This Issue 2 Mr. Manly 3 Holiday Hassles: Battling the Enemy Thoughts 7 Gowth Group Buzz 8 Missions: The Europe & Asia Journal 12 2013 New Beginnings 13 Holiday Traditions: Building a Rich Heritage 17 Hope Student Ministry: Growing Forward 19 NRG Zone and the Enemy Thoughts 20 A Taste of Christmas 23 Deck the Halls
Holiday Hassles Battling the Enemy Thoughts by Kayla Holiday It may be called “the most wonderful time of the year,” but it doesn’t always seem that way. While the holiday season is primarily credited with bringing joy and togetherness, it can also bring feelings of pressure and sky-high expectations. Over the course of this last semester, members of Hope Church have been learning how to overcome five Enemy Thoughts – “It’s too hard,” “I’m too tired,”“It’s not what I want,”“It’s not fair” and “I’m the only one.” Like most people, Hope members Debra Green, Kara Symes, Debbie Sanders and Brian Thompson find that these enemy thoughts are especially prevalent for them during the holidays. “‘It’s too hard’ is one enemy thought that I struggle with as I think about trying to create the ‘perfect Christmas’ with a beautifully decorated house, tons of fun activities for our kids and a delicious Christmas meal,” says Kara Symes. “Trying to meet this ideal, especially with small children, probably is too hard.“ While all five of the enemy thoughts can make an unwelcome appearance this time of year, most of us have one or two that seem to pop up more than others. Debra Green juggles 3
many responsibilities as a wife, mother and stepmom, and consequently juggles many of the enemy thoughts as well. With her parents and her husband’s parents living six hours apart from each other, it can become a challenge trying to get time with both families. “Being part of a blended family adds to the stress and makes it even harder to fit everything in. I can easily get into a pity party because of my ‘unique’ situation (which is really not all that unique!) and think that no one else has it as bad/difficult as me!” Besides “I’m the only one,” Debra also feels the pressure of “It’s too hard” during the holidays. “The first year after we were married, I was feeling very overwhelmed (and still do at times) by all I thought I needed to get done for Christmas. On top of shopping (trying to get the perfect present for all the members of my new family), decorating, and festivities, I wanted to bake treats to take to my co-workers like I had done when I was single. There was just not the time to fit everything in, and I remember being super stressed out and taking things out on my family.”
Kara Symes, who has four young children, also runs into “It’s too hard” around this time of year. “Last year we decided to drive to Michigan to see my husband’s brother and his family for Christmas. We looked forward to the time with them for sure, but the long drive was daunting to me. We had three kids at the time, and I was pregnant.” “It’s not fair” is one enemy thought that has shown up for Brian Thompson and his family. He recalls one Christmas eight years ago when one of his children needed surgery, and it just happened to fall on the week of Christmas. Brian and his wife Cindy struggled with thinking “It’s not fair” that they had to spend the week of Christmas in the hospital, as well as “It’s too hard.” And when Christmas is over, it doesn’t mean the enemy thoughts go away. “After the holidays when it comes time to put away the Christmas decorations, no one else seems to have the time to help me, so I struggle with ‘It’s not fair,’ because they all enjoyed it too, so why am I stuck cleaning up the mess?” says Debbie Sanders.
How can we overcome these enemy thoughts? For Brian, placing trust in God and shifting his perspective did the trick. “Even now, it’s hard for me to reflect on that time, but we committed to do the best we could with a very hard thing and with the best attitude we could muster, trusting God’s plan and provision throughout. It was hard, but God showed Himself over and over during that week,” he explains. Brian also mentions how friends from Hope willingly welcomed their other child into their home during this time, and how volunteers at the hospital brought in bags of Christmas presents for their kids on Christmas morning. “The thoughts that it wasn’t fair that our family had to go through this continued, but it also wasn’t fair that we were the recipients of so much love from the people around us, and even people that we had never met,” Brian says. “We didn’t deserve that either.” Debra found that trusting in God and her husband, being grateful for the things she already has and being realistic about what she can accomplish helped put her focus back on
Parents can easily get caught up in the “whirlwind” of holiday preparations. Kara Symes takes a moment to enjoy being with her children. Photo by Jon Holiday
the true meaning of Christmas. And on Kara’s road trip, she prayed several times and asked God for patience for both her and the others in the car. “It was still difficult at times,” she says, “but asking for His help actually gave me more peace in the midst of the difficulties. And the trip was worth it!” As moms, these three women have had to deal with the high expectations that kids can get around this time of year, which, if not met, can lead to thoughts of “It’s not what I want” or “I’m the only one.” “Frequently, when the girls would receive a gift from their grandparents, they would say, ‘This isn’t what I wanted,’” says Debbie Sanders of her two daughters. “We would then say that their grandma or grandpa thought enough of them to get them a gift, whether it was something they wanted or not. They still needed to be grateful for the thought, love and effort that went into getting a gift because frequently in life we would get things we didn’t want, but God gave us those opportunities to learn about gratitude.” At the Green house, Debra tries to keep the enemy thoughts away from her son by keeping the holidays others-focused. She involves her son by helping him make treats and taking them to neighbors. They also participate in Operation Christmas Child by putting together shoeboxes of gifts for children who would not otherwise have a Christmas. The Symes attempt to eliminate an enemy thought as soon as it comes by recognizing it immediately. “I think recognizing enemy thoughts will be very helpful in these kinds of scenarios as 5
