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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Christmas lights on farm
In our area local business and farm owners often use their buildings to display Christmas symbols such as this one.
I am moved by the depiction of Bethlehem's star and Calvary's cross.

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"Getting Ready For Christmas"

"Therefore, when Christ came into the world, He said: 'Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me'" (Hebrews 10:5). "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship" (Romans 12:1).

"Are you getting ready for Christmas?"  That's the greeting we expect to start hearing as we usher in the new month of December. If you haven't yet already, you will! For many of us this means decorating, baking, shopping, special musical and drama events, banquets then there's more shopping and a host of other events, family and otherwise!  Brooksyne is directing a Christmas musical in four different places over the next two weeks and we have several company Christmas parties to attend in our chaplain role.

We've got our tree up but that's it for decorations. I've yet to bring in the ornaments and other decorations we store in our barn loft. Ester and Brooksyne decorate inside our home and I decorate outside, hanging a star on our barn loft door and a wreath on the front of our brick home. My Uncle Don gave us a homemade angel that is back lit that we will place in our front yard.

Have you ever thought much about how God prepared for Christmas?  His preparations of course are quite different than ours.  The Bible speaks of the "Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world" (Revelation 13:8). Isaiah prophetically looked ahead and says of Christ, "He was led like a lamb to the slaughter" (Isaiah 53:7).  When John prepared the way for Christ's ministry he declared, "Behold the Lamb of God!" (John 1:36). 

The miraculous incarnation of Christ is astounding.  At Christmas we usually focus on the human dimension of "The Greatest Story Ever Told."  We read the accounts in Matthew and Luke of Mary and Joseph, the angels, the shepherds and the wise men.

But it seems our daily text gives a view from Christ's perspective, "a body you prepared for me." That "body" in one sense began in the way we all begin with a normal gestational period and birth.  The marvelous distinction in the preparation of the incarnate body of Christ is the mystery of His conception.

Now let us consider the most important way we can prepare for Christmas and for that matter living the remainder of our lives on this side of eternity.
"Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship" (Romans 12:1).

This Christmas season let us, with thankfulness and joy, recall the wonderful love that God demonstrated for fallen humanity as He prepared a "Body" attired in flesh and blood as He sent His only begotten Son to this earth. And let us
present our bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is our spiritual service of worship."

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Thankful manDaily prayer: Jesus, though You would ultimately surrender Your life at Calvary, You willingly chose to take on flesh and live among us.  In great humility You stripped Yourself of the privilege, position, power and wealth You possessed in heaven. When You walked among Your people You experienced betrayal, misunderstanding, hatred and temptation, yet You were without sin.   Even as You made necessary preparations to come to this earth, and live among a sinful people, help us to make necessary preparations to enter into eternity. And just as You gave of Yourself so willingly help us to give of ourselves as a fragrant offering to You and as a witness to this darkened world.  In Your name, Jesus, we pray.  Amen.

Yesterday we prepared some food the old fashioned way and want to share some photos.

Preparing venison to can 11/30/10
Yesterday some friends came over with some freshly harvested venison along with some pork and they spent the afternoon canning. Jesse and Wilma cut up the meat and Brooksyne filled the canning jars with broth.  

Preparing venison to can 11/30/10
The meat is cooked in jars for three hours at a steady boil in the large canner. Following the long boil (whick both cooks and preserves the meat) Brooksyne listens for the telltale pop on the canning lid indicating it sealed.  It was the first time she has canned meat products.  Growing up on a farm she helped her mom can thousands of vegetables and fruits over the years and during our 34 years of marriage.  But this was a first for meat products.  This was the method used before the freezer became a household appliance.  The Dourtes who wanted us to enjoy this experience was giving us a bit of history as we worked.  They saw the pumpkins Brooksyne was about to process and pitched right in to help us with that project as well.
35 pound Neck pumpkin
This is a huge 37 pound neck pumpkin I had bought at a roadside stand several weeks ago here in Lancaster County.

