Baking Bread & A Free Book for Advent

Today we welcome Thomas Turner, of Everyday Liturgy, 
Who shares about bread, Advent, and his new free e-book!

I love baking bread.

I love the messy hands, the flour on your shirt, the kneading and scraping and careful watching so that you get the crust and the crumb just perfect. I have this great recipe that makes bread that is warm and crackly goodness. It gets rave reviews. Yet it takes a lot of time. Over 24 hours!

For times when we just need bread and have not prepared, we have a great quick bread recipe we found on Pinterest that only takes a few hours. That recipe makes some good bread. But to get great bread, fantastic bread―the kind that makes you feel like you really could live on bread and water alone―you need a time of preparation to make that kind of bread.

Page 1We all know what Christmas should be like. I am certain all of us have the Christmas season and its routines so ingrained in us that we can pull off a nice Christmas party or a rendition of the Christmas story without stressing out too much. But to have a great Christmas, one that is profound and worshipful, we need to prepare. Like great bread, the difference between having a good Christmas and a meaningful Christmas is going to be how we prepare.

The “O Antiphons” are one way that Christians for over 1500 years have been preparing their hearts, souls, minds and bodies to celebrate the coming of Christ at the first Advent, Christmas. To help you and me prepare (Lord knows I need this as well!), I am releasing the prayer book O Antiphons: Prayers for the Advent Season starting today. In this book, I have given a fresh reading of the O Antiphons, along with an Old and New Testament scripture reading and a meditation with discussion questions to guide you during the last week of Advent. From December 17th to December 23rd, you can use this prayer book to prayerfully come into the presence of the baby Jesus, born of a virgin, fully God and fully human in form, who is Wisdom in the flesh, our Lord, the Savior promised from David’s line, our Eternal Light, the King who unites all peoples and our Emmanuel, the God-who-is-with-us.

Starting today, you can pick up your free copy of O Antiphons: Prayers for the Advent Season on Noisetrade. And if you are truly in the Christmas spirit, all of the Noisetrade tips I receive on the book will go toward a nice gift for Jana Miller, who contributed awesome illustrations that you can turn into Christmas or Jesse tree decorations, and toward ending everyday violence against the poor.

Have a Blessed Advent and Merry Christmas!


Thomas Turner is the Strategic Partnerships Research Manager at International Justice Mission and curates Everyday Liturgy, a source for worship and liturgical ideas. He is happy to be living back below the Mason-Dixon line again after a lengthy sojourn in the NYC metro area. You can follow Thomas online, on Facebook and on Twitter.

When Conviction Intrudes on My Plans

I am a convert to the Catholic Church.

One of the things that first attracted me was the Church’s universality, both historical and geographical. I take the Church’s unbroken presence since the apostolic age and its world-wide ministry both to be strong evidences for its claim to be guided and protected by the Holy Spirit. I love the way that the Church has “baptized” cultures, using existing customs to present the Gospel in familiar ways to new peoples, and the way that it has fostered and protected real diversity of worship from country to country. We have surrounded our children with images of Christ from many different countries and times, showing them how much richer our understanding of Our Lord is because of the diversity of presentations.

But I recently learned that my love for the universality 
of our Church ends when it impinges on my Sunday plans.

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The Joy of a Large Family & Being Year-Round Neighbors

Every 4th of July our neighborhood has a parade. It’s a small event, spearheaded by one family, that consists of maybe 40 people walking down the street behind a “Happy 4th of July!!!” banner, to the tune of “Stars and Stripes Forever,” playing on a boom box in one of the banner carriers’ hands. The parade takes about ten minutes, and then we settle in the neighbor’s lawn to eat red, white, and blue popsicles and chat.

Our four children, five years and under, love it. They have not been to a “real” parade before, so they are very easily impressed. And, really, they should be. This parade gets everyone in our block out of our houses and into conversation… even us, who are not nearly as neighborly as we should be.

The parade always gets me thinking about community and neighborhoods and my failings with regards to both. But this year I had a conversation that drove this home for me in a new way.

With four pre-school aged children, it’s rare that I leave the house without receiving at least one comment from someone about our family size. The comments are almost always some version of, “My, you sure have your hands full, don’t you?” or “You must be very busy!” I nod, smile, move on, have never thought much about these comments, and have certainly come to expect them. But this year I got a new one: “You have four children? You poor, poor woman!”

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Why I Run

I am a runner.

I use the term “runner” loosely. Maybe a jogger? A really fast walker? No, I choose to be called a runner. I may look like a turtle trudging through peanut butter, but in my heart, I’m a runner. I’m not good at it, I don’t look good doing it, but I love it. It’s taught me so many things about myself over the past year I’ve been doing it.

One thing I’ve learned is that I prefer to run with others. Whether it’s the distraction of conversation, the encouragement passing between my partner and I, or the need to go just a few more steps so as not to look like a wimp, I always do better with another runner at my side.

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A World Community

Recently, a group of young people and adults from our church returned from a mission trip to Costa Rica where they came alongside a missionary family, painting, and doing whatever they could physically. The amazing thing about the report they gave was how often they remarked that the most important thing they did was simply visit! You know what I mean – just spend time with them. How often the missionaries felt alone there. And what surprised the team was when Mark, our missionary, remarked that our church has supported his family, his parents and now him, for 50 years!

Scripture tells us that when we give financially, we reap the harvest as much as those who are physically present doing the work. Friends, that makes us family!

