Monday, December 22, 2014

What is Your Most Memorable Christmas?

I shared my most memorable Christmas a couple of weeks ago with the women at our annual Christmas event and thought I would post the excerpt here from my memoir Children of Dreams. May God bless you and your family this holiday season.





“It’s Christmas, isn’t it? She answered, “Your custom?”

“Yes. Can I open it now?” I asked.

“Yes, please do.”

I unwrapped the small gift and hidden inside were two handmade white doilies, one for a cup and the other for a plate, lined in green stitching along the outside edges.

“Thank you; they are beautiful.”

“You are welcome,” she beamed back. It was a special moment in what otherwise had seemed like a gloomy day.

“Merry Christmas,” I said. “I am sorry you have to work.” I knew she had two kids at home, but I wasn’t sure if they celebrated Christmas.

“It’s okay,” she said.

We said good night, and Joy and I headed back up to our room. I thought we would spend a quiet evening watching CNN and MTV, but as always, at least for me, there is the rest of the story. After feeling sorry for myself and moping around for an hour, I called the Murphys. It was late enough I hoped I wouldn’t wake them up, but I couldn’t wait any longer.

“Merry Christmas!” I shouted excitedly into the phone. A lot of love can be shared in a short amount of time. Manisha was happy to talk to me and told me about all the things Santa had brought her.

“When are you coming home? I miss you,” she said.

“I miss you, too, Honey. I will be home soon.”

I thought in my heart, though, not soon enough. Tears welled up in my eyes as I regretted that I couldn’t be with both my daughters for Christmas. Jenni had shared the pictures of Joy with Manisha and I hoped she could focus on meeting her new baby sister. It was a short conversation, but I felt better having heard her sweet voice across the ocean, reminding me that although we weren’t together in person, she was with me in spirit.

As I watched television feeling homesick, I heard noises outside, louder than the usual honking of horns and vehicular traffic. I picked up Joy and we walked back downstairs to the lobby. I felt excitement in the air with faint Christmas music barely audible above the sporadic street noise.

“What’s going on?” I asked the young lady who had given me the gift earlier.

“It’s the Christmas celebration,” she said.

What celebration? I thought to myself. Vietnam is a communist country and they don’t celebrate Christmas, or so I thought.
I quickly ran back up to our room, grabbed our coats and stroller, and carried Joy down the steps into the cool night air. I could see crowds up ahead on Hue Street walking toward Hoan Kiem Lake. 

We joined the crowd, and as we approached, Hanoi’s version of Christmas spread out before us. The lake was decorated with Christmas lights, and a large Christmas tree adorned with presents took center stage. A cardboard Santa Claus was displayed near the tree. A little baby swing decorated in a colorful leis was set up to take pictures.

Crowds gathered in the streets wearing red Santa stocking caps and carrying balloons. I couldn’t decide if the “party” resembled a parade or people gathering for a concert. A festive, family atmosphere filled the air, and the lake was packed with Vietnamese families.

I was excited to have something to do. Uplifting, holiday music wafted from the loud speakers over the noisy crowd. I wanted to know where the music was coming from. It had a sweet-sounding familiarity, like a piece of chocolate to a hungry soul. I wanted to grab it and not let go.

In such an anti-Christian country, I never thought I would hear Christmas music broadcast in downtown Hanoi. Many of our Christmas songs have a message of “tidings of great joy,” with Jesus as a baby in the manger. Even though the celebration was steeped in commercialism, the familiar words from Christmas carols filled the air, giving me hope that all was well with my soul. I pushed Joy in her stroller to the nearby church a few hundred feet from where the music came.

My soul was enraptured with joy, a balm for my homesick heart. I longed to be with friends and family. Here I could sing in harmony, filled with the Christmas spirit, enveloped in oneness with those around me who were here for a different experience, but so far from home, I welcomed Christmas in another culture.

For a brief moment, I understood Ephesians 4:5. There is unity in the world, “one body, one hope, one baptism, one God and father of all.” I felt a connection to the Vietnamese people. For some, this might be the only testimony to the risen Savior they would ever witness, but as Isaiah 55:11 says, “My word…will not return to me empty.”

God had given me a taste of Christmas in Hanoi that I would always treasure. We returned to the Lake and I took Joy over to the Christmas tree and swing. She was intrigued with the bobbing balloons tied to the Santa and stared wide eyed at the Christmas lights strung around. 

I handed the camera to someone to take our picture. Standing in front of a cardboard Santa Claus, the bittersweet moment was captured, now kept in the scrapbook that I had won years earlier, a memoir to the past I didn’t want to forget.

Today, as I remember that night, fifteen years later, I thank God for all the Christmases we have had since then. Jesus is the reason for the season. Let us be thankful for what He has done for us and praise Him with the heavenly hosts. Christmas is magical even for adults!




Friday, December 12, 2014

A Sneak Peek at Book 3 - The Castle - A Young Adult Fantasy in the Seventh Dimension Series

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Enjoy this peek. Please be sure and pre-order - available July 13 on Kindle Amazon. Price will go up August 1.




“A spiritual kingdom lies all about us, enclosing us, embracing us, altogether within reach of our inner selves, waiting for us to recognize it. God Himself is here waiting our response to His Presence. This eternal world will come alive to us the moment we begin to reckon upon its reality.” – A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God.

The Seventh Dimension Multi-Award Winning Series continues in The Castle, Book 3, A Young Adult Fantasy.

Haunted by a recurring dream of his missing father in a mysterious castle, 17-year-old Daniel is captured by the Romans and finds asylum in the Temple. There he discovers a scroll that reveals his future concerning a wager between good and evil.
But the stakes are raised when he witnesses the trial and crucifixion of Yeshua. The convergence of time with supernatural events creates a suspenseful ending and leads to the fourth and final book in the Seventh Dimension Series, The City, A Young Adult Fantasy—available 2016.





