Ode to a Winter Day

Where I live we recently got the first of what will be many snowy days. Sometimes snow is the last thing I want to see when I venture out to go gallivanting. But I do happen to love the way snow falls and lies like a blanket on open fields. I’ve seen snow fall so heavily it seems to be sugar-coating the rows and rows of pines in that open field.

Years ago when I was testing my hand at poetry, this one came out of me. It’s an attempt to describe what I saw one day.

Snow Man
By Paula Geister

Step by step, a monstrous form
All arms and legs and head,
Takes his silent walk to the woods
To rest a bit, to find a bed.

The hulk takes giant steps tonight
On creaking snow like Styrofoam.
His breath is frozen in his beard,
But he presses on toward home.

Winter’s king all alone, he takes
The gloom from shrouded nights.
Stepping into the woods, he makes
The trees absorb his light.

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Fa-la-la-la! It’s Halloween

No matter what you do or feel about Halloween, here’s a little fun for you today.

I got to trick-or-treat as a kid. As I remember it best, I usually wore a mask which made me perspire and in which I couldn’t see (not safe!). It usually rained and my oldest sister resented having to take her young siblings out in the small town we lived in.

But I believe Halloween can be a great time to engage with your community. Be kind and generous to the kids who come to your door. Keep smiling and be a blessing to someone today.

“Fa-La-La, It’s Halloween”

Deck the porch with ghouls and mummies
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!
‘Tis the season for our tummies
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!
Don we now our gay apparel
Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la-la!
As we sing our pumpkin carols
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!

See the children in their costumes
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!
Trick or treat once more re-zoo-ooms
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!
Follow us in merry measure
Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la!
As we gather gobs of treasure
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!

Teachers hope it all soon passes
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!
They’ll see hyper kids in classes
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!
Will we ever learn our lesson?
Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-NOPE!
Candy wins out, Imma guessin’
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-lah…lah…laaah!

HAVE A SAFE AND HAPPY HALLOWEEN

14 Reasons Church Unity Breaks Down

Church Unity has been on my mind again. In fact, the topic came up again in a conversation I had with my mentor last week. We experienced a “split” at my church a few years back and I believe a lack of unity was a leading contributor to the problems at that time.

“I wish we could have a sermon preached once a year based on Jesus’s prayer in John 17,” I said to her. “We need to keep hearing how Jesus prayed for us and how important unity was to Him.”

The link I’ve provided below leads to blog post from Thom Rainer whose site is in my blogroll. I feel compelled to repeat the post from 2015 because unity in the Church universal and in our local congregations is never an out-of-date subject. I realize that I need to keep being reminded how Satan can tear at the fabric of our unity and rip a church family apart.

Unity in the church begins with love.

“By this they will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34

Here’s the intro to that 2015 blog on The Fruitful Life and the link to Thom’s blog.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

Thom Rainer blogs every day about leadership in the church. Many times his topic is meant for the whole body, not just leaders.

That’s the case with this post. I felt compelled to share it, because when we consider our membership in a local church, it should be apparent that in some way, we are all leaders. Jesus meant for us to be examples reflecting Him in the world.

Mr. Rainer has many years of experience in church leadership and assisting churches revitalize and deal with change, something the Church needs today. His posts are always thought-provoking for me. I hope you’ll find this is true for you and that his words will bring answers if needed and most certainly, hope.

Be a blessing to someone today.

Pumpkin Head Foodie

Well, it really is pumpkin season.

And that odd phenomenon called Pumpkin Spice in coffee, ice cream, pudding, bacon, and just about anything you can imagine pumpkin flavor showing up in made its appearance on the scene right around the first of September (at least in my neck of the woods). However you feel about putting that particular flavor in stuff, the idea is here to stay.

I’m sort of a purist. So today I’m giving out a recipe for a pumpkin bread I like to bake. I also happen to use dried cranberries a lot. This is the season for cranberries too so you could maybe use this one for a holiday coming up. They’re coming up in my neck of the woods anyway.

Normally, I’d tell you that you can exchange out ingredients, because you know I do that a lot when I cook. But in the case of baking, I like to be fairly exact. The only thing I can suggest is cutting down on the sugar. Sometimes I do that because I don’t like stuff as sweet as the average Joe/Jill. Naturally, if you’re gluten intolerant, you know what to do.