we help our boys face disappointments and trust God with different outcomes than what they had expected,” Kara explains. How can adults combat the various enemy thoughts? One way is to keep our expectations in check as we go into the holiday season. “Managing my expectations really helps me combat ‘It’s not what I want,’” says Debra. Debbie agrees, stating that one thing that has helped her is “trying to keep my expectations low regarding my time and what I can realistically manage.” Holding realistic expectations as far as what we can accomplish and how we would like things to go will help to reduce a lot of the stress and disappointment that accompanies the enemy thoughts. Another way we can battle the enemy thoughts is by turning our focus off ourselves and onto others. “Christmas is a celebration of Jesus that should be centered around family and friends, not the best gifts that I can make or buy or even making the best decorations,” Debbie says. “So if all the things that I wanted to do don’t occur, it’s okay. I am not a planner, but I do know that certain things need to happen before Christmas, but if some don’t, I let it be okay and let myself off the hook over self-perceived expectations of others on me. One of my favorite verses that I go to frequently over many things is Colossians 3:2—‘Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.’ This helps me refocus on why we really celebrate the season.” Unfortunately, shifting our focus isn’t as easy as it sounds. How do we go about doing this
Debra Green and her son Cole participate in Operation Christmas Child by putting together shoeboxes of gifts for children who would not otherwise have a Christmas. Photo by Jon Holiday
during a time when it is so easy to be selfish? “Going in with the mindset of ‘How can I make this a joy for others (family members)?’ and ‘How can I be a help to others?’ has helped me to get the focus off of myself and how my needs can be met,” Debra explains. “Focusing on speaking kind words is another strategy that has really been helpful.” Kara also has a strategy for redirecting her thoughts. “The enemy thoughts all help me stay focused on myself. It takes a change of my thoughts to focus on helping others during the time together or asking family members questions to get to know them better. Then that focus on others may help me stay away from getting stuck on enemy thoughts and missing great opportunities I have with extended family.” Trusting in God when things don’t go our way can also help give a change in perspective. “One thing that has really helped me deal with the enemy thoughts as a husband and a dad has been to recognize that God is always in control,” Brian explains. “Nothing surprises Him. Ever.” Brian references Jeremiah 29:11, which says
“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Last, but most certainly not least, ask God for help. “If you know that you may face difficult situations during the holidays, pray about this ahead of time and ask God for His help,” Kara suggests. “Also, pray during the time. God has been so faithful to help me.” Making time with God a priority can also help with keeping the right focus during this time of year. As we go into the holiday season – a season during which the media tells us it is okay to be selfish – it can be very easy for the enemy thoughts to creep in and take over, which can ultimately lead to discontent. In 2 Corinthians 10:5, the Bible tells us to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” By setting realistic expectations, shifting the focus off of ourselves and asking God for help, we can redirect our thoughts away from those of the enemy. It can be a challenge, but fighting the enemy thoughts during the holidays is a necessary step in keeping the most wonderful time of the year true to its name. 6
Here’s what people are saying about Growth Groups this semester! compiled by Martheine Ludwig & Mark Mair
“I can definitely identify with thinking that I’m too tired to do the things that God wants me to do. I’ve learned to depend on God and His power to overcome. I enjoy Growth Group and have learned a lot from others as they walk with the Lord.” ~ Bruce Boeker “Growth Group provides a big reset point to change my perspective and look at life from God’s point of view… I am reminded that God has enabled me to go to school and that He expects my best effort. I am challenged by enemy thoughts to just do enough to get by as the work is difficult. By His grace and strength He has enabled me to strive toward excellence and to prioritize and do the important things that really matter. ~ John Belew “I love the icebreaker question because you get to learn so much about others in the group.” ~ Tarren Weissenborn “I am sometimes challenged by enemy thoughts in doing the things God has called me to do. I work a schedule that is not typical for most people and can be full of surprises. When I focus on Him, God’s strength becomes real as He gives me the ability to stay sharp and be on top of my game. Also, small groups have allowed me to get to know men who are at different life stages. There are men that I can learn from, relate to, and look up to.” ~ Josh Mackey 7
