Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fill in the Blank!

Let’s try a fill in the blank quiz.

Now thank we all our _ _ _.
Thank _ _ _ _ _ _for little girls.
He had only _ _ _ _ _ _ _ to thank.
We can thank our lucky _ _ _ _ _. Answers: Lord, God, heaven, himself, stars.

It's Thanksgiving week in our great nation. Whom do we thank for what? Wait a minute. Do we thank, at all? When did you last hear anyone express thanks? Maybe from a salesperson; or a phone call requesting a favor; a gift received; or for advice given? I find genuine thanks to be so rare it can actually cause an awkward silence. In fact that happened this week when I complimented a salesgirl on her efficiency and pleasantness. She didn’t know what to say.

My dad taught us gratitude with statements like, “God is having fun with THAT sunset, isn’t He? Or Look at these rose bud petals. They won’t open until tomorrow. I wonder why. What do you think?”

Thankfulness is a learned behavior. When I did prison research on the self-concept of the delinquent male, I noticed as a young graduate student, no matter what I did to teach, encourage, nurture or entertain the inmates, the word "thanks" was absent from their otherwise colorful vocabularies. They had No word for gratitude. There was no such attitude. Even on my last day with them, when I brought cake and punch and gave a party for their help with my research and took pictures and said I would miss them and meant I drove off, the empty cry of my heart was not for their physical poverty as much as for their spiritual wasteland. No one had taught them to say or feel thanks.

At best, they misinterpreted my loving kindness as "coming on." At worst, they didn't notice me at all, except that I was the only female there. These young men were locked out of a beautiful emotion that frees us to receive and pass it on. There are folks outside of prisons, in their own personal lock-ups, who do not know how to give thanks. Some read their horoscopes and breathe a sigh of relief when they come true. Some thank their lucky stars. Many say "Thank God" without a clue. Then there are those blessed sorts who follow the lead of J.S. Bach who wrote on every page of music, "To the Glory of God." Others practice I Th. 5:17, 19 where it says to give thanks in all circumstances bc this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you, and so no matter what, they’re able to praise the Lord anyway! Thankfully some are very "thankful to God for His unspeakable gift" in Jesus Christ.

My Thanksgiving memories are rich. I look back on 28 years of relatives coming to our house, ages 1-95...Nannie, Pickie, Spooky, Ada & Arlie and others. I'd order a fresh turkey from the farm. Jennifer made pilgrim hat place cards. We'd ask God's Grace for our own garden red raspberries to hang in there and one year everyone got two on their plate! The children played violins, oboe and piano with me after the pies. And we'd pass a cup for each person to put in a kernel of corn with thanks to God for something that year.

Time marches on. No more fresh turkeys. He raised 'em for 42 years and finally quit. Says he couldn't get the hang of it! The older relatives are with the Lord. The kids are all grown up and have flown the nest!

"What's your favorite Thanksgiving memory?"

I see a nine year old boy. It's Thanksgiving Day. His parents are readying the house. He's practiced his violin. His room is clean. The sunny day beckons and he's free. Mom fusses over food. Dad arranges furniture. Three sisters are doing their thing. The guests arrive. Mom calls out the back door. No answer, but her eye catches something small leaning against a tree. She crosses the patio to pick it up. In her hands she holds the faith of a child. He has nailed together wood scraps into a 9" cross. At the top is carved a crown. Running down the length are the letters CHRIST. A small paper shaped man is placed on the nails and from his mouth are penciled the words, "Father forgive them."

Company's here, Brooks!" I call out, with moist eyes, as I hold the best thanks of all from a very small boy. What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? And to whom?

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

All About the Baster!

NOVEMBER 18, 2011 All About the Baster!

It’s time to talk turkey. Not recipes. Go to for those. Let’s talk about the benefits of the baster! I have two rather unique turkey baster stories I’ve saved just for today.