I like it with the orange juice because it helps the cranberry flavor along.

Mini Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

Makes 5 mini loaves

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1T. + 2 t. pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 t. baking soda
  • 1 ½ t. salt
  • 3 c. sugar
  • 1 15 oz. can pumpkin
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 c. vegetable oil
  • ½ c. orange juice or water
  • 1 c. dried cranberries

Combine flour, spice, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Combine sugar, pumpkin, eggs, oil and juice in small mixing bowl; beat until just blended. Add pumpkin mixture to dry ingredients and stir until just moistened. Fold in cranberries.

Spoon batter into 5 greased and floured 5 x 3 disposable foil loaf pans.

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven  for 50-55 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes then remove to wire racks to cool.

Eat Hardy!

 

Follow Your Heart?

Often, I hear the phrase “Follow your heart” as an encouragement to people to do whatever they think is best based on ‘gut feelings.’ They might also say “Follow your gut.” I believe we all have a conscience given by God and our conscience along with leadings from the Holy Spirit will help us to make decisions based on right and wrong.

And I admit the idea of following my heart used to be something I didn’t think too much about. I know I’ve let even major decisions be based on emotions. Then I became familiar with the Bible and what it had to say about just how poorly my heart acts as a leader in such cases.

Here’s some biblical wisdom I’ve picked up over the years

Jesus speaking in a short sermon: “For each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs aren’t gathered from thornbushes, or grapes picked from a bramble bush. A good man produces good out of the good storeroom of his heart. An evil man produces evil out of the evil storeroom, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.” Luke 6:44,45

“The heart is more deceitful than anything else and desperately sick–who can understand it? I, the LORD, examine the mind, I test the heart to give to each according to his way, according to what his actions deserve.” Jeremiah 17:9,10

“All a man’s ways seem right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the motives.” Proverbs 16:2

In addition to heeding what God says in his Word about our actions, words, thoughts and attitudes, I like this advice from Oswald Chambers.

“The only test as to whether we ought to allow an emotion to have its way is to see what the outcome of the emotion will be. Push it to its logical conclusion, and if the outcome is something God would condemn, allow it no more way.” From “My Utmost For His Highest”

Most of the time, I know exactly what God would like me to do. I know his heart. Since a person’s heart is the seat of emotions, following God’s heart is always the best decision.

Father, I know my selfish tendencies. I ask you to constantly remind me that when I give over to my emotions, I often fail to make right decisions. I want to please you. Guide me with your Truth. Test my heart and lead me in the way everlasting.

Foodie is Stewing

I promised this recipe to friend who was curious. I made it earlier this week because I was in the mood for something substantial, but heart healthy. This turns out to be more of a stew than a soup because lentils soak up so much liquid and because the large veggies aren’t reminiscent of a thinner dish. I usually use brown lentils, but if you aren’t sure what kind you should use in a particular recipe, this might help.

I’m a cook who uses what’s on hand if it works.  I also make substitutions all the time to go along with my own taste and health needs. This stew can easily translate if you want it to. This is the basic recipe; you’ll find some alternative additions/substitutions at the end of the post.

Use your imagination. It’s your kitchen!

Tugboat Lentil Stew

  • 1 lb. dried lentils
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 c. chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 c. sliced carrots
  • 1 c. sliced celery
  • 1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 14 oz. can vegetable broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 lb. sliced chicken sausage (or 1/2 c. shredded chicken)
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1 t. sea salt
  • 1/2 t. hot sauce (if desired)
  • Lemon slices for garnish
  • Red wine vinegar

Rinse and pick over lentils for stones. In a Dutch oven, heat oil till hot. Toss in onion, garlic, carrots and celery. Sauté for 10 minutes or till onion is translucent and vegetables are tender crisp. Add tomato sauce, water, vegetable broth, bay leaves and lentils. Bring mixture to a boil. Cover; reduce heat and let simmer for about 25 minutes or till vegetables are slightly soft. Add chicken sausage and pepper. Cover and let cook another 10 minutes or until chicken is heated through. Add salt. Ladle into bowls and garnish with lemon slices and a dash of red wine vinegar. Serves 8-10.

