Countdown to Christmas – Day 12

The little brown bags I’m using in the Countdown to Christmas aren’t big enough for today’s surprise! In fact, today’s gift is not for Joe…or for me.

It’s for YOU!

Joe and I are thrilled beyond even the happiest of Christmas cheer to share that we have co-authored a 365-day devotional book on the promises of God, and it is available as of TODAY!

Containing 365 promises from the Bible (and over 400 total verses*), Petals of Promises makes a great Christmas gift, birthday gift, “Happy 2018” gift, or a “Just Because It’s Tuesday” gift for your family, your friends, and you! Click the photo, the title, or here to learn more and/or to purchase your copies!

From the back cover of the book:

“This year, this month, this day, this moment. Each is a gift from God. The Bible contains numerous promises from this gift-giving, promise-keeping God, and they, like all Scripture, can teach us, correct us, and guide us (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17). This year-long devotional book contains daily readings written by husband-wife authors Joe and Brenda Henderson, each using his or her own perspective when sharing the various promises of God. The daily entries are brief, encouraging, and based solely on God’s promises in Scripture.”

Merry Christmas from the Hendersons!

*Includes use of: Amplified Bible, English Standard Version, King James Version, New American Standard Version, New King James Version

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Suggested Scripture reading today in the Countdown to Christmas: Luke 12 (or listen to it here via BibleGateway.com)

Luke has 24 chapters. Even though some are QUITE long, I love to read the 24 chapters of Luke on the days leading up to Christmas and then re-read Luke 2 on Christmas day!

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Countdown to Christmas – Day 6

Joe and I are enjoying our “experience-focused” Countdown to Christmas. (If you missed the last post, which talked about this, you can read it later, here.) Oh my heart, I wish you could see Joe when he comes downstairs in the mornings for breakfast and hurries to open his little brown paper bag to see what that day’s experience will be! A trip to Starbucks for some signature hot cocoa before heading over to the airport to watch the planes was probably Joe’s favorite so far!

This exercise in soaking in the simple joy of shared experiences has been wonderful for me in all areas of life! I find that I’m focusing less on “stuff” and enjoying the process of preparing for gift giving even more than in years past. Though I should always shop, create, and plan this way, I realize that I’m choosing to take the time to think: “What hobby or interest that this child has could we encourage with this or that gift?” “What could we provide for that friend that would uplift her spirits or be a reminder to her of our friendship and God’s grace?” “How can we share the love of Christ with this individual through the gift that we give to him or her?”

I wish I could say that I always shop or plan that way, but I don’t. However, in my intentionality regarding focusing on what matters, I was recently reminded of these words from Scripture:

“Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2, NASB).

It’s putting the joy back into what can otherwise seem like the mindless and obligatory spending of money. I want my life, my days, my moments—my gift giving—to have eternity’s values in mind.
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Here’s what I’m giving to some of my younger friends (and several of my older ones too):

The eleven-year-old owner of The Bowline Soap Company is a child entrepreneur who creates some of the most delightful soaps I’ve ever seen or used, and they are a huge hit! Their fragrance is delicate (not overpowering at all), their price worthy of their quality, and their lasting power second to none. I have put them in some little unmarked boxes under our tree so that when guests come, they can choose a box from under the tree! Kids of all ages love opening these soaps and using them! So moms who have a hard time getting your kids to bathe…buy now and thank me later! And ladies, here’s a little secret for you: the donut soap is incredible for shaving your legs (sooooo creamy)! The Whipped Dreams takes so little I think I’ll never use up and entire jar. And the new little Massage Bar in Cranberry Orange is ingenious! I love it, and it makes a great gift for both men and women! You can purchase from Bowline Soap Co. by clicking here.

Suggested Scripture reading today in the Countdown to Christmas: Luke 6 (or listen to it here via BibleGateway.com)

Luke has 24 chapters. Even though some are QUITE long, I love to read the 24 chapters of Luke on the days leading up to Christmas and then re-read Luke 2 on Christmas day!

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Countdown to Christmas – Day 1

No, I probably won’t be posting daily. You’re welcome. But yes, I—rather, we—will be sharing occasional pre-Christmas-related posts, including some of our favorite new gift-giving ideas (which include our new favorite books)!

Did you ever have an Advent Calendar? I still remember a dear lady in our church, “Grandma” Pauline, giving me one of those pictures of a Christmas scene with numbers printed on little openable “windows.” I would open the various windows, revealing a pre-printed message of joy for the holiday. As I recall, I could hardly wait to run downstairs each morning and open the next window for that day’s message!

