Thursday, December 28, 2017


The blog below was written in December, 2011.  We are still doing lunch every month.  Yesterday, we started our tenth year.

It has been said that when somebody gets married, they are marrying a whole new family. I don't know how accurate that is, but in my case, I got a new brother and two new sisters. The brother was still a teenager, and the sisters, both skinny with long, dark hair, became my new best friends. We are still hanging out together, these forty-two years later.

The oldest rambled some, living in the frozen north and the very Hotlanta for a while. The youngest stayed here, briefly living in Muscle Shoals (which is just across the river), but has never left Alabama. For years, we lived within a ten-mile radius, but somehow managed to never see each other. We talked on the phone regularly, but we might go months without actually being in the same room.

December, 2008. The three of us managed to get together for lunch at Legends Steakhouse. On that cold Wednesday, we made a goal to meet for lunch every month the next year. It was a goal we set together, but none of us really believed it would ever happen. After all, we are busy people. There are jobs and obligations and family and doctors and promises we all have to keep. But we promised to try.

December, 2009. We met for lunch again, celebrating because we had made it a whole year. Dare we try for another year? We decided to go for it. We tried to set the date for every first Wednesday, but the date had to be moved around more often than not. Sometimes, we had to cut it short so somebody could get back to work.

December, 2010. We celebrated two years, and no one had missed a single time! We have never done anything two whole years in our lives! We are pumped up now, thinking we can do anything. We are so proud of ourselves. Bring it on, third year!

December, 2011. Here we are again. This had been a hard year, and one month, we did it on the very last day because we had put it off all month and people do get sick. But we made it! So here we go, starting our fourth year. At this point, no one dares to cancel; no one wants to be the one to break our streak!!!

During these three years and counting, we have been able to check out most of the restaurants in our area, sometimes going to one as soon as it opened. Some we had gone to more than once, sometimes for convenience or we knew we could find a parking place there. Some have been dumps that we will never go to again, but getting that knowledge was always fun. explains a habit like this:
1. an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary: the habit of looking both ways before crossing the street.

2. customary practice or use: Daily bathing is an American habit.

3. a particular practice, custom, or usage: the habit of shaking hands.

4. a dominant or regular disposition or tendency; prevailing character or quality: She has a habit of looking at the bright side of things.

5. addiction, especially to narcotics.

Our monthly lunch meetings have become a habit; one that we love and never want to stop. It is also a commitment, and none of us wants to disappoint the others by not showing up. We have agreed that if one of us moves to heaven (any other move doesn't count) during the year, the other two have to continue.

As we approach a brand new year, a calendar with lots of blank spaces, consider starting some new habits that will make life better for you and others. It's your choice. Yes, it is easier to do nothing, but it is not better. This is a good day to get that calendar out and start planning!

Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
James 4: 13-14

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

Is there anyone who hasn't stood in the night, looking up to the expanse above, and wondered? How I wonder what you are....

The Christmas season reminds us of the star of Bethlehem. The bright, incomparable star that was a map for Magi. The star that led the way for traveling wise men in search of a king. Wise men who had studied the heavens, astronomers, who had seen changes and knew something extraordinary was happening. Intelligent men who plotted the paths of stars when my Anglo ancestors were still nomadic because they had not learned how to store food. Men looking for answers.

There has been rampant speculation for hundreds of years about the source of the star. Some believe an alignment of planets. Others think it was a comet or supernova.

Why is it so hard for some to believe that the star was created specifically for the glorious birth of the Savior?

Could the King of glory become human and live among us without 'stirring up' all creation?

Newborn stars, hidden behind thick dust, are revealed in this image of a section of the Christmas Tree cluster from NASA Spitzer Space Telescope, created in joint effort between Spitzer infrared array camera and multiband imaging photometer instrument

And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth." Gen 1:14-15.

This image, containing data from NASA Spitzer and Chandra space telescopes, shows a cluster of young stars expected to burn for billions of years.

Psalm 19: 1-4 The heavens declare the glory of God; The skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; Night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, Their words to the ends of the world.

NASA image release April 12, 2011

Astronomers have uncovered one of the youngest galaxies in the distant universe, with stars that formed 13.5 billion years ago, a mere 200 million years after the Big Bang. The finding addresses questions about when the first galaxies arose, and how the early universe evolved.

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope was the first to spot the newfound galaxy. Detailed observations from the W.M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea in Hawaii revealed the observed light dates to when the universe was only 950 million years old; the universe formed about 13.7 billion years ago.

Infrared data from both Hubble and NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope revealed the galaxy's stars are quite mature, having formed when the universe was just a toddler at 200 million years old.

The galaxy's image is being magnified by the gravity of a massive cluster of galaxies (Abell 383) parked in front of it, making it appear 11 times brighter. This phenomenon is called gravitational lensing.

Hubble imaged the lensing galaxy Abell 383 with the Wide Field Camera 3 and the Advanced Camera for Surveys in November 2010 through March 2011.

