Worshiping in the Time of a Pandemic

“And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the Lord and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever.’ And when they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come up against Judah, so that they were routed” (2 Chronicles 20:21-22 ESV).

King Jehoshaphat believed God when he said, “the battle is not yours, but God’s.” Like him, when we see a battle before us, praise and worship come before action.

During these times of uncertainty and isolation, I like to remember the attributes and character of God. He is

  • Sovereign
  • Mighty
  • Faithful
  • Eternal
  • Active in the world
  • Loving
  • All-knowing

God isn’t surprised at what’s happening. He didn’t create the situation, but he’s allowing it. The coronavirus pandemic isn’t punishment for sin; it’s another indication that all creation “waits with eager longing” for the fulfillment of his promises (Romans 8: 18-23).

Our responses should be with the wisdom expressed by C.S. Lewis in “The Weight of Glory.” (Where you see the word ‘war’ read ‘pandemic.’)

“I think it is important to try to see the present calamity in a true perspective. The war creates no absolutely new situation; it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure, the search would never have begun. We are mistaken when we compare war with “normal life.” Life has never been normal. Even those periods which we think most tranquil, like the nineteenth century, turn out, on closer inspection, to be full of crises, alarms, difficulties, emergencies. Plausible reasons have never been lacking for putting off all merely cultural activities until some imminent danger has been averted or some crying injustice put right. But humanity long ago chose to neglect those plausible reasons. They wanted knowledge and beauty now, and would not wait for the suitable moment that never comes.” (Learning in Wartime)

Or, as the late Paul Harvey continually reminded us, “In times like these, it is always helpful to remember that there have always been times like these.”

People are saying, “We’re in this together.” Because of our trust in a faithful God, we know for certain that he is with us as well. “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17).

Each of us will find ways to get through the confusion, aggravation, and unsettled feelings as the result of self isolation, an uncertain economy, and death. But God expects us to enter the battlefield and face the trouble. He goes before us and protects us. Let your weapons be songs of praise.

God and Father, you are our refuge and our shield. Give us wisdom to do your will. Help us to not be afraid or be reduced by anxiety. Our eyes are on you. Amen.

Trivia Buff Foodies

The better to see your food The perforated metal screen inside the glass of your microwave oven door is specially designed so that light (which has a short wavelength) can pass through the tiny holes, but microwave radiation (which has a longer wavelength) cannot.

Neapolitan The name of Three Musketeers candy makes a lot more sense when you discover that in the original version, the candy came with three bars: one chocolate, one vanilla, and one strawberry.

Candy Lands Due to licensing laws and contracts, all the Kit-Kat candy bars made in the USA are produced by Hershey’s and all the Kit-Kats made in the rest of the world are produced by Nestle.

Milk’s best friend Oreo cookies were introduced in 1912 and are the best-selling cookies in the United States.

Now you’re cooking with PAM Introduced in the early 1960s, PAM cooking spray wasn’t named after a woman named Pam. It was an acronym for the inventor: Product of Arthur Meyerhoff.

Say Cheese Monterey Jack is named after a person–David Jack, the first person to sell it commercially–and a place, Monterey, Alta California, home to the 18th century friars who made the original cheese.

Pop goes the popping The popular brand of popcorn, Act II, was preceded by Act I—a product notable because it was made with real butter and required refrigeration.

How does your garden grow? The tomato is the most popular vegetable grown by American gardeners with 86% of gardeners planting it each year.

Food Snobs The iconic “Big Mac” McDonald’s burger wasn’t always known as such; invented and marketed in Pittsburgh, it was originally called “The Aristocrat”, then “The Blue Ribbon Burger.”

Airbag Potato chip bags are filled with nitrogen gas to prevent spoilage and soggy chips. The extra “air” also helps protect the chips from being damaged by rough handling during the shipping process.

Spicing things up When it comes to spice production, nobody can hold a candle to India. Around 75 percent of all the spices in the world are produced there and they out produce the next contender,  Bangladesh, by tenfold.

Anything worth waiting for Tabasco Sauce, that iconic spicy American condiment, takes three years to produce. Most of that time is invested in the fermentation process, which helps soften and break down the raw peppers without cooking them.

Eat Hardy!

 

 

 

 

Just a Little Encouragement

If it brings you to prayer, consider it a blessing.

If a little more kindness is a result (either from you or received by you), consider it a blessing.

There isn’t a time in history when someone, somewhere couldn’t say, “These are strange times.” Pray. Be kind and be a blessing to someone today.

“Why Can’t We Trust God?” A Book Review

“Why Can’t We Trust God?” By Thomas Wise; copyright 2020; Zion Press; 123 pp.

Mr. Wise has a good premise for his book. Some of the questions he supposes to answer are questions people in pain often ask. There’s a lot of good information and plenty of references to scripture telling stories about biblical characters who learned to (or failed to) trust God.

However, Wise, a university professor, more often sounds didactic in his writing than encouraging. From the wording in the title to the tone of the whole thing, it seems to me that he’s more interested in loading the reader with information than helping the hurting to find some peace. The subtitle reveals what the author intends to convey in the book but is buried in the negativity of the cover title’s treatment. In fact, the subtitle isn’t even included on the cover.

