Saturday, December 9, 2017

Chocolate Coconut Joys


Do you love dark chocolate? Coconut? What about home made Mounds bars? You don't need a culinary degree to make these candies--they are easy peasy!



I think it's time to pull out an old card from the recipe file--something easy, quick, inexpensive, and that the kids can help with (if you want). But there's one more reason this recipe is a favorite of mine. It's the recipe for a confection that tastes very much like a Mounds Bar.
Do you remember those? Oval shaped bars with a creamy coconut center covered with dark chocolate. Mounds bars make me think of my dad.
When I was very little, my dad worked swing shifts and graveyard shifts so was home during the day with me. Mom worked days as a presser at a dry cleaning plant about a mile from our home. It wasn't unusual for mom to be out of the house and at work before I got up in the morning, so her return home in the afternoon was a joyous occasion for me.
Daddy and I would walk, hand in hand, down the hill toward the dry cleaners to meet her as she walked home.
About three blocks from our home was a penny candy store. We passed by it every day and once a week, on pay day, I would be given 3 pennies to use for anything I wanted in the penny candy store.
With 3 pennies you could purchase 3 small pieces of ordinary candy. Or you could buy one piece of really amazing candy. This was a very important decision--one not to be taken lightly! Three pieces of candy might sound like a much better choice than one, but oh, those 3-cent pieces of candy were so wonderful! My favorites were crisp little wafer cones filled with spun sugar, Rollos, nonpareils, and little Mounds Bars.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 3 cups coconut
  • 2 oz. dark chocolate, melted (at least 70% cacao)
  1. In a large bowl mix butter, sugar, and coconut. Shape by rounded teaspoonfuls and placed on waxed paper lined cookie sheet.
  2. Make a small dent in each mound (with your finger or the handle of a wooden spoon). Fill the indentations with chocolate. Chill until firm; store in the refrigerator.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Christmas Crafts with the Kids

Candy-Coated Pretzels


I've noticed that candy-coated pretzels are showing up at many of the local coffee stands--they look amazingly decadent, enrobed in chocolate (white, milk, dark, or all of the above), and covered in sprinkles, crushed candy canes, or a contrasting chocolate drizzle. And....they're EXPENSIVE!

Why? I think these would be soooo easy to make and a great activity for the little people in your life. So gather your kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews or the kids next door and see how creative you can be.


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Thanksgiving Thoughts on Stewardship: The Gift of Treasure (Part 4)

The Stewardship of Treasures
It seems that all people talk about these days is the financial crisis faced by our nation and the global economy. These issues are not just a concern on Wall Street. They affect all of our lives. Whether your own your home or rent, have a job or are retired, whether you have outstanding debt or pay off your credit card balance each month—the current economic turmoil will impact all of us. And, here at Faith, we are faced with great challenges in the day-to-day operation of our church and school as well. Our every day ministry needs the support of you, our family, to accomplish the mission you have asked us to do. But…
Does God need our money?
When I was a child, the best part of Christmas was the gifts, the anticipation of what was under the tree. But now that I’m older, I’ve become much more excited about GIVING than receiving. I put a great deal of thought and effort into the gifts I select. And I look forward to Christmas morning to watch the reaction of my loved one as he or she opens that special just-for-you gift. Two thousand years ago our Heavenly Father gave us a gift. Paul tells us in Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the GIFT of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Let’s take a moment to unwrap that gift, to see what God really gave us when he gave us his Son. Jesus purpose, his mission was conceived of even before the beginning of the world. Jesus’ life did not begin in Bethlehem. He always was, is, and forever will be.
“He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.”
(1 Peter 1:20).

