Friday, February 25, 2011

Quote of the Day: Hope

This quote has been rattling around in my brain for a couple of weeks. I'm still trying to process the exact meaning of it and how it truly impacts my life.

"Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are." — St. Augustine of Hippo

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Grace Card (Review)

Editor's Note: The Grace Card opens on February 25, 2011 across the country. 

Everything can change in an instant ... and take a lifetime to unravel.

When Mac McDonald loses his son in an accident, the ensuing 17 years of bitterness and pain erodes his love for his family and leaves him angry with God ... and just about everyone else.

Mac's rage stonewalls his career in the police department and makes for a combustible situation when he's partnered with Sam Wright, a rising star on the force who happens to be a part-time pastor and a loving family man.

Mac's home life is as frightening as anything he encounters on the streets of Memphis. Money is tight and emotions run high as he constantly argues with his wife and his surviving son Blake, who is hanging with the wrong crowd and in danger of flunking out of school.

Sam Wright also never expected to be a police officer. He has a calling—to be a minister like his Grandpa George. But leading a small, start-up church doesn't always put enough food on the table for a young family, so Sam doubles as a police officer. With his new promotion to Sergeant, Sam starts questioning if his real calling might actually be police work rather than the pastorate.

Can Mac and Sam somehow join forces to help one another when it's impossible for either of them to look past their differences—especially the most obvious one?

Every day, we have the opportunity to rebuild relationships and heal deep wounds by extending and receiving God's grace. Offer THE GRACE CARD ... and never underestimate the power of God's love.

What I Thought
Everything starts with grace - especially a movie with a purpose.

The Grace Card is one such movie.

Written and directed by David Evans, a Memphis-based eye doctor, the film contains a variety of themes including grace, forgiveness and reconciliation. 

When the film opens on Feb. 25, Evans expects that more than 20,000 people will have had a chance to "preview" the film in special screenings like the one I attended before Christmas in Rogers, Ark.

The screening gave me (and a theater full of people) a chance to see the first film project produced by Evans, a Bentonville High School grad. It also included a Q&A where Evans and his wife, Esther, shared some of the experiences surrounding the making of The Grace Card.

While the movie is fiction, Evans said the story of grace, forgiveness and reconciliation, resonates with people who have viewed it. Many attending the pre-screenings strongly identified with the story. At one screening, a woman left the film saying she was moved to forgive the person who killed her child 15 years earlier.

Shot in Memphis, with primarily volunteer actors, the film has a gritty, yet authentic feel. Anchoring it with acting talents of Louis Gossett, Jr.(Grandpa George) gave the film an extra "umph."

For a faith-based film, The Grace Card isn't hokey. It is solid, will hold your interest and will make you think.

The Grace Card will definitely open discussions on forgiveness and reconciliation - and the need for grace in all aspects of our lives - especially when we least expect or think we need it.

I will say, based upon the subject matter and some of the story lines, this film is probably best for at least middle school and above. Younger students could probably watch it alongside their parents - but some parental discussion will be needed to help them process what they see.

A Q&A With The Director, David Evans
THE GRACE CARD is directed by David Evans, a story in himself. At 42, Evans, a Memphis optometrist, is a veteran producer of Calvary Church’s large-scale musical passion plays. The following Q&A was provided by the movie publicists.

David, you’re a medical professional, a left-brain career if ever there was one. You’re a 15-year-plus veteran of directing large-scale musical productions. Now you’re a film writer and director—right-brained activities. What’s up with that? 

I definitely feel called to be an eye doctor, but if you ask my wife, my true passion is acting and producing.  First in high school and college, then creating the passion plays.

Most people want to make a difference somehow. I want to make a difference as a Christian. True joy comes with seeing what the passion plays or this move will do to change lives, to show hope, to show people a new door to peace. Or in the case of THE GRACE CARD, to find forgiveness.

Where did THE GRACE CARD story originate?  

As a doctor, you’re also a counselor of sorts. People share stories. I’ve got patients who are on the Memphis police force, and I learned things that informed the story.

They helped me see their world, and I wanted to take that and maybe help people see the world as it really is—a world where grace exists. 

