Posted originally on the conservative tree house on November 25, 2022 | Menagerie
Advent is a season of preparation that has a twofold purpose. Advent begins with Evening Prayer I of the Sunday falling on or closest to 30 November and ends before evening prayer I of Christmas. We prepare ourselves not only for the coming joy of our celebration of the birth of the Christ child; we also prepare ourselves for the Second Coming of Christ.
For Catholics, Advent is the beginning of the new liturgical year. The seasons of that year have always led me on a journey with Christ each year, and I gain so much in the consistency of the seasons and readings. We begin with Advent, awaiting the birth of Christ, then celebrate the Christmas Octave and season, Epiphany, and then soon begins Lent, in preparation for Easter. Then, after the Easter season ends with Pentecost, we have the bulk of Ordinary Time until the end of the liturgical year, and Advent again.
The readings at Mass reflect these times in the life of Christ. They take us through his birth, baptism, ministry, Passion, Death, and Resurrection. I find Advent and Lent especially to be times that help me prepare to meet Jesus in deeper and more profound ways.
Many Christian denominations celebrate Advent, perhaps in ways a little different from those of us who observe a liturgical calendar and cycle. But the focus, the point, is to prepare for the coming of Jesus.
We will have posts for each Sunday of Advent, beginning this weekend. I ask that you save political comments for the other posts. Please, give people a place to think about and discuss something else. I hope these posts will be an aid to all who stop in here during this busy season, an invitation to take a moment and find the reason we prepare for Christmas.
Posted originally on the conservative tree house on November 23, 2022 | Menagerie
Because less than great just doesn’t cut it for Thanksgiving! In our family, Thanksgiving is the biggest holiday of all. We go to the same brother’s house every year, almost an hour’s drive out to the country. My husband comes from a family of eight siblings, and most of them have grandkids now, one even has a great grandchild.
As many of us as possible gather together since we will all be with our immediate families on Christmas. Usually, one or two people at least snag a friend who has no one nearby to celebrate with. Until a few years ago, there were four generations of us gathered to give thanks, but my husband’s paternal aunt died a few years ago. She was the last of his father’s siblings, although we often have a beloved aunt by marriage who still comes with her son and granddaughter.
There are often close to 20 kids, so my sister-in-law came up with the idea of a bouncy house years ago. It is the greatest idea in the world for a little peace and tranquility in the house as we gather and get ready.
Best of all, we never even discuss the menu. We’ve been doing it so long that it isn’t necessary. Certain people bring certain things, and yeah, you can maybe not bring green beans but have a new Brussels sprouts dish, but if you are depended upon for sweet potato casserole (that would be one of my responsibilities) or the turkeys, hams, or banana pudding, you’d best not disappoint.
No day of the year is as fun, and full of great food and family as this one. Every year we see people we haven’t seen since the last Thanksgiving meal. And every year we do give thanks for many things, most especially a huge, noisy, boisterous and growing family, who by God’s grace are still able to gather round all the tables and share our lives.
I hope you’ll share the best of the best of your own family traditions and recipes. I say this almost every year, I know. I so enjoy getting all the different recipes that are popular in different parts of our huge country. Here in the remnants of the Old South, tradition reigns at most tables on holidays, and we are slow to turn loose of Grandmother’s rolls and Mother’s dressing. But sometimes a few new excellent dishes turn out to be the hit of the day.
Here’s my casserole, but you have to wing it. I long ago lost the actual recipe. You’ll find similar ones online, but if you get one that tells you to add flour to the topping, just don’t. It ruins it.
Not my actual photo!
Boil 8-10 medium sweet potatoes until just tender. Mash with a cup of sugar, a few spoons of vanilla, half a stick of butter, a tablespoon or so of salt, three eggs, and whole milk or cream, just enough to get a thick consistency on the mixture, just like you’d want your mashed potatoes to be.
For the topping mix a about 3/4 stick of chopped butter, four cups of chopped pecans, and 1.5 to 2 cups of brown sugar until well mixed and crumbly. This is never a fixed ingredient deal. You have to eyeball how large your casserole is, and also how much of the topping you like. We pile it on. If you’re unsure, start with about half of these amounts and add until quantity and consistency work, then add the topping and cook at 400 degrees until browned.
In 2021, the average American family paid at least 14% more for Thanksgiving festivities. In 2022, celebratory costs are estimated to rise by 20%. The US Farm Bureau noted that the average American family paid $46.90 in 2020 for Thanksgiving, which rose to $53.31 in 2021 before soaring to $64.05 in 2022. This is a drastic underrepresentation of costs, as absolutely no one I know can afford to create a Thanksgiving meal for a family with such a small amount of money.