He is the great I AM. Jesus came to this earth for one reason—to redeem YOU. Jesus did what no other person could do—he was totally blameless and without sin, and so could take our place before the judgment of God the Father. Because Jesus conquered sin and death for us, we are no longer separated from God—we are a part of his family. “We are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.” (Romans 8:16-17).
So, when we open this GIFT, what should our reaction be?
Have you ever given a gift to someone that was not well-received? The anticipation in their eyes turned to disappointment or even ingratitude as soon as the wrapping paper was torn away? How can we live our lives as though God’s perfect gift is really important to us? In Proverbs 23:26 God says “My son, give me your heart.” God doesn’t need a gift FROM us—His concern is with the “giver”.
In the words of Martin Luther “What does this mean?” It means that we need to change our focus from giving TO the church to giving FROM our hearts.
“With his own hands he is to bring the offering made to the Lord by fire….” (Leviticus 7:30).
If asked “what is your favorite book of the Bible?” I doubt you would say Leviticus. It’s filled with long, detailed descriptions of laws and rituals taught by Moses to the Israelites as they sojourned in the desert. But in reading it we learn something about the things that were important to the people looking for the first Promised Land. A certain phrase appears again and again--”Bring an offering” (Leviticus 1:2, 2:8, etc.). These chapters detail many of the ways the people were asked to give to the Lord.
Leviticus 7:28 describes the fellowship offering--an expression of thanksgiving or gratitude--to be brought to the tabernacle “with (one’s) own hand.” In other words, it was not something to be delegated to someone else. One who wanted to acknowledge that he had been blessed expressed his thanks by bringing the offering himself to the priest. Through this offering, the Israelites were reminded of a deeply personal element to their expression of faith and generosity. Part of this offering was to go to the priests.
So what does this mean to us today? At the core of the spiritual life of any group of people, there must be some degree of organization and some people appointed to keep it going. Giving to the Lord means giving to this “spiritual overhead”, the money needed to support the work you have asked us to do.

Loving Family with Your Treasures
You may wonder how managing your family’s finances fits into a discussion about Stewardship. Our families are another wonderful gift God has given to us, and thus are deserving of our attention, time, and devotion.
But what is a family? Today that might be a single person living on his or her own, a family unit with husband and wife, a larger grouping with parents or guardians and child/children, a multi-generational unit with grandparents, a blended family with half- or step-siblings, or a widowed or divorced person.
No matter what type of family you live in, our God wants you to provide for yourself and those in your care, and to be financially responsible—setting aside enough to share with God, family, and self, and to plan for the future as well. So, where do you begin?
Make changes today:
1.       Create a written budget--You must create a sound budget based on the amount of money that you have coming into the household. Then consider the expenses that must be paid out. After you designate how much must be paid to each expense, you will have a good idea of how much money you will have left over after each pay day.
2.       Talk with your creditors—If you are having problems paying your bills, pray, and then contact your creditors. Most are willing to work out payment arrangements. Don’t ignore their phone calls and letters.
3.       “Find the holes in your pockets”-- Determine where you are spending money foolishly. Do you really need to have a latte every day and/or that fast-food meal? Are you giving away money by making only the minimum payment on your credit cards?

Here are some small changes you could make that, over a year’s time, will make a big difference in your finances:
·         Clip coupons. Even if it’s just 25 cents—use 4 once a week and you’ll have $52.00 more to spend.
·         Buy a crock pot (slow cooker). A good-quality cooker costs less than $20.00 and will “do the cooking for you” while you are away from home.
·         Cook on the weekend for meals during the week—this will eliminate the excuse for the fast-food scramble at 6:00 p.m. (“I don’t have time to cook!”)
·         Brown-bag your lunch—lunch out 5 days a week really adds up. What about taking a PBJ, or take an apple and yogurt, or what about the leftovers from last night’s dinner? Not only is taking your lunch less costly, it’s also healthier.
·         Be aware of unit pricing in the grocery store. One 12-ounce package of pasta for $1.50, or a one-pound package of pasta for $1.75—which one is the better buy?
·         Get radical! Sell some of those things that you don’t use at a yard sale, on Craig's list, or through Ebay.
Make changes for tomorrow:
·         Save for emergencies—just $10 a week can make a difference if you stick with it.
·         When your outstanding debt is in control, begin to save for your future. Does your employer offer a 401k? If so, take advantage of it—many employers contribute matching dollars.
The truth is that if we know God, then we know He will open doors, He will make a way for
blessings to flow. He will take care of us. Too often we say “I’ll respond tomorrow, I’ll give later, I will volunteer to help when I have more time.”
Tomorrow may never come. We need to trust God today. We need to live life like the widow, who as bad as things looked, knew she could depend on God to take care of her. She was blessed in her giving. She walked away satisfied even though she gave her all. She walked away knowing that God loved her.