“There has never been any question about whether to join a Growth Group or not; it’s just a part of Hope life that I wouldn’t miss for the world. I love getting to know new people, and the discussions are always so interesting and helpful in understanding the topic.” ~ Dorene Beck “Having group every week affirms that constant contact with people who are striving to fight the enemy thoughts and deepen their relationship with God keeps me accountable to do the same.” ~ Lesley Slaughter “As a new attender, I thought this would be a great way to meet people at the church and [have] a more in-depth study of the Bible. It’s helping me to make Texas my home since I recently moved here in April. I’m finding sisters in the Lord, and it’s a safe place.” ~ Lynette Franklin “I have enjoyed the Fall Growth Group for the fellowship and the Christ-centered encouragement of a group… I had not been one to take responsibility or make decisions. God gave me situations where He was leading me to act where it was hard… When I stepped out, trusted Him, made the decisions, and acted on His direction, I felt His joy, peace and His presence, which made it all worthwhile.” ~ Phil Ernest
“I love my time in Growth Group. It’s a chance for me to step away from my day to day as a full-time mom and be a friend. A life without friendships is a lonely one.” ~ Tracey Thompson “If you want to be involved in something, you have to offer yourself. . . then one of the first places to start is in a growth group.” ~ Pam Martin
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Randall Robinson As we traversed the city of Bonn, Germany, our guides only two weeks more familiar with the cobblestone streets and local shops than we were, I was struck by the history that surrounded us. Beethoven’s birth place, 16th century castles, an old Roman gate, and a beautiful Baroque Cathedral were a just few things that pointed to this deep history. The university is no exception, with both of its campuses dominated by castles. We joined staff members Anja Geilert and Morgan Lang to kick off a new ministry for Connexxion Europe there in Bonn. Their target is the Universitat Bonn, and our destination this morning was the three-story Menza (cafeteria) located a few blocks from this campus’ 16th century castle. Jeff Gouldie and I formed a two-man team sent upstairs from Connexxion’s information table in the Menza’s lobby to conduct surveys with students. Both of us were strangely nervous at first, but not for long. After the first survey, we saw a young, energetic guy sitting by himself and decided to approach him. Kareem turned out to be a fun guy with very good English. After hearing who we were and agreeing to take our survey, Kareem invited us to sit. His friend Jannick showed up shortly after and joined us as well. Our survey consisted of five questions accompanied by a thick stack of pictures which students would select to represent their answers. The survey, called Soularium, has been a very effective tool for Connexxion to gauge the spiritual climate of students. Through the survey, we learned that Kareem was your typical party student. He worked hard, played hard, and was out for a good time. Jannick was different. He started off by describing himself as a person who was on a journey. This caught me completely off guard. He is a hiker and an adventurer -- one who sees his life as a long adventure. He spoke freely of there being something beyond this life, but he didn’t know what it was. My vision of a dark, Godless Europe was shattered. Here was this young German man verbalizing the desire to fill the very hole that only Jesus Christ can fulfill. The truth of Germany and the rest of Post-Christian Europe is that it needs God more now than ever, and people are seeking to know what is beyond this life. The Connexxion ministry has the goal of reaching the post-modern university students of Europe for Christ. Jannick and Kareem are these students. Hope’s work in Bonn was to help lay the foundation and do the legwork that would have taken the two staff members months to accomplish on their own. We were able to join their work in getting Connexxion Ministry Bonn off to an enthusiastic start. 8
Braunschweig Hannah Daniel
Hope Missi ons 2013
My team spent the first five days of our trip in Braunschweig, Germany, helping Connexxion Ministries with campus outreach and events. We met up with the Bonn team in Straußberg for the last three days to help put on a retreat for students from several different cities. We set up on Friday, and it started that evening. The retreat was called Charakterstark, which means strength of character. It focused on building character through the Attitudes of Success (Fear of the Lord, Trust in the Lord, Humility, Teachability and Patience). Saturday morning, we woke up and went to eat breakfast at the cafeteria (incidentally, German bread and cheese is my new favorite breakfast food). After breakfast, we split up to do our quiet times, then we came back for more worship songs in both English and German. The first teaching session of the day was about humility and teachability. We broke up into small groups after the session to discuss what we had learned, and then somehow it was time to eat again. Lunch involved several pickled vegetable options (I am fairly certain that my body is at least 5% vinegar, so this was exciting), a meat dish, and did someone say more cheese? That afternoon I got to be part of a ladies’ panel where women submitted questions shortly beforehand. It was hard for me to remember to pause regularly so the translator could speak! It was fun getting to share what God has done at different points in my life. Later we took a break for a rich spread of kaffee und kuchen (coffee and cake), which is a German custom I thoroughly enjoyed! This was also a great time to get to know some of the students and hear their stories, and I got to talk with several of the girls I had met earlier in the week at different campus events. Several people had brought games, so when the last session of the evening had ended, most people hung around to socialize (with more kaffee und kuchen, of course). I ended up in a group of girls playing a few rounds of Jenga. It’s amazing how quickly you can bond over taking turns nervously pulling out a little wooden block and placing it atop a teetering tower of other blocks. It was such a great experience getting to know my new German friends who are trying to walk with God just like I am, and I’m glad I got to take part in providing what I hope was an encouraging, helpful event.