The survey was based on a shopping list of turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee and milk. If the survey were to include ham, frozen green beans, and Russet potatoes, the cost would rise to $81.30.
Turkey costs alone rose 21% from last year at an additional cost of $1.81 per pound. Every food item costs significantly more down to a gallon of whole milk that now costs 16% more compared to last year. Stuffing mix rose 69% this year at around $3.88. Pumpkin pie canned mix is up 18%, pie crusts rose 26%, and whipped cream is up 26%. Sweet potatoes (11%), veggie trays (8%), and misc. ingredients (20%) all cost notably more. Those on the West coast will pay the most ($71.37), followed by the Midwest ($64.26, Northeast ($64.02), and South ($58.42).
This is simply the cost of the bare essentials to prepare a meal. Most will spend more traveling to their destination due to energy costs. Alcoholic beverages will drastically add to the budget, as will any specialty foods. Then American consumers will be bombarded with Black Friday deals the following day, and don’t forget Cyber Monday! Friday also happens to be Native American Heritage Day, and perhaps we will have a day to honor the fallen US as we know it today.
Posted originally on the conservative tree house on October 8, 2022 | Menagerie
Sorting through some old papers I had stashed away, today I came upon this story I had printed out from an email I received on October 11, 2004. The original source for the story is the book Keep A Quiet Heart by Elisabeth Elliot, published in 1995. It became attributed to Josh and Karen Zarandona when they passed it on in an email.
Supposedly, the original story came to Ms. Elliot from a Brenda Foltz, of Minnesota. I found the story just as thought provoking as I did in October of 2004. I really wish that I were writing this story as an illustration of a moment and a revelation that changed my life. Unfortunately, having a penchant for truth, I’ll confess that did not happen. I wish it had.
Sometimes I need to be reminded – over and over – of the lessons I need to learn in life. I share this with you in that spirit. I suppose most of you may have seen this in the past, but perhaps a few of you, like me, could enjoy it again.
The Ant and the Contact Lens
Brenda was a young woman who was invited to go rock climbing. Although she was scared to death, she went with her group to a tremendous granite cliff. In spite of her fear, she put on the gear, took hold of the rope, and started up the face of that rock. Well, she got to a ledge where she could take a breather. As she was hanging on there, the safety rope snapped against Brenda’s eye and knocked out her contact lens. Well, here she is on a rock ledge, with hundreds of feet below her and hundreds of feet above her. Of course, she looked and looked and looked, hoping it had landed on the ledge, but it just wasn’t there.
Here she was, far from home, her sight now blurry. She was desperate and began to get upset, so she prayed to the Lord to help her to find it. When she got to the top, a friend examined her eye and her clothing for the lens, but there was no contact lens to be found. She sat down, despondent, with the rest of the party, waiting for the rest of them to make it up the face of the cliff. She looked out across range after range of mountains, thinking of that Bible verse that says, “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth.” She thought, “Lord, You can see all these mountains. You know every stone and leaf, and You know exactly where my contact lens is. Please help me.”
Finally, they walked down the trail to the bottom. At the bottom there was a new party of climbers just starting up the face of the cliff. One of them shouted out, “Hey, you guys! Anybody lose a contact lens?” Well, that would be startling enough, but you know why the climber saw it? An ant was moving slowly across the face of the rock, carrying it. Brenda told me that her father is a cartoonist. When she told him the incredible story of the ant, the prayer, and the contact lens, he drew a picture of an ant lugging that contact lens with the words, “Lord, I don’t know why You want me to carry this thing. I can’t eat it, and it’s awfully heavy. But if this is what You want me to do, I’ll carry it for You.”
At the risk of being accused of being fatalistic, I think it would probably do some of us good to occasionally say, “God, I don’t know why you me to carry this load. I can see no good in it and it’s awfully heavy. But, if you want me to carry it, I will.” God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.
This was originally published in the very early Treehouse days. It has been shared many times in many places. I thought now would be a good time to re-visit it.
Posted originally on the conservative tree house on October 7, 2022 | stella
Sundance is okay, but in a place where it is difficult/impossible to post. He’s in contact by phone, barely, and suggested that we post something for you to read in the meantime.
This post is one of the first he wrote on this blog, in February of 2011, more than 11 years ago. How time flies! I have always loved it, and I hope that you do too.