Since that time, I’ve secretly wished to have a little countdown picture for my wall. Since I felt a little silly getting one, I passed by them in the store. Now, however, there are fun ways to create your own Advent Calendar or Countdown to Christmas. Pinterest is loaded with ideas from the more difficult to the super easy, and I’ve pinned (collected) several ideas on my Christmas board. Many of those are for parents and children, and to be honest, I’m a bit too lazy to saw tree limbs, paint them with chalkboard paint, drill a hole in them, stain a board to hang them on, hammer in hooks for them to hang on, and then think of what to write on them! (Ha-ha!)

Joe and I are trying to focus on experiences rather than accumulating more stuff this year, so I decided to create some fun memories with simple everyday experiences while fulfilling my desire to have a Countdown to Christmas! So this morning, Joe’s breakfast plate had a simple, small, brown paper bag that contained a handwritten note. Along with a few mushy-gushy-heartfelt words of admiration, I included a gift of designated time to read out loud to him from a new book we’ve just started reading. Tonight’s “reading” will take place by the fireplace and the Christmas tree.

Simple. Free. Special.

Oh. And here’s what we’re reading: The Song of Sadie Sparrow, written by a dear friend and probably one of my greatest mentors and encouragers in editing and writing, Kitty Foth-Regner. We are loving it so far!

Suggested Scripture reading in the Countdown to Christmas: Luke 1 (or listen to it here via BibleGateway.com)

Luke has 24 chapters. Even though some are QUITE long, I love to read the 24 chapters of Luke on the days leading up to Christmas and then re-read Luke 2 on Christmas day!

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CYBER WEEK SALE – Bible Study Books

Click this photo to download a sample chapter!

Now is the time to order your Bible study books for Christmas gifts and Spring Bible study groups! And we’re going to make it worth your time and effort to do so!

Today (Monday) through 11:59 p.m. Thursday night (November 30), Choosing to Change when Change Happens is available at a QUANTITY DISCOUNT via the button below. The study currently sells for $9.99 per copy on Amazon and via other distributors. HOWEVER…

Order via the button below during our CYBER WEEK SALE, and you can order a set of 10 books for $70.00 ($7.00 each)! These will be shipped directly to your home or church (allow 2-3 weeks for shipping), and you will have them in plenty of time for gift giving and/or for your Ladies’ Bible studies!

This is a one-time special and will not be available again until Summer 2018!

(A sample chapter is available by clicking on the photo of the book cover!)

Quantity




Feeling Blessed the Day after Thanksgiving

It’s either an obsession or a display of wisdom—I’m not sure which. But when I clear the table from one meal, I generally go ahead and set it for the next meal. This began because Sunday mornings inevitably seemed to be rushed, and if I could come downstairs and enter the eating area with one task already completed, I felt like the day was off to an orderly start. So I started setting the table in our little breakfast nook to prepare it for the next morning. That soon spilled over to the table where we eat our other meals and even into the dining room, the location where we share dinners with guests.

We currently have guests staying overnight in our Christmas Room (the name of our guest room, because it is decorated for Christmas year round). I want their mornings to be quick and easy so that they can head over to be with their family members in town, so as soon as we all finished breakfast this morning, Joe helped me set the table for tomorrow’s breakfast for four.

I walked back into the kitchen a few moments ago, and tears began making their way down my cheeks. I was overwhelmed by the simple fact that we know that, Lord willing, tomorrow morning we will have food to eat, a nicely decorated table at which to sit, and a warm home in which to do it. How many people around the world and even here in the US don’t know that. In fact, some dear woman my age may be wondering if she should have eaten the last clementine she found by the side of the road, because now she doesn’t know if there will be anything to eat for supper—let alone, breakfast tomorrow.

There’s no doubt about it. We are blessed. Not because of where we live, who we are, what we do, or what we have.

We are blessed because of God’s grace and mercy to us. And He rightfully expects us to steward those gifts well and to express gratitude to Him for them. The psalmist did this extremely well in Psalm 103:2–5 (ESV):

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

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As you’re online to do your Christmas shopping,
remember to stop by Amazon.com (or click the title below)
to purchase your copy/copies of Brenda’s Bible study for women:
Choosing to Change when Change Happens

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Of Hospitals, Healing, and Helpful Hints

Sometimes you learn things from the good stuff that happens. Other times you view something and think, “I want to remember never to let that happen, to make someone feel that way, to do—that!” In still other moments, you want so desperately to do the right thing or say the right thing, but you end up doing nothing, because you’re just not sure what “the right thing” is.