What inspired you to write this particular story?  

I like to do things to grab people by the heart. My father was a minister, and I actually knew a man who was a police officer and a pastor. It occurred to me, “Wouldn’t it be great to show this real life struggle in this real place?  To show faith at work in family life, race issues, work issues?” 

Is Memphis a character in this film? 

It really is. I couldn’t imagine the story set anywhere else, as so many Civil Rights-related incidents have occurred in Memphis. And I’ve always been around that, having grown up in the South. That’s where my heart is. There are so many landmarks, the Pyramid, the river. Even the score has a bluesy feel to it.

Many people associated with THE GRACE CARD say the story drew them to the project. More than one said one look at your script and they knew they wanted to be a part of it. What is it about this story?  

Nothing in this story makes you feel that it’s all just bright colors, a pretty portrait that couldn’t really happen. This is real, gritty, true. It’s a realistic portrayal of everyday life. Everyone—regardless of background, income, social status, beliefs—deals every day with problems. Every day. Everyone. That’s part of the power behind THE GRACE CARD. 

Who will enjoy THE GRACE CARD? What age groups? What ranges of interest? 

That’s just it, everyone will—from pre-teen to adults. I have to say again, it’s a real-life story with action, conflict, and faith in the midst of challenges everyone can relate to. 

Academy Award winner Louis Gossett Jr. plays the role of a wise mentor in THE GRACE CARD. Take us through your emotions when you got your script in an Oscar-winner’s hand and got a “Yes” back from him in days.

I was encouraged by some other faith-based filmmakers who said, “You really need to get a name actor in your movie.” Most roles were filled, but not the mentor role. Lou Gossett came to mind.

Then I looked at his web site and discovered his commitment to using his position to end racism. I thought, “This has be a God thing.” I tracked down his agent in 24 hours and, initially, there was no interest. But I asked him to at least look at the screenplay because I thought it hit at the center of what Lou is trying to do with his life. Two days later the agent called back and said, “I think he’s going to like this.” And I can truly say about Lou’s performance, he nailed it.

Let’s talk about your cast and crew. You’ve got a wonderful team, ranging from Hollywood professionals to local volunteers. 

 I truly believe we have a new level of acting in faith-based films. We reached out to every church in Memphis, whoever wanted to send people in to audition. More than 50 churches sent people in.

We opened up the door to any Christian who wanted to be a part of the project. Plus, we had more than 300 volunteers from Calvary Church who had helped on the passion plays and joined us on THE GRACE CARD.

About The Movie
The Grace Card is the first movie from Memphis-based Graceworks Pictures in conjunction with Calvary Pictures.

Inspired by and modeled after Sherwood Pictures, the moviemaking ministry that created Fireproof, this faith-based film brings together Church and Hollywood—Memphis' Calvary Church working alongside veteran screenwriter Howard A. Klausner (Space Cowboys) and award-winning actor Louis Gossett, Jr. (Grandpa George).

Graceworks is the vision of Dr. David Evans, an optometrist in Memphis, who directed and serves as the executive producer of THE GRACE CARD. Calvary Pictures is a ministry of Calvary, a Church of the Nazarene led by Pastor Lynn Holmes in Cordova, Tenn.

Note: As someone who works in a church ministry, I was provided a ticket to a "pre-screening" for The Grace Card. This review was not influenced by the ticket - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My push from God

Tonight, during Timothy Team, I was trying to tell the kids about a new prayer - TACOS - that I read about on DevoZine's Facebook page.

I wasn't sure I remembered what TACOS stood for so I grabbed my phone and pulled up the DevoZine Facebook page to double check the exact meaning.

- For the record TACOS stands for Thanksgiving, Adoration, Confession, Others and Supplication - kind of like the ACTS prayer we've used in Timothy Team, (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication), but with one additional layer.

Imagine my surprise when the first post on the Facebook page wasn't the TACOS description from earlier in the day, but instead a tweet WITH MY NAME!

It's a brief summery - in 140 characters - of the weekday devo I wrote for the January/February 2011 issue - Need a Push.

