Archives for : October2015

An Alternative to Halloween

Halloween—Hallowed?  Or Heretical?

Americans spend 6 billion dollars a year on Halloween, a holiday that has become second only to Christmas in commercial significance.  Halloween, a contraction of All Hallows’ Evening, or All Saints’ Eve, started out as a Christian observance, or had its roots in pagan Celtic     traditions, depending on whom you talk to.  In either case, Halloween has always been about death.  In Celtic circles, it began with people wearing costumes to ward off ghosts on All Hallows’ Eve.  The following day—All Saints’ Day–was a Christian observance that traditionally honored people who had been martyred for their faith.

Many of us probably have happy memories of trick or treating, or maybe bobbing for apples at an old-fashioned kids’ party.  But once unsuspecting children began finding that their treat bags held apples with razor blades, Halloween took on a sinister bent that has caused  parents to rethink the holiday.  Now many Christian groups have begun offering alternative celebrations.

Not so long ago, martyrdom among contemporary Christians was extremely rare. But now believers are being tortured and killed at an appalling rate.  According to Open Doors, an organization that provides support for believers, Christians are now the most persecuted religious group in the world.

Vatican officials warned the United Nations that in 2012 the worldwide death toll for martyred Christians was 100,000.  These killings don’t get much attention in the press, but British politicians, including their Minister for Faith and Communities and Prince Charles called the rise in Christian persecution a global crisis.

Who would have thought in these “enlightened” times where the protection of human rights is supposedly such a cherished value, that thousands of Christians would be killed for their faith?  Maybe it’s time to bring back the tradition of All Saints’ Eve as a time when churches honor those who have been martyred and pray for the increasing numbers of believers who are languishing in prisons and are being tortured for their faith.

The New Testament book of Acts records the stoning death of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, this way:  But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” . . . While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”  When he had said this, he fell asleep.

By Sharon Sheppard


We might do well to go back to the practice of observing using it as a day to honor Christian martyrs.

Earlier the church established December 28 as a day to commemorate the first Christian martyrs—the babies ordered slain by the wicked King Herod.  Biblical accounts tell of his order to kill all the male babies under the age of two in the hope of killing the baby Jesus.

Hunkering Down for the Long Winter

Hunkering Down for the Long Winter

By Sharon Sheppard

When my Washington friends hear that I’m from Minnesota, they give me a pitying look and predictably ask, “It gets really cold there, doesn’t it?”  or “You get lots of snow there, don’t you?”  One woman said, “I don’t know why anyone would want to live there!”

I could argue with her, but what’s the use?

I could tell her that in a recent ranking of the 50 states, Minnesota ranked second highest in the nation for quality of life.  It ranked highest in the nation for health.

Our poverty rate is one of the lowest nationwide, and the employment rank was 6th highest.  But all that most out-of-staters know about Minnesota is that it gets cold here.

Many Washingtonians (and others across the country) have never known the joys of bundling up (we know how to dress for the weather) and heading for the lake.  What could be more fun than ice fishing from one of those cozy (heated) fish houses that dot many of our 10,000 lakes?  Or tobogganing or cross country skiing or snowmobiling across pristine snow?

Few things taste as good as walleyes freshly caught out of a frozen lake, dipped in egg and crushed Ritz cracker crumbs, and deep-fried.  And few things rival the camaraderie of those frosty evening fish fries filled with laughter, conversation, and singing.

When I was a teenager we used to drive cars on the frozen lakes and ski behind them holding onto a rope that was tied to the bumper.  Not particularly safe, but great fun.

Our house was a little on the small side when I was growing up in northern Minnesota, and bedroom space was limited.  As the only girl in the family, I slept downstairs on the living room couch where it was warmer, thanks to our barrel stove—the main source of heat during those early years.  Dad had fashioned the stove out of a 50-gallon barrel—a common practice in that area.  It had iron legs and a factory-made door, and we burned wood in it.  One chilly night as I undressed for bed, I backed a little too close to the stove.  For the next few weeks I sported a tattoo on my bottom that read Farwell, Ozmun & Kirk—the name of the factory that manufactured the door.

P.S.  The tattoo is gone now, and all that remains are the warmest of memories.



Minestrone Soup

Nothing beats a hearty bowl of steaming soup

on a chilly fall day!


       Mary’s Minestrone Soup


1 # Italian pork Sausage                                 1 T. fresh basil

1 large onion                                                   1 t. fresh oregano

4 large carrots                                                             ¾ t. sweet marjoram

1-2 cans white beans                                      2 cans stewed tomatoes

1 large clove garlic                                         2 cans beef broth



Cook all (but the canned beans) together for a couple of hours…then add the beans and a handful of pasta.


When the pasta in tender, serve up hearty portions of soup with a bit of parmesan cheese on top.




~ MZ

Autumn is my Favorite Time of Year!

By Mary Zigan

Perhaps it is the fresh air, apple orchards, hot cider, campfires, and S’mores. More than that though, I like the way I feel when autumn beckons. In the Midwest we nest in, hunker down, and hope beyond hope we survive what’s coming…the blustery winter.

To capture the feelings that are so fleeting, every day of autumn counts. I think back to when my husband and I had our farm and we would take long walks in the woods together. Sometimes after breakfast Don would say, “Hon, would you like to grab your 4.10 and see if we can scare up some grouse?” I loved our times together in the woods. Guns in tow, we headed for the clump of red berry bushes. That was the most likely place to find these fowls eating. When Don heard a grouse drum, his gun was ready before I could say Jack Sprat. A fowl or two were bagged every time.

Autumn is a gathering time for more than a couple of fowl–although what a delicacy! The summer’s variety of produce needs to be cut, sliced, and diced to preserve all the goodness, and the kitchen once again becomes a hub in my home. Check out the Minestrone Soup Recipe in next week’s blog with fresh tomatoes, basil, and onion.  I think you will enjoy it.

Yes, autumn; beautiful fall sunsets, falling crisp and colorful leaves everywhere. It’s not uncommon to hear Minnesotans say, “Sure would like three more months of this,” knowing full well, it’s not going to happen. It is quite natural for our thoughts to become more centered on our Master artist, who has created a vast Sanctuary displaying His glory.

I am reminded of the Scripture (Psalm 104:24) O Lord, what a variety of things you have made! In wisdom you have made them all. (NLT)