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The day started like most of our other days in Seville, Spain: Breakfast, quiet time, team meeting/prayer and meet up with the Connexxion staff at the bus stop around 10 a.m. We had been to college campuses all over Seville the first few days passing out flyers for Connexxion Ministries, doing spiritual surveys with students and prayer walking. The agenda this day included the art and language schools, the English club photo scavenger hunt, and Flamenco dancing to wrap it all up. The art school was first on the list. We hung flyers for English club all over campus and then prayer-walked. One specific thing we prayed was for the inspiration of the art portrayed by the students. Most artwork was somber with no hope, so we prayed that their inspiration would turn into joy and hope in Christ. We found ourselves in the basement at one point. Evil-looking graffiti faces were depicted on almost every wall. After praying for a few minutes, we noticed that there was writing on a few walls that could only be made out from a certain angle. One line said,”LA MANO DE DIOS” (“Hand of God” in Spanish), and another, “AGNUS DEI” (“Lamb of God” in Latin). It was a very vivid picture of the battle raging at the very foundation of Spain. After the art school, we stopped to eat, and then we walked to the language school to pass out more flyers and get ready for English club. The school was an old monastery, so it was absolutely beautiful. The English club photo scavenger hunt was a blast. They split us up into groups of English speakers and Spaniards and then sent us into downtown Seville to take pictures of things from a list. Those native to Seville loved to show off their city, so it was a great way to connect. In total, about 25 students showed up, many of whom Connexxion had never seen before, so it was a great outreach event. The rest of the night was about connecting with students. After the scavenger hunt, all of us stood around talking for hours. Eventually we went to dinner and then finished the night by watching a Flamenco dancing performance, all the while conversing with students.
Chiang Mai Nicole Hardeman On our second day in Chiang Mai, Thailand, we were introduced to Kim and Quintin Ratliff, who have been missionaries there for 12 years. Kim actually attended Hope in the early 90s before she married Quintin and moved overseas. We all rode in the back of a couple of songtaos (pickup truck taxis) up the mountain to a Buddhist temple to prayer-walk there. Buddhism is the main religion in Thailand. On our way to the temple, we picked up Dream, a local Thai who had become a believer and now works with Kim and Quintin. On the way up the mountain Dream told us her story--how she grew up in the Buddhist tradition (her father was actually a leader in the temple), how her family began to experience some really difficult circumstances, how a missionary at the university had shown kindness to her, and sparked an interest in her heart, leading her to finally say “Who is Jesus?” She decided to make Jesus the boss of her life. “All I know,” she said as she wrapped up her story, “is He changed me.” At the temple we took off our shoes and entered the inner part where people go to earn “merit” by lighting candles or paying money to the temple. The spiritual darkness was overwhelming. Activities of all kinds were taking place—some fortune telling and occultism, some tourism, and some people walking around the Chedi (an area with Buddhist relics) carrying lotus flowers. Kim and Quintin gave us little books with specific Scriptures and prayers in them, and we walked around and prayed for the people who were there. Before we left we moved out of the main temple area to a scenic overlook spot where we could see the entire city of Chiang Mai below us. We prayed for the city in English, and Dream prayed for the city in Thai, that God would bring light to people’s hearts and rescue them from the darkness of Buddhism and of life without Him.