WRITTEN BY SUNDANCE, FEBRUARY 1, 2011
I have long felt that life is like a series of links in a chain. You might be driving down the road and you hear a song on the radio, or see a picture, and you feel a memory,…. something that reminds you of a different time and place than where you are right now. You reflect. The memories you consider remind you of a totally different place in your life. Perhaps you lived in a different place. Perhaps you were surrounded by different people. Perhaps a different job or completely different friends. You recognize those memories were constructed like frozen moments in time. They become individual links in the chain in your life.
You never actually realize, in the immediate moment, when one link closes, and another link begins. But when you look back, you can clearly see distinct points where things changed, the link closed, and a new link began. The links are only clearly visible in reflection.
But there are parts of the chain where each link closes and connects with the other. A beginning, and an end. At the point where the links are joined we carry parts of the previous link forward to the next. For many people those connections are bonded by family, or very strong life long relationships. Connections which continue beyond our geographic moments, jobs, or temporary acquaintances. But for everyone, the primary bonding agent brought forward from one link to the next is ourselves, our center, our values and core principles. Our beliefs.
The strength of the steel which comprises the links of our life is determined by forging in the fire of adversity, weakness, challenge, pain, loss, and painful growth. The steel is then cooled with the tears of triumph, hurdles overcome, and resolve. The forging makes the steel stronger and able to withstand the pressures that accompany the additional length. Slowly the chain becomes wiser as it lengthens. Able to reach further, form more significant benefits, and become more useful. Hope replaces fear. Love replaces loneliness. Success replaces adversity. These are successful links began and finished while contributing to the whole.
At times we may manipulate the links with avoidance. We hide from or choose to avoid an issue in our effort to begin a new link before the old one was naturally, and spiritually, prepared to be closed. Eventually as life continues, and the chain lengthens, the weak link can fracture and we are forced to revisit/repair what we originally chose to avoid. You see, in life we cannot control the universal laws that guide us. So if we manipulate circumstances to avoid confronting our own weakness, we cannot fully strengthen our life of links. Eventually, the weakness of our past will impact our future.
So what principles do we carry from link to link? What core values and beliefs stay with us throughout the journey of our lives? The answers to these questions are what makes us human spiritual beings. We possess freewill able to make choices about what we do, and how we define our individual humanity. But can we then define ’right’ and ‘wrong’ according to our individual principles? Or are there principles that exceed our influence and definition? Are there natural laws of right and wrong, good and bad, that cannot be subjected to the determination of man? These are the bigger questions, perhaps the more important questions, and yet perhaps the ones we reflect upon the least.
Consider the example of the ‘Law of the farm’ vs. the ‘Law of the School’. Natural principles vs. those made by man. A student can skip class, take few notes, pay only half attention, then stay up all night cramming for a test and manage a decent grade. It depends on the students goal, grades or learning. The student chose to manipulate the education, by avoiding the learning and capturing the grade. This is possible in the ‘Law of the School’. However, a farmer cannot take short cuts. A farmer cannot avoid tending to the soil, preparing the seed, fertilizing and nurturing the crop, and still gain benefit of an abundant harvest. The farmer must necessarily do all of the appropriate work in order to benefit from it. Such is the ‘Law of the Farm’, the natural law.
When one considers the weakness remaining within a poorly constructed, and manipulated link, perhaps established by selfish choices and driven by avoidance and fear, one can be faithfully be assured those who have dealt dishonestly with us will have to visit the issues of their association again. No amount of manipulation or avoidance is going to improve the frailty of any link without first resolving the lack of character which created the weakness.
So we have choices in our lives. Decisions we each make regarding how we interact, and participate in the lives and links of others; As well as how we choose to construct the links that compromise our own lives. Do we base our sense of purpose around natural principles? Principles based on natural laws of right and wrong, good and bad, truth and lies. Do we forge strong links based on following our heart, our values? If we can interact with others absent of a prideful self driven agenda, or manipulative intent, we can then apply such principles and strength to our endeavors.
If we protect the integrity of the soil upon which we build the foundation of our lives, we can live without regret. If we fertilize and cherish our crop, and the crop of our neighbor with honesty and sincere appreciation for the souls we meet along our chosen path, we will live a life of abundance. If we tend carefully to the consideration of everyone, yet holding true to our values and principles, we can strengthen ourselves amid the face of adversity and disenchantment. If we do not hide from, nor ignore, our individual and collective faults, we can build the chain of our life with strength, humility, and purpose.
I wish for each of you a long chain of bold, strong, beautiful links, polished with the reflective brilliance of Love……..