Preparing neck pumpkin 11/30/10
We cut it into large sections, peeled it and then cut it into small chunks.  Brooksyne will tell you this is my first involvement in preserving foods - how could I let the Dourtes work so hard and not pitch in myself.  And after all I was the one who picked out the huge pumpkin for Brooksyne to process.

Preparing neck pumpkin 11/30/10
We peeled and then cut the pumpkin in chunks.  This photo shows only about 1/3 of the pumpkin we got from the huge pumpkin and a smaller neck pumpkin.  

Neck pumpkin
After baking them to soften for the puree process she then used the food processor to prepare the pumpkin for freezing.  (The microwave softens the pumpkins in less than half the time the oven takes.

Neck pumpkin
(This is last year's photo of 1 Cup portions.)  This year Brooksyne divided the pumpkin into 2 cup size portions and then packed 4 bags into larger gallon freezer bags before putting them into the freezer.  We processed only two pumpkins yesterday and Brooksyne ended up bagging 22 portions (the same size portion as 15 oz. cans people purchase in the grocery store.)  Last night she noticed the price of 1 can of pumpkin was $1.69 at the grocery store.  So we did a little math this morning.  The two pumpkins cost us about $4.00.  That's a net savings of almost $30.00 (minus the bags and energy it cost to soften the pumpkin.)  Pretty good savings for a day's work.  And the taste is far superior to canned pumpkin in our humble opinions!

Brooksyne's Note:  What a nice time it was to have help in the kitchen yesterday.  I am typically a "soloist" in the kitchen unaccustomed to others helping me in big or small projects.  And to have Stephen come on board made it extra special.  He acknowledged afterward how much work it is to process foods for canning.  Maybe he'll think twice the next time he spots a 37# pumpkin now that he realizes the work that goes into such a mammoth pumpkin!

Pumpkin pie She uses the pumpkin for making Pumpkin Pie (of course!), Pumpkin Cranberry Bread, Pumpkin bars, Muffins, Velvety Pumpkin Curry Soup and anything else she's inclined to make out of pumpkin.

We had not heard of neck pumpkin prior to moving to Lancaster County nearly ten years ago but now Brooksyne feels it's the best along with most in our area!  Here's a photo I found with Brooksyne and a neck pumpkin around her neck!

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
Click on the link to open and play.
(In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.)

"Hallelujah Chorus"  Video  This is interesting and sounds great. It is a video made at the Macy's store in Philadelphia with the Opera Company of Philadelphia and all the shoppers allowed to sing along at noon on October 30, 2010. This is the former Wanemaker Department store and has the largest pipe organ in the world. John Wanemaker was a devout Christian and he once had a D.L. Moody meeting in one of his stores with 300 employees serving as ushers. (Note: my Missouri "show me" scepticism is just how much we are really hearing the shoppers or if it's a recording of the Opera singers with the people singing along but not picked up by the microphones. Anyway it really would have been neat to have been there.  The moving praise toward God at the end is astounding.

Finally today:
Mike Stillman with Oregon elk
It's deer season here in Pennsylvania and many of our friends are hunters. In fact the venison that Jesse and Wilma brought over yesterday was freshly harvested. However this photo is of our friend Mike Stillman with a large elk in Oregon. He shared an interesting story regarding where he hunted. Back in the eighties Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, a cult leader, practically took over the town of Antelope Oregon and brought great distress to the area when followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, who had started the city of Rajneeshpuram on the nearby "Big Muddy Ranch", began to move in. Rajneeshpuram was an intentional community (or commune) of "Rajneeshees". On September 18, 1984, Antelope's charter was amended by a vote of 57 to 22 to change the name to Rajneesh. A short time later Rajneesh was indicted on federal immigration charges, attempted to leave the country, and pleaded no contest to two of the 34 charges [citation needed] and returned to India. On November 6, 1985, the remaining residents, both original and Rajneeshee, voted 34 to 0 to restore the original name, which was never changed by the Postal Service. The ranch is now owned by Young Life and has been converted into a camp, known as "Washington Family Ranch." (from Wikipedia article) What the article does not point out is that Young Life is a Christian ministry.

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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