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THE YEAR IN REVIEW
New Members Chad Albert Dawn Albert Jenna Anderson Lauren Baah Bethany Cruse Ryan Ernest DJ Funderburk Naida Hairston Tyson Harper Alison Hartwell Daniel Hayworth Katherine Hayworth Emily Hinson Anna Humphrey Kristen Jackson Camille Johanson
Ethan Johnstone Olivia Jolly Kalombo Kabasele Eric Kingsbury Maribeth Kingsbury John Kinney Timothy Laughbaum Isaac McAdams Megan McAdams Brad Meinen Nikki Meinen Madison Moore Michael Morris Johnny Motton Sandra Motton Chuck Pettigrew
Patty Pettigrew Rebecca Rhodes Emily Robb Joel Schaa Michelle Schaa Cody Simmons Coy Studer Jordan Thompson Dawn Varela Juan Varela Kelly Varonfakis Matt Wilson Kelley Wisley Malia Zbinden
Babies Abigail Thompson Grace Hardeman Beth Gouldie Daniel Symes
Emilia Bryant Garrett Albert Penelope Beck Eleanor Payne
Thomas Watts Jonathan Palermo
Weddings Ethan & Andrea Johnstone
Aaron & Melissa Meinen
John & Emily Belew (Coming Dec. 27)
s n o i t i d a r T Holiday ritage Building a RichidHaye by Carla Hol
Remember Christmas when you were a child? Most likely, it’s not any particular gift that immediately comes to mind. Instead, you probably first think of things you did together as a family, or foods you ate on Christmas day, or games you played with your brothers and sisters. These memories can turn into traditions as one generation passes on its experiences to the next. Often, traditions build around food. When I was a child, Christmas morning always began with a huge breakfast. My mother would make scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and biscuits. The wonderful aroma would fill the house and lure us out of our beds. My sisters and I awoke hungry and looked forward to the morning meal almost as much as we did opening gifts! As I started my own family, I naturally carried on this tradition—Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a big breakfast. As much as we enjoyed breakfast, the evening meal was the highlight of the day. My mother is German, therefore on each of the three big holidays—Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter—my mom would make knödels, wonderfully warm and mouth-watering 13
German dumplings. You weren’t allowed to cut the dumpling to eat it—you had to pull it apart with two forks so that it remained fluffy and then smother it in brown gravy. Christmas dinner couldn’t come fast enough. Hope members Bryant and Dana Phillips and their two young sons usually spend the holidays with extended family. For as long as Bryant can remember, his mother has made homemade cinnamon rolls every Christmas morning. For Bryant, food really gets his attention around the holidays. “We usually only have homemade cinnamon rolls once a year, so I’m usually pretty pumped to get them. I grew up with mostly guys, so we didn’t have a lot of holiday traditions that didn’t revolve around food.” As a born-and-raised Mississippi belle, Dana’s traditional holiday meals have a definite southern flair. For dinner, sweet potato casserole with crunchy nut topping– affectionately called “nutty buddy”–steals the show, while no meal would be complete without Grandma’s homemade cornbread dressing. When it comes to the main course,
Dana explains, “My family enjoys hunting, so we had turkey killed the previous spring. We all knew to look for stray bullets in the turkey before eating it. It was normal for at least one of us to find one. My brother and I joke that it was our annual bullet hunt.” Holiday traditions may also center on fun family activities. For some, staging a planned or impromptu talent show can bring a lot of joy and entertainment to the holidays. Whether singing, dancing or acting, this kind of tradition brings the family together and allows the children to take a role in the festivities. Hope members Greg and Leta Cruse and their extended family look forward to these annual performances because it gives the families a chance to see what their nieces and nephews enjoy doing. They perform old favorites every year, including stories, poems and songs. A longtime favorite is the song, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” Leta recalls, “Greg’s grandfather could quote four verses of it! Now that he has passed away, one of his great-grandsons has taken on the tradition. It is a way to remember and honor the patriarch of the family.” When Hope member Rhonda Gayle married Kyle, she also married into the talent show tradition. At first she was a little wary of the idea but soon came to really appreciate the longlasting value it held. “It wasn’t until Kyle’s dad passed away that I realized how treasured those
memories of those talent shows really are. I am really grateful to my mother-in-law for keeping the tradition going. What I know now is that she was helping us to create memories that will last a lifetime.” Another popular tradition is to take an annual Christmas photo of the family. By choosing the same spot every year, you can really see how the family grows and changes over time. Hope members Larry and Ruth Funderburk have taken an annual photo on the staircase of their home every Christmas since her five children were small. Early on, the kids stayed in their pajamas for the photo. With the youngest now 19 years old, they get to wear what they want. As the years have gone by, Ruth and the family enjoy looking back at 16 years’ worth of staircase Christmas photos. “It’s fun to see how the kids have changed.” Bryant and Dana’s family also takes an annual family photo, and Dana’s extended family adds 14