Posted originally on the conservative tree house on June 27, 2022 | Sundance
Watch how this plays out in the global cleaving. Watch closely…
The stresses of retaining climate ideology are beginning to surface in the EU and ‘western nations.’ The developing world needs fertilizer quickly, or their twice annual harvests will not produce enough to feed their population. However, the EU does not want the developing world to create their own fertilizer because it would mean using an energy source the EU no longer supports.
The result within the G7, G20, World Economic Forum, multinational corporations and EU government, is a debate over whether it is better for people to starve, or to allow developing countries to manufacture fertilizer to feed themselves. Some in the EU and western alliance say let the people die, climate is more important. Others, seem to be saying if they allow mass starvation just to retain their climate ideology, they may lose influence in the world. The debate rages on.
(Reuters) – The European Union is divided on how to help poorer nations fight a growing food crisis and address shortages of fertilizers caused by the war in Ukraine, with some fearing a plan to invest in plants in Africa would clash with EU green goals.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted a global food crisis and fears of worse to come because of a drop in grain exports from Ukraine and a spike in prices of chemical fertilizers, of which Russia and Belarus are major producers. [SD NOTE: This is false. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine did not create a global food crisis, the Western Alliance & NATO sanctions did – Important distinction]
The EU has for weeks tried to help its poorer neighbours in Africa and the Middle East to weather the crisis by offering them fresh funds, while trying to convince them EU sanctions against Moscow and Minsk are not to be blamed for the food emergency.
At a summit of EU leaders later this week, the EU was planning a new initiative that would structurally decrease poorer nations’ reliance on Russian fertilisers by helping them develop their own fertiliser plants.
But at a meeting with EU envoys last week, the EU Commission explicitly opposed the text, warning that supporting fertiliser production in developing nations would be inconsistent with the EU energy and environment policies, officials said.
The production of chemical fertilisers has a big impact on the environment and requires large amounts of energy. However, they are crucially effective in boosting agriculture output. (read more)
This is globalism and elitism in its full glory. Western politicians, along with multinational corporations, in control of global trade and finance are deciding who lives and who dies according to their climate change ideology. This is how important their carbon trading scheme is to them.
Liberalism or modern totalitarian leftism is on display as the great global cleaving continues.
The elites in western government think they still have the power to control the rest of the world. However, it is the absence of food that changes things. People are starting to realize that western ideology, as manifest in modern globalism, is dangerous. The Davos crowd is willing to kill millions if that is what it takes to retain their climate change ideology.
Keep watching this closely. The multinational U.S. media will eventually bury the issue and try to protect the ruling class.
For me personally, the most frustrating part of this global dynamic -and this specific moment in history- is the absence of any opposition voice in the United States who can articulate these issues loudly in their arguments.
The absence of any political leader using this atomic sledgehammer to attack and destroy the ideology of the professional political left is blood-boiling. Where are the leaders of nationalism who can call out the hypocrisy of the globalists?
The elite and self-described ruling class have never been as vulnerable as they are right now. This is the moment to hit them hard and destroy their toxic ideology for generations. Where is the articulate political opposition?
Where is the voice that can call these insufferable elites to task, using their own words and policy against them?
Consider what is happening against this 15-year-old reminder:
Posted originally on the conservative tree house on June 27, 2022 | Sundance
The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Joseph Kennedy [Full Ruling Here] saying the Bremerton school district in Washington state was wrong to fire him for praying after football games with players of both teams. By a vote of 6-3, the justices ruled that Coach Joseph Kennedy’s conduct was protected by the First Amendment.
In 2015, Kennedy had been a part-time football coach at Bremerton High School for seven years. Coach Kennedy would pray at midfield after each game, alone, with players and with players of the opposing team joining him. When the school district learned about Kennedy’s prayers, they told him to stop. Kennedy refused, and despite wide support from parents and the community the district fired him.
Justice Neil Gorsuch delivered the court’s opinion and was joined in full by Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh. Gorsuch explained that the government’s only real justification for its decision to fire Kennedy “rested on a mistaken view that it had a duty to ferret out and suppress religious observances even as it allows comparable secular speech. The Constitution,” Gorsuch concluded, “neither mandates nor tolerates that kind of discrimination.”
(Via Christian Post) […] “Kennedy prayed during a period when school employees were free to speak with a friend, call for a reservation at a restaurant, check email, or attend to other personal matters. He offered his prayers quietly while his students were otherwise occupied. Still, the Bremerton School District disciplined him anyway,” wrote Gorsuch.
“Both the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment protect expressions like Mr. Kennedy’s … The Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike.”