Visiting someone in the hospital or talking with someone who has just received bad news both fall into all three of the above categories, primarily the third one.

I’m no exception. In fact, as “outgoing” as I have been throughout most seasons in my life, I’d much rather sit in the safety, comfort, and security of my own home, pen in hand (or computer in front of me), writing from my heart.

However, when it comes to serving others in their time of need, I’ve been reminded of a few important truths in recent years:

  • It’s not about me. When my focus is truly on wanting to help and/or encourage someone else, it changes my perspective. There is seldom a “wrong thing” when my sincere motivation is to serve someone else through my words or actions.

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:1–5, NASB, emphasis mine).

  • Obedience to God’s promptings is as much a gift as the gift itself. When God prompts you to pray, to give, to go, do it. My friend Sandy, director of Widow’s Jar Ministries, tells of God prompting people to donate unusual items to the organization, not even fully understanding why they were prompted to do so. Within days, weeks, or months, a missionary will walk into the warehouse and almost apologetically ask if Widow’s Jar may somehow possibly have this unusual item available, and Sandy is able to provide the seeker with an amazing gift! What if that donor hadn’t followed God’s promptings? What blessing might you be withholding from someone if you don’t act on what you feel you should do?

“And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22, KJV).

So how does this apply to visiting someone in the hospital or spending time with someone who has just received bad news?

When I had major surgery in 2008, no one came to pray with my parents, my sister, or me before my surgery. I had my family there to pray for me and with me, but my family needed the support and encouragement from others. No, I’m neither angry nor bitter, but I have chosen to be available if no one else is planning to be there. It was a lesson I learned from what didn’t happen!

When I was sick with the flu last year, a new (and elderly) friend made me soup, dropped it by the house, and simply included a note to let me know that she was praying for me. It meant the world to me simply to know that someone cared…and missed seeing me at church. It was a lesson I learned from what had encouraged me in my time of need.

It’s not about saying the right thing, doing the right thing, or “fixing” what’s wrong. It’s about caring.

But I’m going to let you in on a secret. Taking a small gift with you can at least serve as a conversation starter when you’re just not sure what to say. And depending on the gift you take, it can provide a visual reminder to the recipient that someone cares. Keep your visit short, listen, offer a verse from the Bible that encourages you when need to remember that God loves you and cares, pray with the individual, and leave!

Here’s a quick, easy, and inexpensive gift you can take with you to the hospital or to someone’s home (you can even use them as hostess gifts, Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, “just because it’s Thursday” gifts, etc.). See the corresponding numbers on the photo collage:

  1. Purchase an inexpensive ivy plant (or ask a friend for a “slip” from his or her existing plant).
  2. Water it approximately every two days (don’t over water it).
  3. Get a second pot/planter (small is best) and fill it with potting soil (usually under a dollar for a small bag, and you’ll hardly use any of it). In fact, you may want to start two or three planters while you’re at it! (I currently have four going!)
  4. As the original plant grows, simply use a pair of household scissors to cut off a few of the longest stems.
  5. Simply take those stems and plant them into the soil you placed in the new pots/planters (no roots needed; they’ll grow in the dirt).
  6. In a matter of days, you’ll have new plants, ready to take as a growing, thoughtful, inexpensive, kindness-filled gift to a friend who needs your encouragement!

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For additional information on what to say and do when a friend is in crisis or need, I encourage you to read I Don’t Know What to Say, written by Dr. Nell Collins.

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Recipe: “Come on Over” Potato Chips

In the spirit of absolute transparency, I confess that I have very little self-discipline when it comes to potato chips. And by very little, I mean none! So when my sister told me about making potato chips at home—in the microwave, no less—I decided that it just may allow me to indulge without feeling the need to keep snitching some on a daily basis until the bag is empty! As most of us do when we hear a new idea or recipe, I tweaked it until it worked best for our setting and our taste buds.

They’re fun for kids of all ages to make, and they’re so easy to fix that kids of all ages can make them! We’ve enjoyed them as a crispy side dish with grilled hamburgers, and tonight we’re having them with pizza! These yummy chips make it easy to say, “Come on over”—for a snack or a meal!