Nationwide, church budgets allot about 2% for missions. I am blessed to be a member of a church which gives 35% of budget to missions. I am excited about that, but the point here is this: because we are involved as a church family with so many missionaries, and because we are an independent church who personally selects and gets involved in the lives of those people, we are a world-wide community located in a small town in western Pennsylvania.

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Neighbors to the Rescue: Guest Post Wednesday (Sort Of)

In last week’s guest post, Heather wrote about the importance of knowing your neighbors: cultivating community, watching out for each other, and caring for each other.

One commenter on that post wrote, Our neighbors across the street just asked us to water their garden when they are out of town next week. In return they are sharing their fresh veggies. I see this as a win-win!

On that same day, one of my childhood friends posted this on Facebook: So apparently borrowing a cup of sugar from your neighbor is a real thing! Dummy me decided to start making lemon bars without checking to make sure I had enough sugar first 😦 Luckily, [my neighbors] are the most wonderful neighbors ever! THANK YOU!

Her mom replied to the Facebook thread, I borrowed 1/2 tsp. of peppermint extract for a special dessert from a neighbor last week … neighbor generosity and hospitality is alive and well.

And then another friend replied, Yay for awesome neighbors! My neighbors and I are always borrowing eggs, sugar, milk, and other ingredients from each other. I love my neighbors too!

What about you? Do you love your neighbors?

I, for one, feel no shame in calling up our neighbors. Off the top of my head, I can think of times I’ve borrowed butter, eggs, thread, a sewing machine, and even a vacuum cleaner last week when ours broke. We exchange watering duties in our gardens during the summer, keep an eye on each other’s mailboxes while on vacation, and call when door-to-door sales people, proselytizers, or bug exterminator are in the vicinity. And, because I know where their spare key is, I’ve even been called on to turn off the stove or oven a handful of times, when my neighbor has taken longer running errands than expected.

So, now it’s time for your responses–

Tell me, how well do you know your neighbors? Would you call them up when you’re stuck with a recipe, or would you drive to the grocery store? Have your neighbors ever rescued you?

Guest Post Wednesday: Neighborly Love

Welcome back to Guest Post Wednesdays, which were on hiatus during Lent. Check out the “Guest Post” link above if you’ve got something you’re interested in sharing in a future week. Trust me, I’d love to feature your story! Remember that as a weekly initiative, it only works if you’re willing to share your own stories of community.

This week’s post comes to us courtesy of Heather Villa, who blogs about literacy here, and has a variety of interests. Reading marvelous books with her family are her most cherished moments. She shares freshly baked scones, indulges in occasional soy lattes, and spends time in flower gardens. Enjoy!

“Love your neighbor” is one of God’s commandments. Yet how many people take the time to get to know their neighbors?

One late winter morning, I answered the phone. My neighbor asked, “Are you okay?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“Well, your curtains are usually open by now. They’re still closed.”

Admittedly, I didn’t open my curtains because I was in my pajamas. Typically, my family gets going early in the morning. My neighbor across the street noticed that something was different and checked on my family.

Each interaction with a neighbor reminds me that the relationships formed far surpass the fresh produce, homemade cookies, and shoveled snowy sidewalks.

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Guest Post Wednesday: Celebrating Friends, Covenants, & Community

As I consider phasing out guest posts at Texas Schmexas all together–because, quite frankly, it’s just too much headache trying to convince you all to write something down even though you tell me stories about community all the time–there has been one person who consistently has been willing to churn something out in response to my desperate pleas. That, friends, would be my dad. 

When my friend Ed and his wife renewed their wedding vows, they invited my wife Gail and me to join them. I didn’t realize at the time that the event would be held in a very plush location, The Hershey Resort, and we would not only be their guests but they paid for everything. From the check-in where we were given a gift bag of goodies including, of course, lots of Hershey’s chocolate, to our final walk through The Hershey Gardens, we were treated as royalty.

During this weekend, Gail and I had a lot of time with Ed and Anne’s children and extended families. It was really good to see the personal side of our friends through our interaction with their family as well as get to know them both better.

At the time, I didn’t realize how much the invitation meant to me and how it really cemented our relationship.

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Guest Post: It Takes a Village (and an Ironed Cape)

Our guest post this week comes to us from the Carolinas, with special thanks to our cousin Keri. Here she shares some words of wisdom from a young mom about the need we all have–even those of us, or perhaps especially those of us, who try to do it all ourselves–for community. Enjoy!

“It takes a village to raise a child.”

We’ve all heard that. I personally hate that quote. I don’t want to believe I can’t do it on my own; I mean, I’m Mom, right? Moms can kiss boo-boos while simultaneously popping a souffle in the oven and vacuuming the living room, our capes blowing behind us in an ever-present breeze. Moms have super-human powers, like acute hearing, eyes in the back of their heads, and, on occasion, have been known to see through walls.

So, I’ve decided to alter that quote to one a little more true for myself: “It takes a village to raise a mom.”

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Guest Post Wednesday: Visiting in 3D

My dad wrote this guest post after visiting with my brother’s family, including the new grandbaby, out west last week. Here he muses about the difficulty of substituting electronic and social media communication for an old-fashioned, face-to-face visit.

It had been less than a year since Gail and I visited with our son, daughter-in-law, and only grandbaby in their home in Washington state. Because we live in Pennsylvania, we try to Skype each week so we can talk to them and see their faces and—most of all—so Myka can get to know her long distance grandparents.

It is always a delight to hear Myka’s sweet voice, “Hi, Grandma. Hi, Grandpa,” when she sees our faces on the screen. It always makes my old grandpa heart go pitty-pat!

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