Seeking the Savior

Is Christmas still “the most wonderful time of the year”? Christmas, for those who celebrate it, is probably the time most filled with traditions. We bake cookies, peanut brittle and fudge. We get crafty and make tree ornaments, stockings and … Continue reading

Chili Like This Makes Foodies Warm

For me, any time of year is a good time for soups and stews. I’ve never participated in a chili cook-off to bring my own for competition, but I’ve certainly stood in as a willing judge. I love chili.

It’s taken me years to get a chili recipe just right and what I discovered is I needn’t follow someone else’s recipe. You know me—I cook by-guess-and-by-golly. So here’s how I make my chili. Sort of. The amounts of some of these ingredients will vary, depending on what I have on hand.

Chili, Sort Of

  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 2 cans pinto beans
  • 1 large can tomato paste
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 lb. 80/20 ground beef, cooked and drained
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1-2 t. chopped jalapenos
  • 1 T. chili powder
  • Tomato juice (optional)

Drain and rinse all the beans. Place all ingredients except jalapenos into a large slow cooker. If chili seems too thick, add tomato juice until it’s the desired consistency. Cook on high until chili comes to a slow boil. Stir once or twice to prevent sticking. Turn heat to low setting and add jalapenos. Cook for at least 3 hours until flavors are mixed.

Obviously, the by-guess-and-by-golly is a good idea for making chili. At least in my (cook)book.

I prefer to use dried beans. That way I know what I’m getting. If you do too, you have to make your measurements of the beans according to how much chili you want. I use a cup each of the beans, a little more for the pintos since I like them best for chili. I’ve found black beans take a little longer to become soft compared to pintos and kidneys.

Also, I process garden tomatoes and make my own tomato puree. I use this instead of juice to thin the mixture. In fact, I save the water from the blanching process and can it to use in soup stocks. Rarely does anything go to waste in my kitchen.

Along with chili, I like the cornbread as a side dish. This recipe for Cheesy Cornbread is from a friend who goes by Annie Mae. Since she wasn’t stingy in sharing it with me, I’ll share this one too.

Cheesy Cornbread

  • 1 can creamed corn
  • 1 can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 box Jiffy cornbread mix
  • 1 stick butter or margarine, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c. sour cream
  • 2 c. shredded cheddar cheese

In a large bowl, mix the egg, both cans of corn, Jiffy cornbread mix, butter, and sour cream. Pour into a large casserole or 9 x 13 baking dish. Spread shredded cheese evenly on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Again, I alter the recipe slightly, but only so far as I use my own homemade cornbread mix. In that case, the equivalent to a box of Jiffy mix is about 1 ¼ cups of homemade mix.

Eat hearty!

When You’re Called To Worship

The shepherds had enough light from that encounter to march back into their dark night rejoicing and praising God.

Reference: Luke 2:1-20

When we get the chance late at night, Matthias and I lie on our backs and watch the sky. Marvelous things happen there. High clouds float on a wind we can’t see but feel tugging at our hair. They disappear in wisps trailed by more clouds and we name them by shapes.

We play our favorite game on clear nights when the sky is dotted with stars. Matthias, a pensive fellow, says the sky is poked full of holes for the light of God to shine through. Matthias really loves God; he teaches me a lot. I’m glad I was assigned watch with him in these fields. Living out here can be lonely. Besides, he says things like that about holes in the sky.

We name the stars knowing God has already named them and sometimes we find shapes in those too. That particular night a shape we never expected appeared in the sky.

It was an angel.05_Shepherds_Angels_JPEG_1024

I’m young but I’m not a madman. And there are more witnesses than Matthias and me. We all saw and heard. The stars paled in comparison to the light that shone around that angel. I believe the light of God really was shining then, not just through the star-holes. We were terrified. The sheep began to stir.

But the angel spoke to us and told us to not be afraid. I stepped closer to Matthias anyway; I couldn’t stop trembling.

“I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people,” the angel said. Its voice had a strange tremble as well, but it was clear as a bell on that clear night. Have you ever heard an angel? No, of course you probably haven’t. Oh, it was…fearsome.

But wonderful.

Then the angel spoke a message describing the birth of a baby in the nearby town of Bethlehem. Born to us, the angel said. “Christ, the Lord.”

“The Messiah,” I thought, “the Messiah has come!” Matthias fell to his knees. I did likewise just because I didn’t want to let go of him.

The angel then told us where to find the baby. The fact that the Messiah was a baby born that very night was incredible enough, but he was lying in a manger. That was the end of the message. I was stunned. I had heard it all. There was no doubt I had heard it right. God had surely put it in my heart.

found-watching-sheepThen, even as the angel finished speaking, suddenly the sky filled with them and they began to praise God saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” The sound was just like that of the other angel, a trembling but clear voice and so loud I thought the sheep would bolt and run. Miraculously, they were now still.

We were mute in the angels’ presence and as they finished their chorus of praise they fled into heaven. Matthias and I slowly stood. He recited the Shema; I think out of habit. I believe he was as nervous as I was. We all slowly began to walk toward one another and then ran. We met in a circle and stopped. Josias began to speak but his voice broke.

He started laughing.

Oh yes, laughing. And so did we. How happy were our hearts! No one else can understand the beauty of it. But the lovely irony was not lost on Josias and we knew too. God had chosen we lowly shepherds to be the first to see his Messiah.

“We must go quickly. All of us, even the sheep,” Josias said. “When the Lord calls, we obey.” Everyone was solemn now but still full of joy. Of course we would obey.

The City of David was full of people since a census was in process, but we found our way to the stable. It was small and dark. I cannot imagine why such a place would be the birthplace for this child, but I wanted so much to see him I laid my questions aside.

The mother was young like me. They–Mary and Joseph–were kind and welcomed us. We told them our story and they somehow didn’t seem surprised at the angel’s appearing. They acted as if angels to them were commonplace. Mary nodded knowingly, pondering it.

She unwrapped the baby a little so we could see him. I don’t know what I was expecting; he was just a baby. Nevertheless, he–Jesus was his name–was the Christ. We all kneeled and worshiped him. I have to admit I felt like weeping. I didn’t. I’m the youngest and the men would have laughed at me.

We stayed there a little while and Mary and Joseph inquired about where we were from. I noticed Matthias kept looking at Jesus and at one point wiped a tear. I promised myself not to say anything.

Finally, we left to return to the fields. As we walked out of the city the only sounds were our feet shuffling along the streets and the occasional bleating of sheep. How can you begin to talk about the experiences? Angels lighting up the sky, news of the Messiah and then seeing him like that–so pure? You have to stretch your mind to make it all fit.

When we reached the edge of Bethlehem, Matthias stopped us, sheep and all, and said, “We cannot keep this to ourselves.”

We looked at him, begging with our eyes so he’d continue. “No,” he explained, “The angel said it was ‘good news of great joy for all people.’ In obedience to God, we will spread the news.”

Can you imagine our joyful laughter at that? We began clapping each other on the back and we started right there in Bethlehem. People were amazed at what we told them.

Eventually we returned to our field, but we couldn’t stop talking about it. We praised God for the child and the good news the angels delivered. As we settled into our humble grassy dwelling, we agreed that because of that child’s coming, worship would never be the same.

Excerpt from “Approachable Jesus” by Paula Geister, copyright 2008

Living the Fruit of the Spirit: Self Control

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

I suppose it requires a bit of self-control to write anything about self-control. So, seriously, what qualifies me to write about it? Because this is the fruit of the Spirit I struggle with most. To keep my heart with all diligence as the graphic below instructs, I must be submissive. (Raise your hand if you absolutely love being submissive.)

I believe the fruit of the Spirit don’t come to us in the order they’re listed in Galatians. In other words, we aren’t first given love, then joy, then peace, etc. The Holy Spirit grows each of them simultaneously because we always need each of them to live a holy life.

Certainly, love leads the way. Without the same love the Lord commands, we’ll never understand the other fruit.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.” Matthew 22:36-40 

“The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31  

When Paul the apostle said we would grow in grace according to God’s plan, he was aware of God’s commandment given to the children of Israel. He knew Jesus had also commanded that love each other. “As I have loved you.” “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34

Describing what self-control looks like isn’t easy. We may be exercising self-control without anyone around us even knowing it.

  • At the restaurant buffet, you select only one dessert.
  • Your teenager grumbles about his punishment for breaking the rules and you refrain from threats of making the punishment more severe just because you can.
  • In traffic, although you’re in a hurry, you stop and wave the driver into the lane ahead of you.
  • You decide you don’t need to have the last word.

My default mode is “Self,” so in any given circumstance, without the help of the Holy Spirit, I’ll think of my desires first. The circumstance may be pleasant, or it may be unpleasant, but I’ll find some way to make it all about me. Self-control was—for me anyway—first practiced with a white-knuckle grip. Eventually the Spirit only needs to whisper for me to loosen my grip. I give up what I want for the sake of harmony.

Most good ideas are simple ones. As my relationship with God became deeper, I could see how his ideas are simple; we’re the ones who complicate things. The idea of self-control is simple: it comes down to submitting to God and to others. However, carrying out a simple idea isn’t always easy. When we submit to God, allowing the Spirit to work in our lives, he makes it easier and easier to submit to others until it becomes a natural response.

For my next feat of self-control, I’ll stop writing this blog post before I start to sound like a wind bag.

Be a blessing to someone today.

Praying a Humble Prayer

She prays this earnest prayer when she realizes she is prone to behaving like, as we used to call it, a ‘fuddy-duddy.’ I believe the prayer fits no matter what our age is.

Lord, you know better than I know myself that I am growing older and one day will be old.

Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion.

Release me from craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs.

Make me thoughtful but not moody; helpful but not bossy.

With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all; but you know, Lord, that I want a few friends at the end.

Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point.

Seal my lips on my aches and pains, they are increasing and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by.

I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tales of other’s pains but help me to endure them with patience.

I dare not ask for improved memory, but for growing humility and a lessening cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others.

Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken.

Keep me reasonably sweet. I do not want to be a saint, some of them are so hard to live with, but a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil.

Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places and talent in unexpected people, and give me O Lord the grace to tell them so. Amen

Anonymous Nun, Seventeenth century

 

“The Seven Deadly Friendships” a Review

The Seven Deadly Friendships by Mary DeMuth, copyright 2018, Harvest House Publishers, 208 pages

Recognizing seven types of toxic relationships, DeMuth describes each type with patterns of behaviors to look for in friends who can ultimately destroy relationships. The seven deadly are called Narcissist Nolan, Unreliable Uma, Predator Paige, Conman Connor, Tempter Trevor, Faker Fiona, and Dramatic Drake.

The book impressed me because DeMuth talks in plain language and doesn’t use language intended to prompt guilt or shame, in the reader or the person she suggests we avoid. She just says we should be aware, and if we need to, move on. Her tone sometimes suggests we need to have a forgiving nature toward others, no matter the hurt they cause us.

I read about the characters she describes and related to the problems because I’ve encountered all of them at one time or another. I called them “people who suck the life out of you.” I also related to the problems of each character because I’ve been each of them at one time or another. It was hard to admit that I was also at one time sucking the life out of people. I played Dramatic Drake like I was born to it. *sigh*

So does DeMuth offer any advice? Yes. She includes checklists to identify and evaluate a relationship based on patterns of behavior. For instance, the occasional case of a friend being unreliable is forgivable, but it’s the patterns she says that should send up red flags.

According to the author, red flags also apply to the reader and they should ask themselves if they also display these patterns. For instance, when Unreliable Uma is someone we identify with, we should ask ourselves if we say what we mean and mean what we say. She also helps us to understand why we may be attracting toxic people.

I’ve lived on both sides of the tracks of toxic relationships, so to speak, and the book gave me an opportunity to look at my blind spots. None of us, I suppose, is ever free of these tendencies. The messages in “The Seven Deadly Friendships” encourage us to rely on God to make our decisions about how we respond to others and what to do in each case.

DeMuth uses scripture to explain how to face the reality of broken relationships and how to heal and move on. The last three chapters are guides to finding healthy relationships based on the character attributes of the biblical characters, Jesus and Joseph. The book closes by describing seven life-giving practices.

Living the Fruit of the Spirit: Gentleness

In some Bible translations, the word ‘meekness’ replaces the word ‘gentleness’. Many of us struggle with a clear definition of the word ‘meekness,’ but we know for sure the demonstration of gentleness when we see it. We picture a mother … Continue reading

Living the Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness

  “If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13 In our relationships, we value trustworthiness in people. We want to be able to rely on them. The Holy Spirit grows this virtue in … Continue reading

Living the Fruit of the Spirit: Goodness

Goodness may be defined as “the deliberate preference of right to wrong, the firm and persistent resistance of all moral evil, and the choosing and following of all moral good.” (Easton’s Bible Dictionary) However, goodness is also difficult to define it without using the word ‘good.’

As I continue to learn about how the Holy Spirit works in me to produce fruit, I’m glad that Easton’s dictionary uses verbs like choosing and following because the words imply I need to be aware of what’s going on around me.

When a rich young ruler approached Jesus hoping for a place in the kingdom, Jesus asked him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone” (Luke 18:19)

The Greek word translated “goodness” is agathosune and means “uprightness of heart and life.” While God sees me as righteous because of my right standing with him, I might want to let others make the judgement call about how upright I am in life. After all, Jesus, who is God, gave all goodness to God alone. He could have claimed it, but in his humility, he glorified his Father.

So can I refer to myself that way, or is it up to others to call me good? Jesus told the man that inheriting the kingdom was more than obeying commandments; he was expected to show his heart, then follow.

I also appreciate that, to be considered good, I must be deliberate, firm, and persistent. Indeed, according to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, being good is not a passive quality. The Spirit leads, I listen, I obey.

Ultimately, the fruit of the Spirit called “goodness,” is defined by, as are the others, the Holy Spirit himself as he works in us to make us good. With the Spirit working in us, we’re able to live a fruitful life. We love, we exhibit joy and peace. We act with kindness, and we have the potential to be good.

So far, so good.

Gracious Father who is all that’s good, continue to lead me in the way. Help me to see the life of Jesus as my model, growing in goodness and giving you all the glory. Amen.

Foodie’s Dips and Spreads

Walking through the cracker aisle for saltines, I decided to pick up a couple boxes of snack crackers. I have my favorites and I usually know exactly what I’m going to use for a spread or dip. I mean, you can’t eat a cracker without a spread or something to dip it in. Can you?

I never met a cheese I didn’t like. So today, Foodie presents three dips and spreads with cheese. Their flavors range from zesty to rather mild.

Creamy Horseradish Dip

  • Half pound Velveeta cheese spread, cubed
  • One third cup horseradish sauce or 2 T. horseradish
  • 1 fourth c. milk
  • Microwave ingredients in a one-quart microwave safe bowl on high at 2-minute intervals, stirring each time, until cheese is entirely melted or until you can stir them into a creamy mixture.
  • Makes about 1 and 1/3 cups. Serve with vegetables, chicken nuggets, or chicken fingers. Sometimes I add a dash of hot sauce for a little more kick.

Bacon Cheese Spread

  • 2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 T. finely chopped onion
  • One third c. sour cream
  • 3 slices crisp-cooked bacon, crumbled
  • Mix all ingredients together until thoroughly blended.
  • Makes about 1 one half cups

Serving suggestion

Hot Artichoke and Spinach dip

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • One fourth cup mayonnaise
  • One fourth cup grated parmesan cheese
  • One fourth cup grated Romano cheese
  • 1 clove garlic
  • One fourth t. garlic powder
  • Half t. basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 14 oz. can artichokes, drained and chopped
  • Half cup frozen spinach thawed and thoroughly drained
  • One fourth cup grated mozzarella
  • In a large bowl, beat until smooth the cream cheese and mayonnaise. Blend in the Parmesan and Romano cheeses, garlic, basil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper together in a large bowl.
  • Gently stir in the spinach and artichokes. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking dish. Transfer mixture to dish. Top with mozzarella and bake at 350 degrees until cooked through and bubbly, about 30 to 40 minutes.
  • In addition to the old standby tortilla chips, pita chips and crusty bread are good choices for dipping in this one.

And here’s one that uses dairy, but not cheese, and adds something fruity to your zesty dip choices.

Fruit Dip

Mix by hand 1 cup plain yogurt or sour cream, 1 fourth t. paprika, 2 t. honey and 1 fourth cup crushed pineapple (drained). Chill for about one hour before serving for flavors to blend. You can use the juice from the pineapple to soak apple slices for dipping. Dip the usual fruits or try vanilla wafers. For a sweet/salty taste, dip mini pretzels.