“Come on Over” Potato Chips

Prep time: 5 minutes-ish per tray
Cooking time: 5–7 minutes-ish per tray
Serves: 2
From the kitchen of Brenda Henderson

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium potatoes for every 2–3 people
  • Cooking spray (flavor of your choosing)
  • Seasoning spices of your choosing (we like Steak and Shake’s Seasoning Salt, which is similar to Lowry’s)

Directions:

  1. Slice the rounded tip off of one end of a washed and cleaned potato.
  2. Using a potato peeler, “peel” horizontal slices of the potato (you should get about 25–30 slices [“chips”] per potato).
  3. Lightly spray the cooking spray onto a flat plate or microwavable cooking dish.
  4. Lay the slices on the flat plate or microwavable cooking dish. Do not overlap the slices. You will not get all of the slices from one potato on the first plate. It will take a few plates to complete both potatoes.
  5. Once all the chips are arranged on the plate or dish, lightly spray them with the cooking spray and lightly season with the spice(s) of your choosing.
  6. Depending on the wattage and power level of your microwave, you will cook the chips for 5-7 minutes. When they turn a golden brown, they are crispy and ready to remove from the microwave.
  7. Lay the chips on a paper towel to cool—or eat them while they’re warm!

You can store them in a brown paper bag or even store individual servings in small paper bags. I’ve kept mine as long as four days this way, and they were just as crispy on day four as they were on day one!

(By the way, I tried doing sweet potatoes this way. They were awful and shrunk to mini little chips. Don’t bother trying it. Just thank me for the warning!)

I’d love to hear how your chips turn out! I’m all but certain you’ll enjoy them, and you’ll be telling your friends, “Come on over for some homemade potato chips!”

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a blog post about what to say when visiting someone in the hospital. Thursday’s post includes a quick and easy gift to take with you when you visit.

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30 Days of EXPRESSING Gratitude

No, I will not be sending daily e-mails or posting daily thoughts regarding our annual Thirty Days of Gratitude. (You’re welcome.)

Yes, I would like to encourage you to join me in this annual endeavor! Some are following in along in my book, Petals of Gratitude. Some of you may want to join us by printing out the page below and using it as a guide for the next thirty days to express gratitude to those who have impacted your life in the areas listed on the chart.

No, we should not just be thankful for one month. But setting aside a month to express our gratitude in intentional ways is a huge boost—for us and for the recipients of our demonstrations of thanks!

Happy November! Simply click on the picture of the chart to print your free downloadable copy!

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Blessed

On this thirty-first day of the month before many of us our endeavor to be intentional about expressing our gratitude, I could think of nothing better than to share a thirty-one-minute video with you.

WAIT! Don’t log off yet.

Yes, that sounds like a long time to ask you to focus on this blog, but it’s not a long time to ask you to be truly bless as you listen to several of my dear friends who compiled this video for a ladies’ meeting at our church. Feel free to watch it in five-minute segments. That’s about how long each presentation is.

These ladies, all of whom have had what most of us would label as tragedies or trials, share how and why the “trial” could also be seen as a blessing. Stories from cancer…to caregiving…to addiction—each of them a blessing on its own, but a greater blessing when soaked into the heart via the words of the very women God entrusted with these lessons.

Five minutes and tissues…yes, you’ll want to have tissues nearby. Prepare to be blessed.

blessings video from Colonial Hills Baptist Church on Vimeo.

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The Joy of Giving

The Captain’s Corner

I had the blessing of wonderful Christian parents who taught me early on the privilege of giving to God. With a weekly allowance of one dollar, I would receive ten dimes from my dad. He would say, “Put one dime in the offering at church.” Later, when I trusted Christ as my personal Savior, Christian giving was already a habit in my life.

Airline flying was a lucrative profession. As my income increased, my late wife and I joyfully increased the percentage of our giving to the Lord. Even though our income was steady, there were uncertain times. For example, during the fuel crisis of the 1970s, I was faced with a possible layoff (called a “furlough” within the industry). We decided that we would just keep giving. Thankfully, the furlough was cancelled.

Later in my career, the pilots (along with all employees) were asked to take pay cuts to help the airline. This we did. And once again, we just kept giving. Thankfully, the pay cuts ended, and we were returned to our previous salaries.

About six months before my mandatory retirement at age sixty, my pilot pension was terminated by the bankruptcy court to help bring the airline out of bankruptcy. I had no idea just what my retirement income would be—if anything at all. However, we just kept giving, and God just kept supplying our needs, just as He promised in Philippians 4:19 (NASB): “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

God also promises to supply the gift and bless the giver. “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed” (2 Corinthians 9:8, NASB—for further reading on this, read 2 Corinthians, chapters 8 and 9).

Do we give in order to get from God? No. Do we give to get a tax deduction? No. We should give from grateful hearts, because He gave His Son to die for our sins and “gives us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17, NKJV).

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Joe Henderson, Brenda’s husband, is a retired international airline captain and now blogs in
“The Captain’s Corner” on a regular basis.

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