*~*~*~*


Book Three, The Castle
One Week before Pesach, 33 A.D.
"Time is an illusion until God's Appointed Times"



*~*~*~*
A ringtone caused me to stumble.
“Move,” an annoyed traveler mumbled.
Anxious pilgrims traipsed past me. Did no one else hear it?

The ringing continued - musical notes that blared from a rocky outcropping near the desert road. I got out of the way of others and rushed over to inspect the overhang, but the ringtone stopped too soon. Sliding my hand along the uneven shelf, I searched for the iPhone. Nothing.
I kicked the sand. Satellites didn’t exist in the first century and neither did cell phones. Perspiration beaded on my forehead. How dare nonexistent technology taunt me. When I glanced down, I saw a red cellphone protruding from the dirt. It was mine, the one some thief stole from me—two thousand years in the future.
The phone rang again. ID—unidentified.
I snatched it out of the sand. “Hello.”
Silence.
“Hello,” I repeated.
“Where are you going, Daniel?”
Chills tiptoed up my spine. I slouched against the rocks. “Why do you torture me?”
The ventriloquist spoke in a smooth voice. “I want to help you.”
The demon who had duped me into accepting a counterfeit gift when I lost God’s gift wouldn’t fool me again. I shouted into the phone. “No, you don’t.”
A woman nearby flinched.
I needed to lower my voice.
“Why are you going to Jerusalem, Daniel?”
I rubbed my eyes and wiped the sweat from my face. Crouched on the ground with my knees knocking, I spoke softly, “Why do you keep harassing me?”
“Don’t go to Jerusalem.”
My voice quivered. “Leave me alone.”
Annoying static blared.
“Don’t go to Jerusalem, Daniel.”
The raspy voice made me panic. Maybe I should listen to her.
My voice cracked. “Why?”
Another passerby gawked. Only crazy people spoke to themselves in the first century.
Click.
The phone dissolved in my hand. I splayed out my fingers and stared. How could my hand be gray? In fact, tones of gray saturated the sky and everything else. I squinted.
Had the chariot accident damaged my vision? No, this must be the ventriloquist’s wicked magic. She wanted me to believe I was going crazy as my family was apt to tell me. I balled my hand in a fist. “No!”
A couple of people ogled me.
An old man approached. “Are you all right?”
I nodded, appreciating his concern. I waved at the onlookers. “I’m fine.”
I turned and muttered a few choice words. How many times in the seventh dimension had things not been as they appeared?
A few minutes later, hoof beats filled the dry desert air. Roman soldiers, outfitted in heavy accoutrements, led a long procession. Chariots adorned in the best Roman decor followed the horses.
Why did I have to run into Roman soldiers so soon? I hadn’t even made it to Jerusalem. I was a wanted man. Travelers cleared to the sides of the road to let the peacekeepers pass.
I rubbed my eyes. The demon’s wiles—I would not listen. God must be showing me something I didn’t yet understand.
Because of the traffic, the Roman caravan slowed to a crawl. Fancy chariots brought up the rear. I peered inside the first compartment. Pontius Pilate sat beside an attractive woman. I laughed. The hanky dropper at the chariot races hated the Jews. How much trouble would we cause the Roman governor this spring festival?
Pesach was the only Jewish tradition my family kept in 2015. God had delivered the Jews from Egyptian slavery over a thousand years before the first century when he drowned the cruel taskmasters in the Red Sea.
The Romans took a while to pass. Precious minutes ticked by. The Shabbat meant nothing to them, but before the first two stars appeared, I needed to be on the Mount of Olives or outside the city gates.
My stomach churned. What would I give for a few figs and berries to satisfy my hunger.
I didn’t relax until the Romans disappeared. I turned towards Jerusalem. I must make it to Jerusalem in time. I must. The Romans would think I had stolen the racing horses when I ran away. I hadn’t, but runaway slaves didn’t live long in the first century. God was my only hope. I slung my bag over my shoulder, rubbed my eyes, and walked faster.
“Please, God, heal my vision,” I prayed.




Thursday, December 11, 2014

Seventh Dimension - The King, Book 2 - A Young Adult Fantasy, Goodreads Book Giveaway, ends in 4 days

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Goodreads Book Giveaway


The King by Lorilyn Roberts

The King

by Lorilyn Roberts


Giveaway ends December 15, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

CHOCOLATE ÉCLAIR DESSERT


This is my traditional Christmas dessert - so yummy!



We are having our One Another (Prayer Group) Christmas party tonight and so I thought, why don't I post the dessert I am bringing. Actually, this dessert is in my "Food For Thought" book that I've linked here on Amazon, if you want to check out all the recipes. Try this one! Kids will love it and so will adults.



8 SERVINGS

3 cups plus 3 tablespoons milk
1 8-ounce container of Cool Whip
2 boxes French vanilla instant pudding
3 tablespoons butter (do not substitute margarine)
2 squares unsweetened baking chocolate (orange box)
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 teaspoons corn syrup
1½ cups powdered sugar
Graham crackers


For filling: Mix milk, Cool Whip, and instant pudding. For frosting: Melt butter (do not substitute margarine) and chocolate baking squares. In a separate bowl, mix vanilla, 3 tablespoons milk, corn syrup, and powdered sugar. Combine both of the above with a mixer.

Line 9 x 13 pan with graham crackers. Add filling, then another layer of graham crackers on top of filling. Frost top layer of graham crackers with frosting mixture by pouring it over the top and using a butter knife to spread. Let cool in fridge for an hour before serving.





CHOCOLATE ÉCLAIR DESSERT

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

“No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.”

Abraham Lincoln, U.S. President