Wow. I was almost speechless as I read it. I almost couldn't explain the TACOS prayer to the kids. (We'll dig into it a bit more next week)

It was so cool to see my stuff tweeted like that. It was almost a "push" from God saying -see you are a writer. Your words, written for me, are making a difference.

I've written several devos for DevoZine during the past 15 years, but it's only been in the last year, that I've re-discovered how much I LOVE writing for them.

 This week, I received my third "hard copy" issue of the latest devo to be in print - Spiritual GPS - in the March/April 2011 issue, along with the confirmation of the publication of a devo in the July/August 2011 issue.

I'm not sure what God has planned for me - I wish I had a crystal ball to see the future - but I know one thing. I truly believe that writing for DevoZine is definitely in God's plan for my life.

I'm grateful and humbled by the opportunity I've been given by my friends on the DevoZine staff to write for this amazing publication. The fact that they trust me to write for youth is well, in a word, humbling.

Want to learn more about DevoZine?

Monday, February 21, 2011

How I spent my day

Today, I spent much of my day with a group of elementary students willing to use their day off from school to help others.

We call it Destination: Home, a taste of the mission trip. Destination: Home gives students a "taste" of what we do on the "big" mission trip without leaving "home."

Today's event included service (helping at New Beginnings Thrift Store in Siloam Springs), fun (bowling) and more (pizza for lunch, and a few extras along the way).

Four years ago, when I came to Siloam Springs as the children's pastor, I started weaving missions into the ministry plan because I truly believe children of all ages can and should learn about missions.

While mission/service projects are included in a multitude of our events, the Destination trips (either single-day or multi-day trips) provide an in-depth experience for students.

I think teaching students about missions is not only Biblical (think Matthew 25) but also quite Methodist because it fits quite well into John Wesley's view of social and personal holiness.

I know many people question whether younger students can (or even should) learn about missions in this way. Well, simply take a look at the pictures below, and then decide for yourself.

But think about it this way.

Today, 13 students learned a variety of lessons about serving others, because we gave them a chance to help out at a ministry that helps families in need - including crisis pregnancies. We did this by showing them that service can include everything from washing windows, to cleaning toys with Clorox wipes.

I think amazing things happen when we empower students and give them the tools to help others.

We help them learn to think about others by learning to look outside of their "comfort zone."

Yes, sometimes taking younger students on mission trips can be a bit messy and often, things don't always go as planned. But one thing is for certain, when we give students permission to learn - and reach out to others - amazing things can and will happen.
 - - - - -

I think my favorite photo from today is this picture of Thomas (age 4). Thomas said at the beginning, as we talked about what would happen - he wanted to make someone happy. 

Yes, he's young, and yes we had to find things that "captured" his attention. But you know what? Thomas learned today that you can make someone happy by cleaning toys with Clorox wipes. He also learned that even though he's four-years-old, he could help others by folding blankets and hanging up clothes.

A few other pictures from the day

Learning more about New Beginnings Thrift Store from Trang Freeman.
Sorting toys (after they have been cleaned).
Tossing out the broken toys.
Washing windows.
Sorting clothes and (gasp hangers).

Hanging with friends waiting for the next task.
Sorting and folding blankets.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

New 52: Week 7 (Feb. 7 - 13)

2011 - Project 365 - week 7
paper - 52 2011 - wk 7 - Sue Cummings,
Templates - by Me
Fonts: CK KOTM1 & Champagne & Limousine

The second week of February was marked by a "giant" snow storm, trips to Cafe on Broadway, another Broadway show (loved Mama Mia) and well, contact with my nephew on Facebook.
It's getting easier to take pictures of ordinary things - capturing memories one photo of a time.

This project continually reminds me that the ordinary stuff is what helps make life sweet.
Note: As a member of the cheery-o team at, I was provided much of this for free. My use of these products were not influenced by the gift - I would have bought them anyway - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Quote of the Day: Something To Think About

Took a break today - to try to finish a couple of projects and rest.

Here are a couple of quotes I've been pondering this week....