Meat: I have never used chicken sausage because I can’t find it. I have used ground turkey because I like cooking with it and it’s less fatty. When I use ground turkey in this recipe, I cook it until done in a frying pan with the olive oil first and add some ground fennel. Fennel will give a sausage-like flavor. Experiment with it for your own taste.

Veggies: I’m not a fan of celery so I’ve never used it in Tugboat Lentil Stew. Sometimes, if I have them, I’ll throw in 2 cups of frozen mixed vegetable instead. Or one cup each of frozen carrots and green beans (or peas). I always use onion because what’s a stew without it?

Liquid: I like the flavor we get using tomatoes. But if I don’t have tomato sauce, I almost always have a can of petite diced tomatoes around. A large can is okay because I’ve found that those lentils really soak up the liquid. In fact, I use more broth too. I add it as needed as the stew cooks. Unsalted chicken broth is my favorite because there’s so much sodium in the other types.

Spices/Herbs and Garnish: Bay leaves are a must. It’s a stew, after all. If you don’t like garlic, leave it out. No sea salt? Use whatever kind you have. Remember that with sea salt, you don’t need as much for flavor. I don’t garnish mine. I usually want my stew right away and I’m not so fancy I need that. Although the vinegar sounds good for a little kick. Speaking of “kick,” I’m all for just a pinch of red pepper too. You can add that to the pan when you pour in the liquids.

Enjoy your stew. Would love to hear your comments and if you’re one of those “by guess and by golly” cooks like me.

 

 

 

 

Six Steps for Studying the Epistles

Reading the Bible through in a year as I had done before, I came once again to the epistles. Though I’d read them previously, this time it occurred to me: These are letters from an actual person to actual people. There’s more than just information here; there’s emotion.

I realize that sounds pretty obvious to some people, but now I knew that, in the future, I’d read them differently. The emotion couldn’t have been only on the writer’s part, I thought, because those receiving them must have felt excited to get them.

We’re blessed to have Bibles we can pick up daily and read affirming, convicting and truth-filled messages. The original letters to the churches were often circulated and an individual may have heard the letter only once before it was on its way to be shared with another church. How precious they were. How empowered the readers must have been on receiving those letters.

Letter writing is becoming a lost art. What a joy to savor words on paper from someone who loves us and hopes the best for us. My realizations led me to read the epistles like I’d never read before, as if they’d been sent directly to me. Identifying with the people for whom they were intended, it was exciting. I received fresh insight, higher understanding, and a new appreciation for the first century Church.

These are some practices I discovered for knowing the power of the God’s word.

  1. Pray before reading. Thank God for the person who wrote the letter and that it made it safely to you. Pray that the Spirit will provide power to guide you and encourage you.
  2. Read from a different translation than you normally use. The wording may be just different enough that you get a better understanding of the scripture.
  3. If you underline or write notes in the margins of your Bible, read from one that has no margin notes or underlining so these don’t distract you. If you have none, perhaps you can borrow for this part of your study. If you must write, take notes in a separate journal.
  4. Read slowly and deliberately. Because many of us have read the epistles several times, we can be tempted to read through them quickly. However, familiarity with the text can get in the way. If you were reading a letter received in the mail, it wouldn’t be familiar. You couldn’t anticipate the next phrase and you would have to listen with your heart and mind all the way through. Also, since these letters were originally read to groups, try reading aloud.
  5. Pay attention to the greetings at the beginnings and ends of the letters. The early believers would have been overjoyed to hear these heartfelt words. Some of those mentioned are people the writer traveled with. The inclusion of their names offers hints into co-workers in ministry. Paul quite often did this. Sometimes the writer also included blessings and prayers. These have power to bless and encourage you as they did the original readers.
  6. Pray again when you’ve finished. If God has spoken to you through the writer’s words, thank Him and ask Him to keep revealing truth to you. Confess any sin the Holy Spirit has revealed in your life as a result of reading. Claim God’s promise of abundant life in Christ and share what you’ve learned with someone else.

After reading through the epistles this way, try using some of these ideas for reading other passages of scripture.

Be a blessing to someone today.

Foodie’s Crazy Kitchen

Raise your hand if you subscribe to more than five Foodie blogs. Thank you; I see I’m in good company.