Credit: NASA, ESA, J. Richard (Center for Astronomical Research/Observatory of Lyon, France), and J.-P. Kneib (Astrophysical Laboratory of Marseille, France)

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He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Psalm 147:4.

Illustration of our universe

Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. Isaiah 40:26.

This is view from ESA Hubble Space Telescope of a very massive cluster of galaxies, MACS J0416.1-2403, located roughly 4 billion light-years away and weighing as much as a million billion suns.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east come to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him. Matthew 2:2.

Heaven wasn't surprised when the star appeared. It was no accident of nature, no regular cycle of the universe. The star was for the Child!
*NASA photos

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Snow in the Mountains

We were in Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg for a few days last week to enjoy all the Christmas festivities there.  On Thursday night, the Weather Channel said there was zero percent chance of precipitation.  The local news said maybe a dusting of snow.  When we got up on Friday morning, it had started to snow, and it snowed all day.  The temperature stayed around 32-34 degrees, so there was none on the roads.  It was a rare treat for us to be in and out of the snow, which was sometimes blowing like a blizzard. All these photos were taken early Saturday morning.

The photos above were taken from our balcony at Mountain Loft resort in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  The ones below were taken on the road going from Gatlinburg to Pigeon Forge.  You can see in some of the ones below that the sun was breaking through the clouds.

We have been blessed to enjoy Christmas in the Smokies many times, but this was the first time we have seen snow like this. Thank you, Father, for this early Christmas gift.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Yeast Rolls

I love making yeast rolls.  I started making them about forty years ago, and I never get tired of it.  If the rolls turn out well at a holiday dinner, it really doesn't matter about the rest of the things you serve, because the rolls are all your guests will remember.  It is not that hard if you take it step-by-step.  I usually start at least three hours before dinner will be served.

This recipe comes from an old Southern Living cookbook.  When you find one that works for you, stick with it.

Start with 2 cups of warm water in your mixer bowl.  Add 2 packages of dry yeast, or 2 tablespoons if you buy yeast in bulk like I do.

After about five minutes, the yeast will "bloom" or rise to the top and bubble like this.  If your yeast doesn't rise, dump this out, go buy some fresh yeast and start over.  Ask me how I know this.

Go ahead and prepare a large, greased bowl for the dough to rise in.

After the yeast is ready, add 6 tablespoons of sugar,

 1 teaspoon of salt,

4 tablespoons of shortening,

2 eggs,

and three cups of plain/bread flour.  Mix at the slowest speed at first, or the flour will go all over the kitchen counter.  Ask me how I know this.

Beat until smooth, about 2 minutes or so.  Add flour until a stiff dough forms, about 2 1/2 or 3 cups.

This is not quite ready; needs more flour.

Now, it is ready.  If you are using a hand-held mixer, be careful here.  You can easily burn up the motor in it with the stiff dough.  Ask me how I know this.  Just put a stand mixer on your Christmas list.

Dump the dough into the bowl you prepared earlier.  Turn it so that all the outside is greased.

Like this.  Cover with a dish towel and put it in a warm place.  I usually put mine on the back of the stove where it is always warm enough.  Wait for an hour or a little longer until the dough is doubled in size.  Your kitchen will be smelling good at this point.

I love it when it turns out like this!

Use your fist to punch the dough down.  It is especially nice to make this on days when you are totally stressed out and need to punch something or somebody. The dough won't mind and you won't get arrested.

At this point, you can cover the dough and refrigerate the dough up to five days.  Bring it back to room temperature before you go to the next step.  I have done this, and it works okay, but I like to do it all at once.

Roll the dough onto a cutting board and roll out to about 1/2" thickness. I usually do it in two batches; makes it easier to work with. My sister, Mary Lynn, bought that rolling pin for me in 1971 and I've used it since.  I have more cute rolling pins that I have collected through the years, but I always use this one.  It makes me think about her.  Sure wish she was still with us to see it now.

I use a regular biscuit cutter to cut them out, but that's up to you.  You could make them larger or smaller, but this has always worked for me.

I cook mine on three cookie sheets.  That way, you can put them in the oven at different times.  If you happen to burn one pan, you still have two pans left.  Ask me how I know this.

Let them rise again for about an hour.  You don't need to cover them this time. Looking good!

Cover the top with some melted butter.  Cook in a 400 degree oven.  Takes 10-12 minutes.

Oh, yeah!!! Get them to the table as soon as possible.  People will love you.  Ask me how I know this.

Be sure to have some softened butter on the table for your rolls.  Enjoy!

This recipe makes 36-40 rolls. You can half this recipe if needed.  On the rare occasions when we have some left, I freeze them.  When we are ready for them, I thaw them and warm in the oven with a wet paper towel over them.  Not as good as when they were fresh, but still pretty tasty.

Start making these today, and when the time comes for Christmas dinner, you will be a pro.