 "Thus we never actually live, but hope to live, and since we are always planning how to be happy, it is inevitable that we should never be so." — Pascal

We're our own dragons as well as our own heroes, and we have to rescue ourselves from ourselves. ― Tom Robbins

Friday, February 18, 2011

Blog Tour: Lady in the Midst (Review)

By virtue of her profession as a midwife, Tabitha Eckles is the keeper of many secrets. Dominick Cherrett is a man with his own secret to keep: namely, why he, a British aristocrat, is on American soil working as an indentured servant.

In a time when relations between America and England rest on the edge of a knife, Tabitha and Dominick cross paths, leading them on a journey of intrigue, threats, public disgrace, and . . . love. But can Tabitha trust Dominick? Finding true love seems impossible in a world set against them.

What I Thought
I read this book with mixed feelings. I liked the time period this book was set in - it was refreshing to read a historical novel set in the early founding of the United States.

Because I'm not as familiar with this time period, I did have to struggle a bit to put it into context - a bit before the war of 1812 - because of the tension between England and America.

I liked the character of Tabitha - a strong, independent single girl. It was frustrating that the author wrote the story with Tabitha not feeling very confident because she was unmarried. Part of this was written because of the novel's historical setting, but it was frustrating that the author fell into the "Christian romance" trap that a woman's life seems unfulfilled until a man comes into it.

I also struggled with the book because well, the middle section seemed to "drag" a bit. I'll be honest, I skipped ahead several chapters, read the end and said - oh, that's what she was trying to say, now everything makes sense.

Here's the deal - this is a well written book - interesting characters and storyline. If you like books set in the early 1800s, you'll like this book. It's filled with an "old English" style of mannerisms and language. But if this style isn't your normal cup of tea, well, you might want to give it a pass.

On a scale of one to five, with five as the highest - I give this book a three. I would be willing to read the next book in the series - because the writing held my attention and I'm always willing to give an author a second chance.  

More About The Author
The role of midwives in history began to fascinate Laurie Alice Eakes in graduate school and she knew that someday she wanted to write novels with midwife heroines.

Ten years later, after several published novels and a National Readers Choice Award for Best Regency, the midwives idea returned, and Lady in the Mist was born. Eakes has a masters degree in creative writing and now writes full time from her home in Texas, where she lives with her husband and sundry dogs and cats.

Online Resources
Buy Lady in the Midst @ Amazon
Read an Excerpt of Lady in the Midst @ Revell
Download a Reading Guide for Lady in the Midst
Visit Laurie Alice Eakes' website

Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, offers practical books that bring the Christian faith to everyday life.  They publish resources from a variety of well-known brands and authors, including their partnership with MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and Hungry Planet. For more information, visit

Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Quotes of the Day: Kindness

Something to think about....

"Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love." — Lao Tzu

"Whoever is happy will make others happy too." - — Anne Frank

When have you shown kindness to someone?
How do you feel when someone shows you kindness?

Are you happy?
Does your happiness "rub off" on others and make them happy?

What could you do today, to not only
show kindness but also spread happiness?

These quotes came to my inbox as part of the the Happiness Project, organized by Gretchen Rubin at To sign up for the weekday morning e-mail, click here or email Gretchen Rubin at gretchenrubin1 @ gmail dot com (don't forget the "1" and to remove the spaces.) 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Book Review: The Search For God and Guinness (Review)

What does God and Beer have in common?  Well, in terms of the Guinness family, a lot.

Historian Stephen Mansfield has drafted (pun intended) a biography of the Guinness family that focuses on how its members - beginning with company founder Arthur Guinness - have truly lived out their faith in the midst of company policy.

Mansfield follows the various family members - mainly the guys, since they were typically the ones running the business - showing decisions they made that were quite enlightening concerning employee treatment and the welfare of the poor.

Mansfield shows how Guinness was influenced by a variety of evangelical Christians, including John Wesley - the founder of the Methodist church.

It seems Wesley's insistence upon a "transforming brand of salvation" as well as his "evangelical social outreach" helped shape Guinness' world view.

Wesley's social outreach program and view of holiness included  (but was not limited to) visiting prisoners, taking up collections for the poor and urging the rich to fulfill their Christian obligations to society.