I’m afraid I inject some of personality every time I write a Foodie post. That’s probably a good thing. Last week I gave a friend a heads-up, letting her know today’s subject would again be kitchen tips.

Well, if you consider the following “kitchen tips,” your personality is a lot like mine.

Consider this list of words I associate with creating in the kitchen:

  • Hodge-podge
  • Daring
  • Variety
  • Fun
  • Whisking (I enjoy whisking)
  • Gadgets
  • Spills
  • Putter

Something that springs to mind in addition to all that is “Crazy.” Not the kind that people associate with a mental illness. (And that’s not a good use of the word anyway). This is ‘crazy’ meaning sort of wacky or zany. Like, if someone eavesdropped as you putter in the kitchen, they might be surprised. They might furrow their brow. They might gasp. Let’s hope they see the fun you’re having and giggle.

Crazy Foodies, as far as I’ve seen, get lost in the process. They love going rogue by experimenting. Crazy Foodies sing, hum, or dance while they maneuver in the kitchen because music is often part of the process.

Where are the kitchen tips I promised? All right, here we go. And remember these tips are about being a little crazy in the kitchen, whether they look like it or not.

  1. Keep a well-stocked pantry and fridge
  2. Think outside the box (Wait. I got rid of the box)
  3. If you have kids, get them involved
  4. Use your gadgets to their ultimate potential
  5. Don’t keep too many gadgets around
  6. Clear a large space for your work area
  7. Use recipes for tried-and-true stuff
  8. Try recipes—your own or someone else’s—that challenge you
  9. Don’t try to be a master chef (Relax!)

Because I enjoy experimenting and altering recipes, I can see how having a well-stocked pantry helps me to experiment and be creative. An added bonus is that I can be more methodical.

But does being methodical take away from the fun and spontaneity?

Naah. It doesn’t hurt to have a plan, even if you consider yourself a Crazy Foodie. When you’re somewhat methodical, you give yourself elbow room to be more creative.

Last night, I made cole slaw from what was left of the huge head of cabbage a friend gave me. She’s gluten intolerant and craved some sort of popular Italian-style meal so I made Cabbage Lasagna. My recipe for homemade cole slaw dressing was perfected by thinking out of that box which doesn’t exist in my kitchen.**

In my neck of the woods, we have a couple of Autumn holidays coming up. Foodies get a little crazy making dishes with a new twist. Naturally, I encourage that. In fact, that’s why I follow more than five Foodie blogs. I steal ideas from those writer/kitchen experts.

Let’s get crazy if we haven’t already tried it. If you already practice craziness, invite a friend to come and enjoy the process. Add some peanut butter to the banana bread.  Make some overnight oats that taste like an Almond Joy.

Just do it.

What words do you associate with creating in the kitchen? Would love to hear you chime in. So I can steal your ideas. Thanks in advance for letting me be a Kitchen Burglar.

Eat hardy!

**Truthfully, there is a box. For instance, I don’t do things like put lobster in chocolate fudge.

 

 

“Whatever”

A friend of mine told me that she didn’t believe her testimony would mean much to anyone. She explained that she didn’t think her story would have much impact because she’d been raised in the church and gave her life to Christ when she was quite young. So she didn’t think there was any exciting stuff to tell.

I’ve also heard numerous stories of people who’ve come to faith in Christ when they’re older, having lived a pretty wild lifestyle.

One might say that my friend was saved ‘from’ a pattern of sin and the second person was saved ‘out of’ a pattern of sin.

Whatever.

Please don’t think I take my brothers’ and sisters’ salvation lightly. By saying “whatever” I mean that, although God is pleased that we are now his children, no salvation story is better than another. I say that for two reasons.

The first reason is that both people–the one saved ‘from’ and the one saved ‘out of’–were saved by the same grace and power of the very same God. His love and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is the basis for both salvation stories.

The other reason I say this is because both salvation stories can have impact and both glorify God.

I have friends who’ve seen family members come out of a wild lifestyle to become Christ followers and it convinced them of the truth of the Gospel. But I’m also familiar with a story of a man who wasn’t convinced even after hearing those testimonies. What convinced him was the power of God to enable a person to have no desire to ever enter into a wild lifestyle.

We all have a story to tell. Each one is unique and with value. We need to tell it.