an element of surprise. Each year, a different family unit is in charge of filling stockings, including choosing a costume piece that everyone must wear for the photo. One year, everyone dressed as elves. When it was their turn to fill the stockings, Bryant and Dana celebrated Texas by providing tinsel-covered cowboy hats and tiaras for the family photo. As a special treat for his wife, Bryant also initiated a holiday tradition for just the two of them. “Since Dana and I have been married, we have tried to make sure we have a nice date sometime right before Christmas.” For many families, having traditions that celebrate Jesus’ birth and the importance of giving is the highlight of their holiday celebration. Many people choose to have a birthday cake for Jesus or to read the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke with their children to help make Jesus’ birth the center of the holiday. The Phillips read the story of Jesus’ birth to their two boys and have a birthday cake for Jesus. In addition, they have chosen to give to others. Dana explains, “We choose a ministry, family or person to ‘adopt’ for Christmas each year and buy gifts for them, so the boys can see the value of giving and the joy that it brings.” Bryant adds, “We want to show the boys that the holidays are not just about us and our little family, but we want to use those as an opportunity to love people in a practical way.” 15
Hope members Phil and Rebecca Sherwood started a new family tradition with their four children a few years ago. Wanting to keep the focus on the true meaning of Christmas, the Sherwoods decided that instead of giving gifts based on an allotted budget, they would give their children gifts that reflect the ones the Magi gave to Jesus. Phil says, “I have enjoyed that it keeps us from getting too caught up in giving presents. It also forces us to really think about what our kids and each other would like.” Rebecca explains, “Each member of the family will have three gifts: a ‘gold’ gift, a ‘frankincense’ gift, and a ‘myrrh’ gift.” The gold gift, wrapped in gold paper, is something the recipient really wants. The frankincense gift, wrapped in white, is something that is good for the body, like sports equipment or hair accessories. The myrrh gift is wrapped in green and is something that helps you grow in your walk with God. “This [‘myrrh’ gift] has been a really fun one to find for each of the children each year because they are each so different and at different places in their relationship to Christ,” says Rebecca. For the myrrh gift, the Sherwoods have purchased things like biblically themed coloring books and devotional guides. Rebecca has really enjoyed the new family tradition. “My hope is that over time the
children will clearly associate the joy of receiving a Christmas gift as a small taste of the joy we have received through the gift of Christ.” Phil agrees, saying, “When you spend a lot of time on the acquisition and wrapping of presents, Christmas becomes about that. I wanted to avoid the overwhelming materialism and bring the focus back to the One whose birthday we are celebrating.” Hope members Rick and Teresa Myers began reading the Christmas story with their children when the eldest turned two. The Myers shared with their children that Christmas is the day we celebrate the birthday of Jesus. Teresa explains, “We told them that on Christmas Eve we would have a birthday party at dinner for Jesus where we would read the story about His birthday from the Bible, have a birthday cake for Him and sing songs to tell Him how much we love Him.” The Myers decided to celebrate this special occasion by candlelight. Teresa says, “We chose to use candles to add a specialness to the dinner and to communicate a sense of importance to what we were doing. Our toddlers were fascinated by the candlelight and the dimmed dining room and usually were really focused on the reading of the Christmas story.” Each of the children looked forward to learning to read so that they could participate in holding
the Bible and reading the story. Teresa remembers when her youngest daughter finally was able to read: “She was beaming, and her smile showed how very happy and proud she was to finally be able to play her part in the reading of the story.” Rick’s hope is that the children will understand that “Jesus is not just true, but real.” As each family member reads a part of the Christmas story, they frequently pause to talk about what they’ve read. “Somebody may say, ‘Wow, can you imagine what Joseph must have been thinking at that time?’” Rick recalls, “We will sit and talk about the comment or question at length to bring to life the reading and how real people played their role in God’s plan.” Rick says the family looks forward to doing the traditions each year. “If we leave one of them out, you’d think it was the end of the world.” One year, Teresa changed Jesus’ birthday cake from Italian Cream to something else. The kids were horrified. Rick and Teresa have learned that they’d better not change a tradition once started. According to Rick, “Don’t mess with tradition!” Holiday traditions provide us with a sense of stability and comfort in a rapidly changing world. They bind a family together through shared experiences. They also provide us with an opportunity to reinforce the true meaning of Christmas to our children. Gifts are great fun in the moment, but it’s the memories you create during the holidays that can stay with you for years to come. 16
Combating Enemy Thoughts NRG Zone Style
By Barbara Dumas
Slashing his sword, one soldier stands against four screaming enemies as they attack and invade his territory. It’s the “Battle of Shammah,” Hope style.
