebration of Christ's first arrival here on Earth, are you watching and waiting for His return?

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Katharine Graham & The Washington Post

Several months ago, I read an article about Katharine Graham in Issue 30 of Flow magazine. I honestly didn't know anything about her, but this piece sparked my interest and led me to do more research.

Katharine Graham's father purchased The Washington Post at an auction in 1933. Several years after her marriage to Philip Graham, her father turned the paper over to Philip, who ran it until his death by suicide in 1963. At that time, Katharine herself took over as president of The Washington Post Company and eventually became one of the most successful and influential women in the United States.

The article mentioned the 2017 movie The Post, which Robbie and I watched together. The movie depicts the events that took place in 1971 and Katharine Graham's decision to publish parts of The Pentagon Papers, secret reports about the United States' involvement in Vietnam. I now had a better understanding of why the magazine article touted Graham as a heroine of free speech.

Robbie then told me about another movie portraying the events surrounding The Washington Post's reporting on the Watergate Scandal that led to President Nixon's resignation. This movie, All The President's Men (featuring a young Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford), does a wonderful job of showing what investigative reporting required (before the internet), how publishing decisions were made, and the extent of political corruption during that time.

Finally, I purchased a copy of Katharine Graham's 640+ page autobiography aptly titled Personal History. This book was written in 1997 when Mrs. Graham was almost 80-years-old and it covers a vast amount of the history of our country, particularly the Washington DC area, during the 1900s. The personal story of her life is intertwined with so much history! It is well-written and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1998.

The book begins with her parents, who were a prominent and wealthy family. She grew up in Washington DC and Mont Kisco, New York. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1936 and married Philip Graham in 1940. Then at the age of 46, she began what she called her "second life" as she took over the reins of The Washington Post Company.

Throughout her life she rubbed shoulders with many prominent players in our nation's history (she dined at the White House, was good friends with Warren Buffet and Truman Capote, etc) and had an influential part in the history of printed newspapers (publishing the Pentagon Papers, breaking the Watergate story, surviving the pressman union strike, etc).


I have to admit that after all this extremely interesting research, I decided I like Katharine Graham ... and I don't like her. While she had many advantages and eventually became an influential player in crucial events in our country, she suffered from low self-esteem and a lack of confidence in her abilities for many years. Her political and personal viewpoints were quite liberal. However, she lived through some tragic times (a controlling yet absentee mother, her husband's mental illness and eventual suicide) and was very forthcoming and introspective about her shortcomings and regrets as well as her successes. She made a point of recognizing and giving credit to the people who helped her, especially as she learned the newspaper business and began to grow The Washington Post Company through acquisition of TV stations and magazines. Yet, it was pretty evident which administrations and individuals she did not rate highly.

Overall, this was a wonderful learning experience, and I'm so glad I ran across the article that sparked this journey. I'm curious, did you know who Katharine Graham was before reading this post?

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Book Reviews | Fiction

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is the second book I've read by Jamie Ford. (See my review of Songs of Willow Frost HERE.) This book has been on my to-read shelf since it was a book club selection a couple of years ago. I knew I would be traveling the day of the meeting, so I didn't read it at the time.

Like so many recent publications, this book alternates between two story lines, both following the life of Henry Lee. In 1942, Henry was an 11-year-old Chinese schoolboy living with his parents in Seattle, Washington. His parents, concerned about the growing enmity toward Japanese, made him wear a button that read "I am Chinese." He attends a white school as part of a scholarship program that means he also helps out in the school cafeteria and cleaning blackboards after school. He meets a Japanese girl, Keiko Okabe, who is also scholarshiping at the school. As they work together, they become friends; but Keiko and her family are suddenly "evacuated" to a Japanese "camp" by the American government. At first, they trade letters and Henry even goes for a visit, but eventually the two lose touch.

In the second story line, Henry is still living in Seattle and is mourning the death of his wife after 30 years of marriage. As he is passing the Panama Hotel one day, he discovers that is has been purchased and is being restored. The new owner discovered the possessions of many Japanese families in the basement - items they stored there as they were evacuated during the war. A familiar looking Japanese parasol sends Henry searching for answers about Keiko. I thoroughly enjoyed this book - it's a good read, a love story plus historical information about Seattle and the Japanese evacuations.

The Red Book by Deborah Copaken Kogan has also been on my to-read shelf for a while. I think maybe I picked it up at Barnes & Noble a while back because it has a great cover and sounded like an interesting read. This is a fiction story about four women who graduated from Harvard in 1989 and covers a three-day period as they prepare for and attend their 20th class reunion in 2009.

Every five years, Harvard gathers information on the graduates and then sends them each a copy of The Red Book with addresses and information about each person who graduated with them. The graduates can also include (or not) a 3 to 5 paragraph summary about their current lives.

The story is written from several points of view and is an interesting juxtaposition considering what they write for The Read Book versus what their life is really like at the moment. The characters come from different social and financial backgrounds,  have varying sexual orientations and ethnic identifications, include individuals from different generations, etc. Honestly, this book was a little out of my comfort zone as some of the characters were quite liberal in their beliefs and actions; however, it's very believable in the portrayal of the complications and compromises in marriage, career struggles, mid-life questions about following dreams and/or finding happiness. It's well-written and a page-turner that keeps the reader wondering what's going to happen next. The story is wrapped up nicely with their entries for the 25th Anniversary Red Book.

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton was this month's book club selection and (once again) follows two story lines. I enjoyed this book, which is very well-written, and think the alternating story lines worked because they were well-paced, developing one story line more in depth before returning to the other one (as opposed to every other chapter).