In response to today’s opinion, Kennedy said, “This is just so awesome. All I’ve ever wanted was to be back on the field with my guys. I am incredibly grateful to the Supreme Court, my fantastic legal team, and everyone who has supported us. I thank God for answering our prayers and sustaining my family through this long battle.”
Kelly Shackelford, president, CEO and chief counsel for First Liberty, a religious liberty law firm based in Plano, Texas, which represented Kennedy, hailed the court’s decision as a “tremendous victory for Coach Kennedy and religious liberty for all Americans.” (more)
“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
~ Matthew 18:20
“Will you pray with me?” or “will you allow me to pray with you?” These are examples of the strongest proactive affirmations of fellowship, love and faith you can bring to any encounter. Prayer works.
However, it is not enough to simply to stop and pray, we should immediately affirm the intent of the moment. We should pause, gather or assemble and pray in His name. That is where the Spirit of Jesus will manifest. Seek to gather with others in the name of Jesus and experience His presence in the moments of life.
Fellowship is critical.
There are many biblical commands concerning “one another” because God does not want us to be alone. Isolation and/or aloneness is not living; they can be painful and harmful to our spirit. Burdens weigh most when carried alone.
Fellowship is the connective tissue that brings life to our journey. When you feel hardship, pray. When you see hardship, pray. When you find hardship in another, pray.
There is no level of experience needed for prayer, nor is there an apprenticeship for faith. While living, just pay attention. When you see a burden reach out, feel, connect, and begin… “Dear God,”….. the rest will follow.
Posted originally on the conservative tree house on June 19, 2022 | Menagerie
It takes a man to to be a real father, in ways so much more important than biological contributions. Once upon a time, most men learned and valued the responsibilities they would assume with the birth of a child, and they planned and prepared for it. Real men were usually not only providers, protectors, but also the primary source of power and strength in a secure family. They were often the first to nudge the chicks out of the nest, to push them to be perfect, and to make sure they were prepared for life, and for a harsh world.
How times have changed.
Here at the Treehouse we talk a lot about politics and how to regain what we’ve lost, not so much politically, but the kind of people we are, the kind of nation we have become. I see a lot of good ideas come across these pages, from involvement in local politics and voting precincts to driving people to the polls, to active involvement in party politics.
I don’t see a lot of talk about the long term prospects, and real change. How about back to the basics fatherhood? How about helping children be secure in a safe and loving family? How about teaching little boys to mow grass and change tires and paint their room, as well as keep that room clean and iron a shirt? Yes, iron a shirt, because presentation and neatness still matter whether you like it or not.
How about teaching them that it really is okay to be a man, and they don’t need any woman to tell them the boundaries on their masculinity, as long as it is a healthy, protective, giving, legitimately strong, real masculinity? How about teaching your daughters what exactly they should expect, no, demand, in a man they contemplate a serious relationship with?
How about making sure you teach your children Christian values and principles and make church services as big a priority as that ballgame?
From last year’s post, I’d like to copy some of my thoughts, because I just can never find finer examples of fatherhood than my husband and father in law. Some things bear repeating.
I have been privileged to know some of the best fathers of our time, and especially would like to mention my appreciation and pride for those in my own life who have made the most difference to me and our family.
I was blessed to marry a man who became a wonderful father to our three boys. My sons are three of the best dads out there, under really challenging circumstances. Two of them have step children they love and cherish, nurture and guide.
My father in law was an epic man among men. He had great faults but his virtues eclipsed them. He was a man of immense strength, strength of mind, character, body, and above all else, faith. His heart was even bigger than his booming laugh.
If I had a fortune I would confidently place a wager that no one could ever say he backed down from his principles or failed to do what he saw as right in the face of any test. Not one time, not ever. Good or bad, hard or easy, he stood in the face of any challenge to right as he believed it to be.
Of course he passed those traits on to his children, all eight of them, and he influenced every one who entered his orbit with the sheer force of his beliefs and his do or die attitude. He was one of only a few people I’ve personally known who really would give you the shirt off of his back.
He had many roles in life, many skills, a man who could do many things, fix almost anything that needed fixing, a voracious reader, self taught on many things with a questing mind and staggering intellect. He knew the Bible cover to cover and could always offer compelling proofs for his beliefs.
Of all those roles, the one most who knew him saw him most at home in, and the one I believe he most identified as, was Daddy.
Here’s to you Jr. Of all the people I look forward to spending eternity with, laughing with, loving with, you are up there. I so look forward to one of your big enthusiastic hugs again.