What? Actually, the sword and shields are plastic and foam, and the warriors are boys between ages seven and ten. They are acting out the long-ago battle that Shammah fought alone against a band of enemy soldiers.* Across the hall, kindergarten and first-grade boys follow their leader’s hand signals in quick, almost silent obedience. They, too, re-enact a true battle story, flinging soft tiny balls at the advancing enemy played by their teachers. Down the hall, in rooms decorated with cutouts of colorful birds, the 7-10-year-old elementary girls sing new words to a current pop song. Next door, the 5-6-yearold girls learn a fun chant with hand motions. Later, they join the older girls in watching a skit where enemy birds tempt the heroine to believe their lies.
Welcome to the NRG Zone, where Hope kids learn to combat Enemy Thoughts. First of all,” explains boys’ director Andy Jones, “Our goal is to have fun! Then we want the boys to be able to recognize enemy thoughts, and use the Bible to defeat those thoughts.” For the girls, the goal is similar. “We want the girls to actualize what they are learning, to know that God is real and that Scripture is real,” says teacher Cindy Hartwell. 19
But the girls don’t fight battles. Besides songs and skits, they play games that help them memorize Scripture. They hear true stories of brave women who have followed God, discuss their own enemy thoughts in small groups and make crafts that remind them to trust God.
Is such a curriculum working? “They are so owning this!” says teacher June Hobbs. During one small group, a girl said, “I just had to get over it, even if it wasn’t fair,” about dealing with a troublesome younger sibling. Another girl had quoted Scripture verses when she’d been afraid and had shared these with her grandmother, who is not a believer. When the boys and girls learn to recognize their own enemy thoughts – “It’s not fair,” “It’s too hard,” “I’m the only one,” “It’s not what I want,” I’m too tired” – they can combat those thoughts by memorizing Scripture verses. They say these scriptures aloud, they pray, asking God for help to do what is right, then they do it (obey). For the boys, when the battles are over and there is a brief moment for teachers to discuss what happened, the boys agree that God’s word can help them be brave. It is Pastor Harold’s “say, pray, obey” theme, boy-style.
What could be better? (*Shammah was one of the future King David’s “Three Mighty Men.” Read his story in 2 Samuel 23.)
A Taste of Christmas Lauren Baah
Celebrations have always been a time of feasting, and Christmas is no different. It is a time of rejoicing and celebrating the birth of Christ. Revelation 19:7 says, “Let us celebrate, let us rejoice, let us give Him the glory.” Come with me as we celebrate Christ and explore Christmas food traditions from around the world and from right in our own backyard. Come on…it will be delicious!
Jennie Adkins Jennie comes from a big family – 21 including all the children – and they gather together during the Christmas holiday at her parents’ house in Waldo, Arkansas. Their feasting begins on Christmas Eve, where they get a chance to chat while devouring finger foods and chili. Christmas day is filled with laughter, gifts and more food. They enjoy a traditional Christmas spread with turkey, ham, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, squash casserole, seven-layer salad, cornbread dressing, rolls, cranberries, and mashed potatoes and gravy. After they enjoy Christmas dinner together, they fill up even more with what she grew up calling karo-nut pie, otherwise known as as pecan pie. “I never knew people called it pecan pie until I left Arkansas,” Jenny said. Her family also enjoys pumpkin pie, chocolate cake and cherry jubilee for dessert. Karo-Nut Pie 1 cup Karo corn syrup 3 eggs 1 cup sugar 2 tablespoons melted butter 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1.5 cups pecans 1 piecrust
Mix all ingredients and dump into piecrust. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. 20
Lydia grew up in West Texas and married Raymond, who had previously lived in Hong Kong, England and Canada. After they married, she asked him what he wanted to eat for Christmas. He said he wanted her to make blueberry trifles. So, she scoured the Internet in search of how to please her beloved. She discovered that a blueberry trifle is a layered, grape juice-soaked pound cake with blueberry sauce and mascarpone cream, which is like a light, sweet cream cheese. Another non-traditional food the Wongs eat on Christmas is lamb with mint sauce. “I consider blueberry trifles and lamb with mint sauce our special tradition.” Lydia said. “Imagine a girl from West Texas cooking lamb with mint sauce!”