In 1958/59 Elisa Perez is living in Cuba with her high society family. Her father is a sugar baron and is friends of Batista and the reigning government. She is sheltered from the political unrest in the country until her brother is banished from the family and she meets Pablo, a revolutionist set on ousting Batista and replacing him with Fidel Castro.

In 2017, Marisol, Elisa's granddaughter, makes a trip to Cuba, which has recently become possible because of Fidel Castro's death. She is the first Perez family member to return since Elise and her family escaped to the United States in 1959. Marisol is charged with scattering her grandmother's ashes. Along the way, she uncovers some family secrets and learns more about Cuba's current situation. A very good read!

I'm not sure where I found Rose Cottage by Mary Stewart,, but it's been on my to-read shelf for a while. (Are you seeing a trend here?) 

Kate Herrick returns to the home where she grew up to take care of having her grandmother's furniture and belongings shipped to Scotland (where her grandmother has decided to stay after being displaced there during World War II). Her grandmother (who raised her from the time she was 6-years-old) asks her to get some items from a safe (hidden behind wallpaper and plaster board in the old house), but the items have been removed when Kate arrives. This story is set in a wonderful small village in the English country side. There's a nice batch of characters, a little romance, and a mystery as Kate learns more about her mother (who ran off with a gypsy man years ago). This is an easy, lovely read.

During our summer vacation, Robbie and I listened to several episodes of the What Should I Read Next podcast ... and ordered quite a few books when we returned home. The slimmest book, The Emissary by Yoko Tawada, is the one I've liked least so far. 

This story is set in Japan, which is isolated from the rest of world after some catastrophic event that has changed the order of things. Old people are healthy and continue to live long lives while babies are born unhealthy but insightful. Yoshiro takes care of his great-grandson Mumei, who can't even keep orange juice down and is unable to dress himself. Things get stranger in this dystopian environment; however, there is very little plot line. I kept waiting for something to happen or things to change, but I was disappointed (unless you count that at age 15 Mumei falls out of his wheelchair and starts metamorphosing into a girl). This is definitely not a book I would recommend.

Have you read any of these books? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Sunday Musings | Paul, A Prisoner

Have you ever thought about the fact that many of the Apostle Paul’s letters were written while he was in prison, yet they contain numerous reminders to give thanks, be joyful, and love others. In Acts 27:35, he gave thanks in the tempest before a shipwreck, and in Acts 28:15, he thanked God when they arrived in Rome … and, yes, in both of those instances he was a prisoner!

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, the words joy and rejoice appear numerous times, once again despite the fact that he was a prisoner (awaiting a trial that could end his life). In fact, he wrote in chapter 4, verse 11, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.

And finally, it was Paul who wrote the scripture we’re focusing on today as he exhorted the Thessalonians to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

We may never find ourselves locked in a prison cell, but I’m sure we can all relate to the feeling of being stuck in circumstances that we do not like or understand. It’s in these times that we most need to remember the admonition in 1 Thessalonias 5:18!

In everything give thanks;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Sometimes it's hard to follow the direction in this scripture. There are times in life when it seems we have nothing to give thanks for; however, the scripture doesn't say give thanks for the things you like, it says in everything give thanks.

What are you giving thanks for today?

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Upcoming Class | Christmas Carols Bible Journaling Class (Allen, TX)

I'm excited today to announce my next Bible journaling classes on December 13 or 14 here at my home in Allen! 

Christmas Carols Bible Journaling Class
Friday or Saturday
December 13 or 14, 2019
10am - 1pm
Home of Melissa Gross, Allen TX

Join me this December as we look at the scriptures and stories behind some of our favorite Christmas carols.
This brand new 3-hour class will include several devotional teachings and a variety of illustrated Bible journaling techniques. You will also receive a kit of fun Bible journaling supplies to use creatively in your Bible, journal, or hymnal.

** If you receive a notification that the class is sold out & would like to be added to the waiting list, please email me.
**If you are registered and unable to attend, please let me know before December 8 for a full refund. Cancellations after December 7 are nonrefundable; however, I will be happy to mail you the class kit.

Additional details for classes at my home:
*Be sure to bring your Bible (or a journal) to work in, along with your favorite journaling pen.
*I will have supplies available for you to use in your journaling, but you are welcome to bring along some of your favorite supplies as well. (Please note that space will be limited as we all gather around one large table.)
*There will be some yummy snacks and bottled water for us to enjoy throughout the day. If a hot coffee or ice cold soda enhances your Bible journaling time, please feel free to bring that along with you.
*Space is limited for each class (it's the same on both days), so don't wait too long to register! Your spot is reserved once payment is received. Within 48 hours of payment, you will receive a confirmation email with my address and directions.
I would love for you to join me as we dive into the Word and use our creativity to draw closer to the Lord during the most wonderful time of the year!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Scrapbooking | Old Photo, New Papers

On a recent visit to Scrappin' Goodtime, I picked up two sheets of "Splatter" patterned paper from KaiserCraft's Scrap Studio Collection. As I flipped through my storage binder of old family photos, I found a black & white photo of my Mama and her brothers and sister that I knew would work great with the pink brick background.

I started with one full sheet for the background and several strips from the "B" side of the other piece of "Splatter" then added additional papers from my scrap bin as a base for the photo. Letter stickers for the title, a small line of journaling & some flowers from my stash completed this page.

I love the way these new papers highlight this old photo! What do you think?