When it comes right down to it, God says we have all sinned and fallen short of his glory. It really doesn’t matter what age we were or what we’d done or failed to do before we came to faith in Christ. We needed the grace he extended. So every testimony matters.

Are you sharing yours?

Fleshing Out a Flannelgraph

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)

When I was a child going to Sunday school in the basement of my church they used “flannelgraphs” to tell Bible stories. A flannelgraph consisted of a flannel-covered board on an easel and cloth Bible characters. The characters stuck to the board as you placed them. Then you’d peel them off and place more characters while telling the story. There was Joseph and his brothers; Noah, the ark and the animals; and of course, Jesus.

The stories I heard about Jesus in Sunday school always made him sound larger than life. He worked miracles healing people and made a little bit of food go around to feed a multitude. He was a pretty awesome Jesus.

Then I’d go upstairs to ‘big church’ and the pastor’s message about Jesus was that he died on a cross for me. That kept Jesus in the larger than life realm. Not knowing exactly what a crucifixion entailed, I assumed it was pretty bad and that I was lucky Jesus would do such a thing for me. The pastor talked about how angry God was about sin and how much I needed his forgiveness. He was a pretty awesome God too, but for different reasons. I made a decision to ask God to forgive me and said a prayer, asking Jesus to come into my heart.

God and Jesus fell into the larger-than-life category for a long time. And there’s nothing wrong with that; they are larger than life. But something was missing and it kept me from really knowing how much I could benefit from the decision I’d made about Jesus. I didn’t know it then, but what I was missing was Jesus with flesh on.

Skip ahead several years. I had become confused and disillusioned by church, leaving it to try my own way of living. I still believed in God, but he wasn’t part of my worldview. Then something happened to create in me a hunger for him and I returned to the church. Because I was hungry for God, I began to read my Bible. In fact, I devoured it. Guess what I found?

I found a Jesus with flesh on.

I don’t remember the folks in the church where I grew up talking about Jesus as a man. They must have, but I was young and mostly hearing the anger part. I never really got a glimpse of Jesus with flesh on until I read about him for myself. As I traveled through Galilee and the Judean countryside with him and his followers I watched him interact with people like a real person would. I saw him express emotions like anger, joy, and grief.

He got tired and slept. He got hungry and ate. He interacted with friends and with some Pharisees (who weren’t always counted among the friendly). He worshiped on the Sabbath. He engaged in normal human activities found easily if you look in scripture.

Maybe it’s the storyteller in me that looks for what’s hidden. I look at more than just the words, and I read between the lines. For starters, he was a carpenter. Imagine Jesus banging his finger with a hammer and getting one of those black fingernails. We know he had sisters and brothers and, though we aren’t told much about his childhood, it must have been a fairly normal one with playtime, chores, and “school”.

Then his ministry began. Look at the loaves and fishes story. After Jesus multiplied the food for the crowds, he sent his disciples on to Bethsaida “while he dismissed the crowd.” (Mark 6:45) Call me goofy, but I see Jesus talking to people as they leave as if he knows them personally. It’s not a “Hey, all of you, clear out of here now” type of dismissal. It’s the type of thing a host would do, saying goodbye to as many as possible and seeing that their needs are met. Anyway, that’s the Jesus I was getting to know.

I got to know this Jesus who was a single man all his life while many his age would have been betrothed or already married. Jesus lost a relative, John the Baptist, to a cruel death and took time to grieve alone before he was called again to minister to the crowds. Jesus’ closest relatives misunderstood him to the point that they tried to manipulate his actions, thinking they knew better what he should do. At a crucial moment, his best friends deserted him. One of his friends took his own life.

After becoming familiar with this Jesus, I realized that I need the God who’s larger than life and truly awesome. But I also need this Jesus who has been human and can understand what it’s like to be me. Many of us have no mate, have grieved the loss of a close relative, are genuinely misunderstood, and have been deserted by a friend.

Jesus with flesh on makes him able to relate to us in every problem and in every success. God wants to get up close and personal. He wants us to know he’s not just a flat personality we peel and stick to our circumstances when we need him. He’s a fleshed-out God who relates to every situation in which we find ourselves. And his desire is that we’ll get to know him as that pretty awesome Jesus.