I pray that you and I can live that way too. I pray that we will know that God loves us and that he will provide for us, so we can respond and share generously.

When we give our time, our offerings, our talents, our gifts, our love, God turns around and gives it back to us as something beautiful, something for us, and something for the kingdom on earth that He is building.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Thanksgiving Thoughts on Stewardship: The Gift of Talent (Part 3)

The Stewardship of Talent
Love Requires our Spiritual Talents
“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” --(Romans 12:4-8)
What a beautifully written illustration of the body of believers! According to St. Paul, each one of us has a unique purpose. Just as the human body is composed of many inter-related parts, each equally important to the body as a whole, so too the body of believers is composed of many parts—these parts have different functions, different uses, but all are vital to the body of believers.
What are Spiritual Talents?
So what are these gifts of which St. Paul writes? A gift or “talent” is not necessarily something at which we are very skilled. Too often we think that being talented means being extraordinary.
This is not a discussion about being able to draw a picture, carry a tune, or balance a check book. Being a good steward of our talents means using whatever God has given us to the best of our ability to build up His Kingdom—giving our love to our families, our neighbors and friends, and to our Heavenly King. We each have a special combination of aptitudes and abilities, interests and passions, skills and experiences that make us who we are and equip us for what God needs us to do.
So you can’t draw a picture, carry a tune, or balance a check book? That doesn’t matter. God will make whatever He gave us “enough” to fulfill His plan if we generously share the gifts we do have with others. God made each of us in His own image and likeness, and yet unique in all the world.
As Christians we recognize that our gifts of talents are meant to be cultivated and shared with others, beginning with our family and friends, with family of believers, and with the world. God can make what little we have to offer go a long way. Time after time in the Scriptures God takes what is offered and extends its reach far beyond what anyone can imagine. Here is a list of talents; how many of these do you recognize in yourself?
1.        Administration:  The ability organize, delegate, and motivate people in such a way that what needs to be done gets done. 
           
2.        Serving (Arts/Crafts): Artistic ability and creativity.
             
3.        Evangelism:  The ability to present the Gospel message.

4.        Exhortation:  Being able to bring words of comfort and consolation, encouragement and counsel to others.

5.        Faith:  The ability to see something that needs to be done and believe that God will do it even if it looks impossible.                                   

6.        Hospitality:  Willingly opening ones home to others, and cheerfully offer lodging, food, and fellowship.            

7.        Intercession:  Praying earnestly and with persistence, knowing that there will be positive effects as a result.

8.        Showing Mercy:  Feeling genuine compassion for suffering individuals and to translate that compassion into Christ like deeds that are cheerfully done to help alleviate the suffering.

9.        Music:  Using one’s vocal or instrumental talents to praise God.

10.      Writing:  Being able to inform, encourage, instruct, or entertain readers clearly, effectively, and concisely with the written word.      


That’s not the entire list, but it’s a good start. Do you see anywhere that you could fit in? Consider the Five E’s

1.       Explore the possibilities.
2.       Experiment with as many as possible. 
3.       Examine your feelings. When you experiment with a gift and enjoy using it, that is a good sign.
4.       Evaluate your effectiveness.  As you use your gift(s) you should see positive, though not necessarily fabulous, results taking place.