The first happened years ago in our MI cottage where 12 of us trekked over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving. The turkey was my assignment. I first loosened the skin from the breast meat and slipped in bright green basil leaves for that subtle pattern when the bird was done. I made my broth and chopped, stirred and mixed my stuffing. Lastly I seasoned and buttered the outside of the bird and into the oven it went. I knew people would salivate when they came in from their woods and beach hikes. Every 45 min I basted the bird to keep it moist. Cardinal rule, right? Baste the bird.

When the appointed time arrived, guests were ooh’ing and aah’ing over the Lake MI view, anticipating the great feast. Each place was set with acorn squash bowls filled with soup. Breads and beverages beckoned. The candles were lit. The gravy was perfect. All that was left to do was take the bird out of the oven and plate it. I winked at my brother in law to follow me into the kitchen and help lift the bird from the oven onto the counter. With mitts in hand he DID! He lifted that gorgeous turkey out of the oven and before you could say “Oh Feathers!” that well basted bird slid across the entire kitchen floor.

Fred and I were the only witnesses. The Thanksgiving holiday isn’t usually aligned with keeping your lips sealed. Should we come clean? No way. Fred picked up the bird, I wiped off the bottom, placed it on the platter and surrounded it with its cooked friends from the field///a few vegetables cover a multitude of sins. And out into the lake view room it was carried with a flourish like none other in the history of that cottage, as far as we know.

Everyone raved about the turkey and wanted my secret for its tenderness. “Well basted is the secret,” was my line. And I’m stickin’ with it! So is Fred.

Fast forward to the summer of 2011, same cottage, no bird, but another baster opportunity. Fred, the turkey handler from yesteryear, notices my car’s low coolant light is on. I check my car manual and search for a specific coolant brand which turned out to be 20 miles away. Freddie offered to pick up the coolant. This was going well.

Fred returns victoriously and I pop the hood. He points to an opening, holding its lid, saying, “Put it there.” I did mention the symbol on the lid in his hand looked like a steering wheel! He said nope that was the one. So in I poured a cup and then stopped, wondering, “What if this isn’t the right spot?” I put everything down to examine my manual more carefully. Yep…. We’d poured coolant into the power steering opening.

NOW? “No problem, said my accomplice. Won’t hurt a thing!” And thus began “Under the Hood 101.” I learned a lot. Like, don’t start your engine, have the car towed, let professionals correct the mistake. But when you’re in the north woods, out of all the voices, you trust your car guy at home who says on the phone, “Listen, if it were me, I’d just get that coolant fluid out any way I could and fill it back with power steering fluid and bring it in when you get home.”

The turkey baster….Where’s the turkey baster when I need it? Nowhere to be found and you don’t go cottage to cottage to borrow one. You improvise with paper towels with your rubber gloves on until it seems empty. But I’m hesitant because one guy told me I better have it towed or the line could become contaminated and destroy my engine.

Just then….up drives a friend. Sizing up the situation, he said 6 kids and 7 vehicles had prepared him for this moment. Taking off two hoses, he asked for a baster. Sorry, missing! Then he put his mouth on an old plastic gas can funnel and blew into it hard harder and hardest to drain MORE coolant out. That did the trick.

Turns out the coolant container is mysteriously and unclearly marked. Normally the coolant container is where the power steering fluid container is on my car. So I will give Fred that much. It also turns out Fred leases his cars and has never looked under the hood!

Fred and I will laugh over this through the years. I've been sliding turkeys on the kitchen floor ever since! Just kidding. Now a spiritual application. The baster made for a delicious turkey. Having NO baster led to a huge hassle. Apply this to a well-basted life. Jesus calls this abiding in Him. He says, "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples" (John 15:6-8, NASB). The key to a full and fulfilling life as a Christian is to abide in the Lord. As we baste our lives with the Word and soak in prayer, we benefit from "abiding" in Jesus, as His words and His Spirit abide in us. And that’s a baster that’s never missing. Happy Thanksgiving!

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Thanksgiving Warm-Ups!