Blueberry Sauce: 3/4-1 cup white sugar 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (optional) 1/8 teaspoon salt 2/3 cup water 3 cups fresh or frozen blueberries 1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional) Zest of 1 lemon 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice Strawberry Layer: 3 cups fresh or frozen strawberries, sliced (thawed, if frozen) 2 tablespoons white sugar Pound Cake: 8 - 1/2 inch slices of pound cake (homemade or store-bought) Approximately 2 tablespoons grape juice, optional Mascarpone Cream: 1 cup heavy whipping cream 2-3 tablespoons white sugar 2/3 cup mascarpone cheese 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract Topping: 4 crushed gingersnap cookies (optional)
Assembly: Blueberry Sauce: Place sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, salt, and water in a medium-size saucepan. Stir until smooth. Stir in blueberries and place saucepan over medium heat. Cook sauce until liquid thickens and becomes clear. Some blueberries will break down. Taste to see if more sugar is needed and add more water if you want a thinner sauce. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla extract, lemon zest and lemon juice to taste. Let cool. Cover and refrigerate. Makes about 3 cups. Strawberries: Place sliced strawberries into a large bowl. Sprinkle the 2 tablespoons sugar over the strawberries. Stir and let strawberries sit for 15-30 minutes, or until strawberries develop juice. Pound Cake: Cut eight 1/2-inch slices of pound cake. Measure and cut pound cake into rounds so they will fit snugly into the trifle glasses. If using a large trifle bowl, simply slice the cake and set aside. Mascarpone Cream: Place heavy whipping cream, mascarpone cheese, sugar, and vanilla extract in large bowl. Whip until soft peaks form. Set aside. Trifle Assembly: Place one round slice of pound cake in the bottom of each individual trifle glass, or lay slices at the bottom of a trifle bowl. Sprinkle each cake slice with 1 teaspoon of grape juice. Spoon blueberry sauce on top of cake. Cover sauce with strawberries. Place large dollop of the mascarpone cream on top of the strawberries. Repeat the layers, starting again with the pound cake. Cover and refrigerate for 12-24 hours. Sprinkle with crushed gingersnap cookies just before serving. 21
Naida grew up in a single-family home in California. When she lived there, her aunts, uncles and cousins came to her house for Christmas, and her mother made the whole Christmas meal. They had a traditional Christmas with turkey, ham, sweet potato pie and all the fixin’s. Eventually her aunt and uncle and her sister and she moved to Texas. Now they all have to work together to fill the void of her mother’s absence because no one in Texas can cook like her. Now, in Texas, each family member has his or her own responsibilities for the meal. Her uncle injects the turkey with flavoring and fries it, her aunt prepares the yams and greens, and her sister makes the homemade macaroni and cheese. As for Naida, she takes pride in making the gravy because, as she says, “Christmas dinner doesn’t start until the gravy is done!”
Holiday Gravy 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 1/2 medium onion cut into strips 1 can cream of chicken soup 1 can chicken broth 1-2 tablespoons flour Seasoning salt, garlic powder and pepper to taste Chicken or turkey pieces from the main entrée Worcestershire sauce for color.
Naida Hairston Sauté the onion slices over medium heat. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Put cream of chicken soup into a bowl. Slowly add chicken broth and whisk until smooth, then set aside. Once the onion is tender add flour and cook until brown, stirring occasionally. Once browned, slowly add cream of chicken and broth mixture to the pan, constantly whisking until entire mixture is added. Bring mixture to a boil, then add garlic powder, seasoning salt and pepper to taste. If needed, add Worcestershire sauce for color. Cover and turn heat to low for about 5-10 minutes. Serve warm. 22
Deck the Halls Lite By Chelsea Duncan Deck the Halls, Hope Church’s annual Christmas party/decorating event, underwent a slight alteration this year into Deck the Halls-Lite. Originally scheduled to take place on Saturday, Dec. 7, it was rescheduled due to the anomalous ice storm that kept the majority of North Texans stuck at home for several days. Not to be deterred from the goal, adult and student volunteers gathered on the evening of Wednesday, Dec. 11, to transform the Hope Church building into a Christmas wonderland. Christmas music of all genres provided the soundtrack for an atmosphere of fun and cheerful productivity as volunteers built, sewed, painted and adorned. Tables full of delectable noshes were set out to help everyone recharge and take a moment to connect with friends. Time constraints required the changing of the event to “Lite” which required the scaling back of
a few projects and a shorter working time. However, one would be hard-pressed to ﬁnd any evidence of this. Everything was well-done and looked beautiful. Associate Pastor Brian Cropp explained that Deck the Halls has a deeper meaning than just making the building look festive for the season. It is meant to be symbolic of the Light and Joy that Jesus brought into the world when He came and banished the darkness from the lives of those who receive Him. It is also a great opportunity for volunteers to put into practice the Heart Attitudes and emulate Christ in His humble act of serving mankind. This charming handiwork will be on display throughout the Hope Church building through the end of the year.
Photo by Joan Massey 23
Photo by Jordan Funderburk Photo by Joan Massey
Photo by Jordan Funderburk
Photo by Jordan Funderburk
Photo by Jordan Funderburk
Photo by Jordan Funderburk
Photo by Joan Massey 24