5.       Expect confirmation from others. 


PART 4 (Final) Tomorrow





Sunday, November 26, 2017

Thanksgiving Thoughts on Stewardship: The Gift of Time (Part 2)

The Stewardship of Time

Time is a blessing . . . a valuable yet limited treasure God places into our lives. Re-ordering your time may be a key factor in allowing you to express and enjoy the kind of life God wants for you. That means understanding your calling and how it fits into the minutes, hours, days, and years of your life.
Your calling is intertwined with being stewards of the relationships God has entrusted to you. It is lived in the different roles you have right now through which you serve God and where “the common order of Christian love” becomes real.
Love is key, and love takes time.
Loving God (the most important priority) with Your Time
Relationships are gifts from God, and none is greater or more important than the relationship with our heavenly FatherIn the middle of all the distractions of the world, he tells us to seek him with our whole being in order to intimately know him and know the full life.
Make Bible/devotional reading and prayer a priority for your relationship with God. If you don’t pick a specific time, it probably won’t happen. If you are driven by lists and calendars, make it a daily appointment. If it is new to your routine, start with small steps (five minutes a day). Starting the day with God gives him first place in our schedules and can set the direction and attitude of the rest of the day. Ending it with him renews the spirit. Let it start as a discipline and grow into a desire.
Loving Family (where we model Christ for each other) with Your Time
We show relationships matter when we give them attention and spend time with them. God placed us into families. The relationships in families are foundational to God’s loving care for us and impact our understanding of him.
Unfortunately, we experience too many broken or damaged family relationships today. The family landscape often looks like a field of dented up, rusted out cars with missing parts rather than what was intended: a showroom of God’s love.
Fatigue and time pressure are two factors that often affect families. More than previous generations, men and women today find themselves caught in the tension between job, family, church, school, and entertainment/hobbies/leisure time.
Stewardship is investing ourselves in caring for the gifts God has entrusted to us for his purposes. Near the top of that list is the gift of a family (just under the supreme importance of our relationship with God).
Time is the framework in which we carry out our different callings in family life. Being faithful stewards requires examining our lives and determining how to best invest ourselves into our family in a way that pleases God.
It is time to be serious about family―as spouses, parents, and children―and begin with our own families to reverse a negative societal trend.
Loving Neighbors/coworkers/friends (where we shine as lights to the world) With Your Time
No matter where we turn, our stewardship is about relationships―with God, family, the body of Christ, and neighbors. It is important to be aware that everything you say and do is a witness for or against Christ’s love. That includes the way you handle problems, frustrations, delays, and disappointments. It includes your reactions to those around you. Do you show yourself as gentle or judgmental? When feeling the pressure of time and stresses are you rude and bitter or polite and patient? Christ’s love drives us to make the most of every opportunity to use our time wisely to communicate his love which drove him to die for us.
Do everything without complaining." (Philippians 2:12).
"And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:3-6
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.” Philippians 2:14-15

Jesus tells us, his followers, that our lives are to be salt and light to this world. In order for “neighbors” to benefit we have to be visible so that the light can shine for them―that they may see our lives and praise our Father in heaven for what they receive from him.
One of the hard things for us to remember about life is, “It is not about me.” I am not the center. God is. He built this relationship with us from the ground up. He redeemed it from ruin through his Son. Now he says, “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind.” That is where I come to more fully delight in the richness of this relationship and grow in my relationship with others.
You can’t go back and change the past, but with an eye to the future, you need to live in the moment. You have the tool of time now. You have 1,440 minutes every day to help you live out your calling as a child of God lavished with Christ’s love.


PART 3 Tomorrow

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Thanksgiving Thoughts on Stewardship: Paying it Forward (Part 1)



Last Thursday our Nation celebrated Thanksgiving Day, a time that we reflect on all of the blessings we have as individuals and as a country. I think the best way to show thankfulness is to give back. Some people refer to this as paying it forward.  I think of it as Stewardship.

A few years ago I wrote a book for my church entitled “Living Stewardship”. I’ll share a few of the key points with you here.