While the national news is a bit dour this week, I’M finding lots of good news! And it’s teaching me something. But first….the “lots of good news” part!

Right after “Fridays with Phyllis” last week, I was delivered a very spiffy car for the weekend. This, because at the Anderson Hospital fall auction my husband bid on a “Full Spa Service” for my 6 yr old car. Such a generous donation by Newbold BMW in O’Fallon, IL! For supporting the hospital, we drove a 2011 BMW- 5 series while my 2005 non-BMW was transformed! Fun and amazing, but the highlight for me was their client advisor, Lance Tulacro. His upbeat take on business, cars and life itself gave me more of a lift than the wheels he delivered! When I returned the car, he didn’t do the buying squeeze. He knows he has a great product. He knows I know he has a great product. It was simply, “If we can ever help with your car needs, call us!” So now I’m handing out his biz cards! And I didn’t know I even WANTED a BMW until I drove one!

At the same auction I lined up 6 sessions with a Personal Trainer. Oh my goodness. It turns out we have a CORE that resists workouts! This fabulous training I’d only read about, I NOW want to maintain, with or without a personal trainer.

It just gets better. My good friend Kathy Rule of Cabott Cheese and Dierberg’s cooking demos..set up a delicious b’fast with our daughters at Rue Lafayette. Over the world’s best hot chocolate we rejoiced in God’s goodness. You’ll understand why when you catch the W2W show at called “The Girl with 3 Hearts.” Kathy’s daughter, Angela, was born with a defective heart, had a heart transplant at Barnes Hospital at age 12 and then another at age 30! It’s a miracle story right down to Angela’s 7 mo old Karsten who snuggled us at Rue Lafayette!

During this yummy interlude, I heard a man’s voice call out “Mom!” and turned to see if it was my son who lives in the UK! I mean seriously…do we ever stop that knee jerk reaction? His mom turns out to be Arceli, the owner of Rue Lafayette café. We laughed about my reaction to her son’s “Mom” call as she shared how when he was 4 he called her some special name just in the grocery store, so all the other moms wouldn’t turn around. Sharp kid, that Pablo, who now cooks at the café and is in training to be a paramedic. You’re doubly safe eating there!

Then I hopped into MY like-new car, thanks to the Newbold Spa, and heard a KFUO visit with songwriters Joan Voges and Dr. Paul Schreiber on “Law and Gospel” about how they compose such beautiful music to glorify God.

That morning I’d picked up some tips from Paul Clayton’s chat with a Dr. on nutrition that included a call-in question from Dr. Bob Weiss of the Bio-Ethics Chair at Concordia Seminary. Not to mention the always insightful “Meyer Minute” and the spiritual-musical encouragement from Rev. Mark Hawkinson. All of this, meantime, overrides the bad news of the day with good news.

But it wasn’t all grins this week. When I learned cartoonist Bil Keane died Nov 8, at 89, after 50 years of cartooning, I thanked God for his unique gift of making us laugh at ourselves to smooth the rough edges of the human condition. Bil was my guest on a Father's Day Special titled "Dads Who Pass It On."

Just remembering that visit at the mic reminded me how glad he made you feel just to be alive, even if you’d burned the toast that morning! After the interview, he faxed me a personal cartoon I treasure. “Family Circus” daughter “Dolly” holds a radio that’s blaring and says to her little brother, who’s trying to listen in, “No Jeffy, you can’t listen. It’s 'Woman to Woman'!”

In a week of disturbing news reports, I found this Biblical advice to be true…”Good news gives health to the bones!” Christians have the best Good News in what Christ did for us, so bad news doesn’t have to drag us down. Do what you can about it……and look for good news. A bit of my good news this week is a spiritual tweak on my not realizing I wanted a certain car until I’d driven it. As I drove away in my own, 93k mile sparkling clean car, it occurred to me that I didn’t realize I wanted to hang out with Jesus until He found me, forgave me and called me His own! It’s kind of a warm up for Thanksgiving. Take some time between now and then to find your own good news source and give health to your bones!