While Mansfield says Wesley's exact influence on Guinness is unknown; historians can show how the business owner lived out Wesley's social values for the remainder of his life.

This can be seen first, and foremost in Guinness' establishment of the first Sunday school movement in Ireland in 1786, which gave poor children instruction - not only in the Bible, but also in reading and other basic subjects. He believed education was the key to helping children in need.

Guinness truly believed his family motto: "Spes mea in deo" (My hope is in God), finding ways to using his wealth to help those less fortunate.

What I Thought
I found this book quite fascinating. I loved learning more about beer and how it's development played a role in history. I also found it interesting how Mansfield unpacked how the early church leaders - including Martin Luther, both Charles and John Wesley, and George Whitfield - played a role in the history of this beverage.

While a friend who is a Wesley scholar said Mansfield may have "stretched" the facts a bit regarding Wesley's use of beer and ale, that is but a small piece of this book.

It's impressive to think that something Wesley said - in terms of how Christians should treat the poor and less fortunate - not only shaped Arthur Guinness' life, but also the lives of his family for more than two centuries.

The course of the company's business - as well as life in Dublin - was forever changed because of the influence of the Guinness'.

In one case, a staff doctor's efforts helped wipe out the diseases of poverty - including tuberculous. He also encouraged the company's board to find ways to help its employees.

This ultimately led to the establishment of an amazing policy which provided a Guinness worker in the 1920s to enjoy "full medical and dental care, massage services, reading rooms, subsidized meals, a company funded pension, subsidies for funeral expenses, educational benefits, sports facilities, free concerts, lectures and entertainment" and, of course, "two pints of Guinness beer a day."

Pretty impressive. The benefits given to workers at the turn of century sound pretty good now, in 2011.

It's equally impressive to see how people not only ran a company, steeped in tradition and heritage, with success, but also found a way to help others - truly a rich blending of faith and wealth.

In a world filled  with corporate greed and ill-treatment of employees, it's nice to see that some people truly have a model of business that helps others.

On another note: It's quite interesting to know that there were, in fact three "lines" in the Guinness family: Beer, Banking and Ministry. One man traveled the world as a noted evangelist, others made huge differences in the English and Irish banking industry - so Arthur Guinness' beliefs not only impacted one facet of life in Ireland and England, but many through the actions of his decedents.

The Guinness family is truly remarkable.

More About the Author
Stephen Mansfield is a New York Times bestselling author and a popular speaker who is becoming one of the nation’s most respected voices on religion in American culture.

He is author of The Faith of George W. Bush, The Faith of the American Soldier, Then Darkness Fled: The Liberating Wisdom of Booker T. Washington, and Never Give In: The Extraordinary Character of Winston Churchill, among other works of history and biography.

In 2008, Mansfield wrote The Faith of Barack Obama, intended as an objective look at Obama’s religious life and the controversies that have surrounded it. The book reflects Mansfield’s ability to compassionately describe theological and political views that are not necessarily his own.

Founder of both The Mansfield Group, a research and communications firm, and Chartwell Literary Group, which creates and manages literary projects, Mansfield also serves as a lecturer and inspirational speaker.

Find out more about Mansfield at his website:

Online Resources


Read more about it at Thomas Nelson Publishers
Buy The Search For God and Guinness @
Get The Search For God and Guinness for the Kindle

Note: As a freelance journalist, I am often provided books to review by various publishers. However, in this case, I actually purchased this book on the advice of a colleague - so the only thing that influenced this review is my wallet; just in case the FTC cares.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Quotes of the Day: Laughter

I'm trying something new this month - I'm trying to post something each day - either an article I've written, a book review, an "adventure in cooking" or just a rambling post.

Something creative, each day for 28 days in a row.

I'm cheating today.

I wanted to post "Part 2" of my snow pictures, but alas, the day has almost gotten away from me - and with a night meeting tonight, I need to post something before I go home exhausted.

So, I'm posting some quotes I looked up about Laughter.

Because frankly, I'm choosing to laugh at all of the "other duties as assigned" that have popped up in my job today.

Today, I'm choosing to laugh, even though it's the last thing I feel like doing...