Stewardship--Living a Life of Love
Stewardship is not just another word for giving, it’s not a source of income for the church, nor is it an obligation. Stewardship is your response to the love of God, and stewardship doesn’t start in your life until it starts in your heart.
Consider this. Every structure, no matter what it looks like, begins with the same thing. It is, in fact, the most important piece of the structure--the foundation. As Christians, our foundation is built on God. If you don’t know God, then there is no reason to even consider the question of stewardship. You will naturally think that everything you have is yours, everything you earned is yours and everything you can get will be yours. There is no one else to think about. But, if you have God as the source of your life, as the creator of the ends of the earth, as the lover of your soul, then you have to pause and think about what He wants.

So if we recognize God as the author and creator of life, then we need to understand that we are living in His creation. The book of Genesis says that God created the heavens and the earth even before He created us. Then he created humanity and gave us dominion over all things. In other words, it was His creation and He asked us to manage it for Him. Do you remember the story of the feeding of the 5,000?
“When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
Jesus said, “Have the people sit down”(about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.” (John 6, selected verses)
So you see, God can make what little we have to offer go a long way. Time after time in the Scriptures God takes what is offered and extends its reach far beyond what anyone can imagine.
Perhaps the biggest stumbling block to building a life of Christian stewardship is trusting God. We tend to hold onto things because we worry about tomorrow. And yet God says, “consider the sparrow… consider the lilies…” He has demonstrated His love for us by giving the ultimate gift, His only begotten son. He showed His love for us while we were yet sinners, strangers and aliens. He said I am going to do this to show you my love.

So, what is Stewardship?
What do you think of when you hear the word “stewardship”? Many, if not most of you, will automatically think of money, donations, tithing—but that’s not what stewardship is. Maybe you think it’s “time, talents and treasures.” But no, that’s not stewardship either. Stewardship is not sacrificing, nor is it denying oneself. Dictionary.com says that stewardship is “the responsible overseeing and protection of something considered worth caring for and preserving.”
No, that’s still not correct.
Stewardship is love.
When did love begin? Was it in the Garden of Eden, when Adam first saw Eve? Was it when God formed Adam? Was it when God began the creation of the Earth? The answer is that love has always been. We were always a part of the wonderful plan of God. He knew we would sin, but He made us nevertheless because He loved us.
In the movie Castaway, Tom Hanks gets so lonely that he paints a face on a volleyball and names it Wilson. Having an imaginary relationship with him was better than no relationship at all.
God created us not as isolated beings, but to be in a relationship with others. After creating Adam, God said “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18). Therefore, God gave Adam a gift—Eve. Upon seeing her, Adam sang a song of joy and praise.

Unlike the false gods of other religions, our Heavenly Father not only wants us to have a relationship with each other but with Him as well. We read that Abraham was called a friend of God (James 2:23). We see that “the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11).


PART 2 Tomorrow

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Taco Meatballs and Rice

An easy recipe today. Albondigas-flavored meatballs simmered in risotto-style rice. Comfort food at it's best for a cold wintry day.


Ingredients

  • 1 pound Jennie-Oh Taco-Flavored Ground Turkey*
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup stale tortilla chips pulverized in a food processor to make 1/4 cup fine crumbs
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onion (1 medium)
  • 1 1/4 cups Jasmine rice
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 2 1/4 cups chicken broth

Directions

  1. Combine ground turkey, chips, egg, and milk in large mixing bowl. Form into 1-inch (golf-ball sized) meatballs.
  2. Heat olive oil in large saute pan over medium heat. Cook meatballs, turning occasionally until browned on all sides. Remove from pan and set aside.
  3. Add onion to pan; saute until soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add in garlic and saute for about 30 seconds until fragrant. Season with a dash of salt and pepper.
  4. Stir in rice to coat. Add the wine; cook until rice has absorbed almost all of the liquid, about 1 minute. Add broth; return the meatballs to the pan bring to a boil.
  5. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 20-22 minutes until rice is tender. Taste and add more salt, if necessary.
  6. Serve immediately and enjoy!



*If you do not have "taco-flavored ground turkey" you may substitute the following:

  • 1 pound of 93 percent ground turkey or lean ground beef
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper