Saturday, December 30, 2017

New Twist on an Old Favorite for New Years Day -- Easy Cassoulet


I know that some of you are wondering "what is cassoulet"? Does the name sound French? Well, there's a good reason for that--it is. Cassoulet is an all-day-simmered casserole of beans and meats. A Google-search of recipes will give you numerous variations made with sausage, veal, venison, and even duck confit. It seems that cassoulet is French for "clean out the refrigerator."

But I digress. Many people traditionally begin the New Year with cassoulet. I don't like veal or venison, don't get me started on duck, and I don't have all day. So here is a Readers' Digest version of cassoulet. To a few this might be sacrilege, to me it's just good-tasting, nourishing, savory food that doesn't take all day to cook and doesn't break the bank.

This is the recipe that I created and posted on my blog at Hubpages.

Saturday, December 23, 2017




“He was created of a mother 
whom He created. 
He was carried by hands 
that He formed. 
He cried in the manger 
in wordless infancy. 
He, the Word, 
without whom all human eloquence 
is mute.” ~Augustine

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Power of Words

I love writing. In high school, I took every AP (advanced placement) English course available and was on the fast track for an English major in college. However, I soon recognized that if I did not teach (something I am loathe to do) I would no doubt starve, so I switched majors.
Fast forward “several” decades.
I joined an online writing group named Hub Pages seven years ago. I am passionate about cooking. I write about food and enjoy sharing my recipes. My philosophy has always been that food is more than mere sustenance. Good food (and why waste time on mediocre food?) should tell a story, create a lasting memory. I strive to do that with my writings. Each recipe is accompanied by a story. That is how I use my love of writing today.

The Value of Words

A paintbrush can be a powerful tool. In the hands of an artist is it said that one picture has the value of a thousand words.
Which leads me to wonder--what is the power of a thousand words?
Words have been used to rally nations to their feet or humble empires to their knees. Words can inspire or deflate, they gladden and they sadden.
And when the speaker is gone, those words will endure.

The Gettysburg Address

Four months after the Battle of Gettysburg, President Abraham Lincoln dedicated the site of that horrific conflict as a National Cemetery. Lincoln was not the only speaker that day, but his words are the only ones that we remember (or care to). Famed orator and former Secretary of State Edward Everett delivered a two-hour speech. In contrast, Lincoln's speech, which we call “The Gettysburg Address” was strikingly brief. With just 275 words he reiterated the principles of equality embraced in the Declaration of Independence and began the healing of a nation torn apart by industrial and socio-economic differences.

The King's Speech

“The King’s Speech” won an Oscar for Best Picture. The film presents the story of King George VI’s radio address to the people of Great Britain, telling them that once again their nation would be going to war with Germany.
In this grave hour, perhaps the most fateful in history, I send to every household of my peoples, both at home and overseas, this message, spoken with the same depth of feeling for each one of you as if I were able to cross your threshold and speak to you myself. For the second time in the lives of most of us, we are at war. Over and over again, we have tried to find a peaceful way out of the differences between ourselves and those who are now our enemies, but it has been in vain. We have been forced into a conflict, for which we are called, with our allies to meet the challenge of a principle which, if it were to prevail, would be fatal to any civilized order in the world. It is a principle which permits a state in the selfish pursuit of power to disregard its treaties and its solemn pledges, which sanctions the use of force or threat of force against the sovereignty and independence of other states. Such a principle, stripped of all disguise, is surely the mere primitive doctrine that might is right, and if this principle were established throughout the world, the freedom of our own country and of the whole British Commonwealth of nations would be in danger. But far more than this, the peoples of the world would be kept in bondage of fear, and all hopes of settled peace and of the security of justice and liberty among nations, would be ended. This is the ultimate issue which confronts us. For the sake of all we ourselves hold dear, and of the world order and peace, it is unthinkable that we should refuse to meet the challenge. It is to this high purpose that I now call my people at home and my people across the seas who will make our cause their own. I ask them to stand calm and firm and united in this time of trial. The task will be hard. There may be dark days ahead, and war can no longer be confined to the battlefield, but we can only do the right as we see the right, and reverently commit our cause to God. If one and all we keep resolutely faithful to it, ready for whatever service or sacrifice it may demand, then with God’s help, we shall prevail. May He bless and keep us all.
In just 404 words the King gave his citizens reassurance that their country was on the right course. And he gave them direction--"stand firm and united in this time of trial"--a commission that no doubt helped them feel more in control of an uncontrolled situation.

I Have A Dream

On August 28, 1963, during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered what would be a path-breaking moment for the Civil Rights Movement in America.
I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
The length of this speech – 288 words

Ich Bien Ein Berliner!

If you are over 60 years of age, the words "Ich bin ein Berliner" will have a special meaning to you. Although grammatically incorrect, this phrase was nonetheless powerful. On June 26, 1963, John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States of America, paid a historic visit to Berlin where two years earlier the infamous Berlin Wall had been constructed. Kennedy traveled there to challenge Soviet oppression and to offer hope to the people of the divided city.
In angry, passionate and shockingly undiplomatic language, Kennedy spoke truth to the power of Soviet totalitarianism in the shadow of the horrid Berlin Wall and proudly declared, “I am a Berliner.” No American president since has commanded the world’s attention as John Kennedy did 54 years ago. The length of that speech was 674 words.

And Finally, The Writer's Duty

William Faulkner was a novelist. Much of his early work was poetry, but he became famous for his novels set in the American South, frequently in his fabricated Yoknapatawpha County, with works that included The Sound and the FuryAs I Lay Dying and Absalom, Absalom! One of his greatest professional moments came when he was awarded the 1949 Nobel Prize in Literature. On December 10, 1950, he delivered these 549 words in his acceptance speech:
I feel that this award was not made to me as a man, but to my work--a life's work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before. So this award is only mine in trust. It will not be difficult to find a dedication for the money part of it commensurate with the purpose and significance of its origin. But I would like to do the same with the acclaim too, by using this moment as a pinnacle from which I might be listened to by the young men and women already dedicated to the same anguish and travail, among whom is already that one who will some day stand where I am standing.
Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only one question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat. He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid: and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed--love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, and victories without hope and worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.
Until he learns these things, he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal because he will endure: that when the last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail. 549
(Man) is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write about these things. 

Making It Memorable

What makes a memorable speech? Have you ever walked away from a presentation and asked yourself “What was he talking about?”
It is possible that some great speeches are totally impromptu, but most take careful planning, research, rehearsal, and revision. To help ensure a successful presentation:
  • Start at the end. Yes, write the conclusion first. The last words that you utter will be the ones that your audience takes away with them. Know what you want them to think or feel or do as a result of your speech.
  • Have a point, and repeat it several times. My high school debate teacher instructed us to “tell the audience what you are going to tell them, “tell them”, and then “tell them what you told them.”
  • Use the common principles of story-telling.—Every good story needs a beginning, a middle, and an end.
  • Have clear connections from one main point to the next. Use sentences between them such as, “Now that we have discussed the problem, let’s move on to examine some possible solutions” so the audience doesn’t lose track of where you are going in your speech. And in the conclusion, saying something simple like “In conclusion ... ” or “To summarize what we talked about today... ”
  • Connect with your audience. Think of your speech as a conversation (even though you are the person doing all of the talking). Be mindful of who your audience is and approach them appropriately. Don’t talk down to them, but do make sure that the words you are using will be understandable to them.
  • Don’t lecture or merely recite words. No one has ever gone to bed happily after hearing a bedtime lecture. Tell a story and recognize the difference between “reading” and “talking”. Write your speech so that it sounds more like a conversation.
  • End your speech with a key sentence.
And even the best-written speech will bore an audience to tears (or cure insomnia) if not delivered well. Know your topic. Rehearse, rehearse, and rehearse some more. The last thing you want to do is to constantly refer to the piece of paper before you and drone on in a monotone.
Be lively.
Be memorable.
Recognize the power of words. 

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

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Recycled Cookies

I have a confession to make. Yesterday, I rediscovered the cookie jar in the back of the pantry. I don't know how it got there. My heart breaks thinking of the lonely days (weeks?) it might have spent back there feeling unappreciated, neglected, and alone.


And yes, there were cookies within. Oatmeal cookies with pumpkin kisses. The kisses still look wonderful, but the cookie part is horribly stale. The kisses can be snapped off and are "as good as new," but what about the oatmeal cookie that was left behind?

I can't and won't throw them away; my frugal heart just won't allow that. 

Well, years ago I was lucky enough to get a recipe from my local bakery--Recycled Cookies. (This was long before recyling was in vogue). This recipe is the perfect answer for those times when you have cookies, cake, or (at New Years?) fruitcake that seems past it's prime.



Saturday, November 4, 2017

Being Real


THERE was once a velveteen rabbit, and in the beginning, he was really splendid. He was fat and bunchy, as a rabbit should be; his coat was spotted brown and white, he had real thread whiskers, and his ears were lined with pink sateen. On Christmas morning, when he sat wedged in the top of the Boy's stocking, with a sprig of holly between his paws, the effect was charming.

For a long time he lived in the toy cupboard or on the nursery floor, and no one thought very much about him. He was naturally shy and being only made of velveteen, some of the more expensive toys quite snubbed him. The mechanical toys were very superior, and looked down upon every one else; they were full of modern ideas and pretended they were real. The model boat, who had lived through two seasons and lost most of his paint, caught the tone from them and never missed an opportunity of referring to his rigging in technical terms. The Rabbit could not claim to be a model of anything, for he didn't know that real rabbits existed; he thought they were all stuffed with sawdust like himself, and he understood that sawdust was quite out-of-date and should never be mentioned in modern circles.

The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."


Saturday, October 28, 2017

Free Pattern - Christmas Tree Skirt, Part 3


How are you doing with your Christmas tree skirt? If you have completed all of the wedges, you should have 16 units that look something like this:


Looks a bit ragged, doesn't it? But don't worry. Using your straight edge ruler you can trim the sides to a perfect 1/4 inch. Line up the edge of your ruler with the right side of the segment. Actually, you want the edge of the ruler to extend 1/4 inch beyond the pattern so that, after you trim, you will be left with 1/4 inch of fabric for your seam allowance. 

Here is what that will look like:




a closer look


And then, this is what it looks like when the edge is trimmed.



Much better, don't you think? You will need to do this on all of the pattern pieces, on all four sides. Yes I know, it will take a while, but then we're almost done.

Once all of your pieces are trimmed, it's time to start sewing them together. Line up all of your pieces, wrong side up, on your work table. Place them in order (A, B, C, D, etc.) The right-hand side of Segment A will be joined to the left-hand side of Segment B.

Then the right-hand side of Segment B will be joined to the left-hand side of Segment C, and so on, and so on. 

Be careful to line up the seams on each side. Use your straight pins. My personal experience is that every time I do NOT use pins (because I'm in a hurry), I end up making a mistake; the seams don't align and I have to spend all the time I "saved" (plus more) to rip out the bad stitches, pin, and re-sew.

When all of your segments are sewn together, you should have a tree skirt top that looks something like this:



We're almost finished!

  • Iron the skirt and snip any loose threads. 
  • Iron your lining fabric and place it good side UP on your work surface.
  • Center your tree skirt on top of it, good side DOWN (right sides are together).
  • Pin the skirt to the lining, I pinned at the top and bottom of EVERY segment and in the middle too. 

Here it is, all pinned and ready to sew

And so....I sewed. Your tree skirt is not a complete circle. There are two straight edges so that you can encircle the base of your tree. 


  • Beginning two inches up from the hem, on the right-hand straight side, sew down to the hem. Then sew around the entire bottom hem (going counter-clockwise).
  • Next, you will be stitching up the left-hand straight side,
  • then around the top edge,
  • and THEN, about 2 or 3 inches down on the right-hand side again. You are leaving about 9 inches open so that you can turn the skirt right-side out.
  • Here's a diagram to help you visualize the process of sewing the skirt and backing together.



  • Trim your seam allowances to 1/4 inch (top hem, bottom hem, and straight sides.
  • Turn right-side out. Press lightly.
Here's my completed skirt. I hope you've enjoyed this project; I had fun sharing it with you.