Even if there is nothing to laugh about, laugh on credit.  ~Author Unknown

I've always thought that a big laugh is a really loud noise from the soul saying, "Ain't that the truth."  ~Quincy Jones

With the fearful strain that is on me night and day, if I did not laugh I should die.  ~Abraham Lincoln

Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face
.  ~Victor Hugo

Perhaps I know best why it is man alone who laughs; he alone suffers so deeply that he had to invent laughter.  ~Friedrich Nietzsche

So what makes you laugh? How are you filling today with laughter?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Everything from 52:2011 - Week 6, by Vicki Stegall,

I hope you have a wonderful, loved filled day!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Project 365: Week 6 (Jan. 31 to Feb. 6)

I'm having a lot of fun taking a picture each day, with the Project 365. I'm not trying to stress about it, or even be to serious (or perfect).

Instead, I'm just simply trying to capture a piece of my life, on a specific day.

I'll be honest, the iPhone app I found "Project 365" helps, because it sends me a "push" notice reminder to stop and take a photo each afternoon.

The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.  ~Jimmy Johnson

My (new) little extra this year is to try to capture the everyday, ordinary moments - which become extraordinary memories.

2011 - Project 365 - week 6
Paper - 52 2011 - wk 6 - Vicki Stegall at
Templates - by Me
Fonts: CK KOTM1 (CK Media) & Champagne & Limousine (

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Scenes from Snowy Arkansas Part 1

For the last few days.... well, since the great "Snow Storms of 2011" started on Tuesday, Feb. 1, I've been taking lots of photos.

I typically use my DSL Pentax digital camera (the beast) as a friend calls it.... but since I've been trying something NEW this year, I am also using my "pocket camera" (Sony Cybershoot) that rides in my purse 24/7 and my iPhone to capture the memories of the moment.

This is a growing experience for me. Honestly, I'm not taking pictures for newsprint anymore. I'm simply taking them for myself. I am finding that it's easier to be spontaneous with the iPhone and pocket camera.

Several times I shot the same pics both with "the beast" and iPhone, because I wanted to immediately share some of what I was seeing with family and friends not living in NWA.

So, today, I sat down and "worked up" photos captured from all three camera. (Definition of "worked up" - I've cropped pics, lightened or darkened them and sharpened them ......sometimes I use a filter or two, but today, it's just the basics....)

Here's a pictorial representation of the last 12 days of snow, in chronological order....

Tuesday, Feb. 1
(Also known as the storm everyone freaked out about!)
My view outside my front door, @ 9 a.m.

The view towards the high school @ 9 a.m.

The other side view....@ approx. 9 a.m.

A forlorn ice-covered branch (not a lot of ice with this storm.)

The wind was key for this storm.
It blew the snow so hard that it covered my car inside the carport.

It's hard to see, but the snow blew so hard against
the chair that the rungs made a path in front of the it..

Wednesday, Feb. 2
(Day 2 of the Storm Everyone Freaked Out About)
or the day I went "driving" around with the Burtons...

Hey William...don't you want to jump
in the deep snow (on a rural Okla. road?)
Here, let me toss you in.....

Um, actually, no. Dad get me out of here!
He was SO mad at us.

The drifts along an Oklahoma fence pretty AND deep!

Thursday, Feb. 3
(Also known as the day I slid into work
to make up two snow days & do the pics of snow today!)

 Friday, Feb. 4
(Also known as the day we were supposed to get only flurries...)
Today, Maribeth talked me into spending the day quilting at Sager Creek Quilts. Honestly, it wasn't a hard sell....we watched the storm roll in, expecting flurries. By the time we left mid-afternoon...well, it was pretty deep.

Behind the quilt store....

View of Sager Creek, behind the quilt store....

Where I spent most of the snowy front of my machine

Another snowy's really piling up.

Next pics courtesy of  Sager Creek Quilts....
Working on our projects....

My finished (well at least the top) quilt...
I started it during Spring Break 2010....

Trekking back to the car, with Maribeth...

Late afternoon back at home....
Front yard @ approx. 4:30 p.m.

Mailboxes - late afternoon....yes, I have a fascination with mailboxes....

 Saturday, Feb. 6
I hibernated today.... but took one pic - the growing icicles outside my front door...I only got one pic before my "helpful" neighbor knocked them all down....

Part 2... The Great Snow Storm of 2011 Continues...coming soon...

Friday, February 11, 2011

Adventures in Cooking: Caramel Popcorn

This week's adventure in cooking came thanks to Linda James (still Mrs. James in my brain), the former home-ec teacher at Diamond High School.

Thanks to re-connecting on Facebook, I now have someone I can bug (I mean consult) about my crazy cooking questions.

She was very gracious to share with me her "heirloom" recipe for Caramel popcorn. Yum.

I've been craving it since my mom found me an air popcorn popper. One of my early church memories takes place at Almena United Methodist Church, Almena, Kansas, when my parents were part of the "young" parents and a bunch of the parents were in the small kitchen making caramel popcorn - I assume for a holiday gathering -- just one of my random memories of the church that served as the foundation for my faith journey.

Because I couldn't find mom's original recipe, I have been searching for a "tried and true" recipe and well, Mrs. James' recipe fit the bill. She gave me permission to share it on the blog, because while she never gave it out in printed form to students, it was always on the chalk board to be copied down.

I never had a chance to "copy" it, because well, I was too busy in the next door classroom taking ag classes.

So without further ado  - Albert James, Jr.'s Caramel Popcorn (circa 1970s or early 1980s).

Step 1
Pop 1 cup of popcorn kernels, Pop it and then spread it out
on a large baking pan with a rim. 
Keep the popcorn warm in a 225 degree oven.
Note: We used a roasting pan.

Step 2
In a medium saucepan combine 1 C. brown sugar (packed),
1/3 C. water and 1/4 C. butter.

Step 3
Bring those ingredients to a boil, stirring constantly.
Cook it to the "caramel stage" (a.k.a. medium soft ball).
Note: A candy thermometer is pretty handy for this step.

Step 4
Pour this caramel sauce over the warm popped corn. 
 Bake it for 30 to 40 minutes @ 225 degrees.
Stir it every 10 minutes.

Step 5
Allow to cool and store in an airtight container.

It made a light, caramel coated popcorn snack.
It dried quite nicely and it made a lovely snack for the second half of the Super Bowl. It wasn't overtly sweet - just the right combination of popcorn and caramel.

Things I learned or tried ...
I made this with my friend Melissa,
and here are a few of our observations.

1) We used a roasting pan, with a lid, to cook the popcorn.
We found with the lid helped "stir" the popcorn,
because it loosened the stuff on the bottom of the pan.

2) We doubled the caramel sauce for the popcorn.
It just looked like we had way too much popcorn
and not enough sauce!
It still just gave the popcorn a light coating.
This definitely wasn't "thick" like the popcorn
that comes in cans at Christmas time!

3) We decide that instead of pouring
the sauce onto the popcorn, we should have drizzled it,
then put the lid on the roaster and shake it up.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Feature Article: Small church serves as disaster relief hub

By Kaylea Hutson
Special Contributor
When the Rev. Andy and DeNese Newbill went to bed on Dec. 30, 2010, they were simply looking forward to “ringing out” the year with a family dinner the next evening.

Instead, the couple found themselves at Cincinnati United Methodist Church, where Andy serves as pastor, preparing to aid a community devastated by a New Year’s Eve tornado.

Andy & DeNese Newbill
sit among the donations,
which have come to their
small, rural church
since the Dec. 31 tornado.
The couple said opening
the church to the community
following the tornado
was the right thing to do
At approximately 6 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 31, an EF3 tornado struck the small town of Cincinnati, Ark., leaving four people dead, at least seven injured, and more than
21 miles of devastation trailing from Cincinnati to Tontitown.

Mid-day on Dec. 31, the small congregation (the previous week’s worship attendance was 17) opened the doors of its building to provide a staging area for volunteer agencies like the American Red Cross and Lions Club, as well as a depository for donations of food, water and supplies.

DeNese Newbill said the decision to reach out to those impacted by the tornado was
simple—it was the church’s way to serve their neighbors in need.

“People just started showing up,” she said. “It wasn’t just a decision; it was what we had to do.”

Andy Newbill agreed. He said it was a good chance for the church to live out Jesus’ command in Matthew 25:35 to feed, clothe and take care of people in need.

“This was a mighty way for the church to be used in a disaster—even as small as it is,” DeNese Newbill said.

Part of a larger picture
Volunteers help unhook the Northwest District's
(of the Arkansas UMC Conference)
disaster relief trailer, in front of
Cincinnati United Methodist Church
on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2011.
Cincinnati UMC soon found it was not alone. Others throughout the district and state began to mobilize to provide financial and physical assistance to the congregation.

“God’s church is more than the people in my tiny community,” Andy Newbill said. “It’s people [who contacted me] in New York City, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado,
Virginia and more.”

Denni Palmer, disaster response coordinator for the Northwest District, began to work with Andy Newbill—first by phone, then in person—to spread the word about the immediate needs.

Palmer, who trains early response teams in the district, also served as Newbill’s liaison, helping the pastor field questions and donations from people throughout Arkansas and the country.

A page on the district website ( provided a place to post accurate timely updates.

Newbill also used Cincinnati UMC’s Facebook account to update friends and ministry colleagues throughout the state with his personal experiences.

He said phone calls from ministers throughout the conference and from Bishop Charles Crutchfield helped sustain them as they, in turn, ministered to those around them.

“We knew our connection in the conference, but our connection in the United Methodist Church goes even beyond our conference,” he said.

In addition to help from other United Methodist churches, various ministries and governmental organizations, including the American Red Cross, Washington County Emergency Management and Rebuilding Northwest Arkansas, set up at the church to provide resources to people in need.

The Prairie Grove Telephone Company even set up a temporary phone at the church for use during the disaster.

Stacy Smith, camerman
with KNWA,
fillms as Janet McElroy
sorts food donations
at Cincinnati UMC
on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2011.
Janet McElroy of Fort Smith grew up in the Cincinnati community. After learning of the tornado and efforts to turn the church into a community resource, she decided to lend a hand.

She spent much of the first weekend after the tornado sorting the donated items flooding into the church.

“I think this is wonderful,” McElroy said. “You can see the love of Christ.”

She said watching people work together to support their neighbors helped reinforce that people still care about others.

“I have never seen such devastation,” she said. “But I love how the community came together [to help].”

Looking ahead
As the immediate needs of the community were met, Newbill turned from recovery to rebuilding efforts.

Now, with the help of community leaders, he is working to raise and distribute funds to those impacted by the storm.

In addition to using $10,000 provided by the Arkansas Conference Disaster Fund, the church established a Cincinnati Disaster Fund through Arvest Bank to help streamline donations pouring into the community.

By mid-January, the Arvest fund totaled more than $40,000.

Newbill said he hopes to distribute funds to people in need, especially those without adequate insurance or financial resources.

Online donations can be made to the Arkansas Conference Disaster Fund at These funds are distributed through the Bishop’s office to help meet the needs presented by the disaster. One hundred percent of all donations made through the Conference fund are used for disaster relief.

UMCOR training made the difference
Andy Newbill said one thing helped him successfully care for his congregation and community in the aftermath of the Dec. 31 tornado: his decision to become certified as an UMCOR early response team (ERT)member, through training provided in 2010 by the Northwest District.

“It gives you an idea of what a disaster involves and what you should not do—which is probably more important than what you should do,” Newbill said.

Since Northwest District disaster coordinator Denni Palmer began leading the training in 2009, approximately 40 lay members and clergy have completed the one-day course to become certified ERT personnel, deployed by the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) after the emergency phase of a disaster has ended.

Palmer and other district disaster coordinators are working to schedule more ERT training events.

“[We] hope more people will make it a priority to attend,” she said. “You might never be deployed to help in a disaster, but you will gain an understanding of how to better help.”

For information about upcoming training events, or to volunteer in Cincinnati, contact Palmer at or 479-248-1218.

Editor's Note: These articles first appeared in the Feb. 4 issue of the Arkansas United Methodist newspaper. You can read it online at:
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...