References to sources and the websites associated with them fall into the narrative early on and became distracting to me. They would have better been equipped with superscripts, referring them to the bibliography (‘References’) at the end of the book. The people he cites are most likely other scholars and I’m sure they’re credible sources, but the parenthetical references make the book hard to read.

When Wise begins each chapter with a heading including one of the “four sorrows” we deal with in our journey to trust, he does well, but again he buries the idea in long descriptions. I would have enjoyed hearing more stories from people he’s talked with. They would have helped me, in addition to his personal experiences, relate to others who’ve had the same challenges.

Perhaps Wise’s audience is other scholars or the people in “organizational leadership” that are mentioned in his bio. That might explain the nature of the tone and the content. However, I believe that in a book written to answer questions about why it’s so hard to trust God in our pain, those people in leadership would also be better served with hope and encouragement. This book reads more like a lecture or seminar.

Again, the premise is sound. I applaud Wise for tackling the subject. Throughout history—with biblical characters being excellent examples—people just like any of us struggle with trust. I appreciate his few personal stories; his pain is real. But overall, I don’t agree with most of the other reviews I’ve read.** I expected a more personal approach since pain is a hard topic to talk about. When I ask “Why” questions, I’d rather someone tell me “how and why I can trust God” instead of emphasizing “why I can’t.”

** I waited to read them until I’d written my own review so I wouldn’t be influenced one way or the other.

This review is for a book of which a reader’s copy was provided by the author through Book Crash.

“Hey Grandude” : A Book Review

“Hey Grandude” by Sir Paul McCartney; copyright 2019; Random House; 32 pages

Like many children, my kids loved being read to. “Hey Grandude!” is a book I’m sure my son would have wanted read more than once at bedtime. “Read it again” he’d say.

Grandude has four of his “chillers” staying at his house and with his magic compass, they go on adventures to the ocean, the desert, and a snowy mountain. There’s fun and danger in every trip. Grandude’s magic begins with a postcard he pulls from his pocket. (Maybe that “Wish you were here” is the real magic.) I’d say this one is best read at bedtime seeing as it ends with some tired-out grand kids.

Kathryn Durst’s illustrations are colorful and fun. The target age group is 4-6 years and I’m not sure some of the language would be something they can understand without having it explained. But the story includes a compass, a spyglass, a stampede, an avalanche, and postcards. Considering the nature of communications methods in place today, kids will most likely have to have “postcards” explained.

Nevertheless, since kids usually ask for an adventure story to be read over and over, so they’ll hear something new each time it’s read (isn’t that always the case on re-reads?) and maybe add to their vocabulary. There’s some “Zing Bang Sizzle” for most kids who have the imagination to lose themselves in the adventures.

Happy Reading.

5 Good Reasons to Read Books

It’s “Read Across America Day.” And whether or not you live in the United States of America, reading is fundamental (to quote an old slogan).

I learned to read while sitting at our kitchen table eating breakfast**. I learned how to sound out words like riboflavin, barley, lecithin, syrup, and all those other things I was feeding my tummy. My big sister also helped because she was a ravenous reader. I suppose she hoped I would be too. When we sat outside the small downtown grocery store while Dad and Mom ran in for a few things, she’d help me with the words on the big old signs that told us what the specials were that week. Hamburger, Wheaties**, margarine, Wonder Bread.

Me, ignoring people who say I have too many books.

Consider these five good reasons to read, whether it’s books; newspapers; magazines; your email (Especially the ones from your boss); your Twitter feed (Unless it gets nasty. Then run. Run away very fast); or that text your spouse just sent so you don’t get in trouble (Unless you’re driving because that could cause trouble).

  1. Read because you can inform yourself and others.
  2. Read because it can be relaxing.
  3. Read to kids because you’ll teach them that reading is important. It’s also a great way to bond with them.
  4. Read because it improves your vocabulary
  5. Read because it’s your assignment for school and you want to pass the class

To celebrate Read Across America Day, try one of these ideas.

  • Read a book and tell someone a little about what you’re reading
  • Encourage someone to read
  • Help someone learn to read
  • Finish that book. Come on, you’re almost done
  • Tell us in the comments what you’re reading

It’s also the 116th birthday of Dr. Seuss. Dr. Seuss gave us fun characters and some crazy worlds to visit. They lent themselves to memorization because, whether we noticed it as a kids, he was teaching us in a fun way about poetry.

Here’s a blog about books and reading from Why Not Books. The blogger includes a list of the Why Not 100 with links on his site for such lists as Harry Potter incantations; Beatles Songs as Book Titles; Books Written by Kids; Banned Books; Freaky Fictional Presidents, and more. Now those might make for some interesting reading.

The Why Not Books blog also includes a list of classic Dr. Seuss characters. How many Dr. Seuss characters can you name? What’s your favorite Dr. Seuss book?

In case you were wondering, I did become a rabid reader, just like my sister. She ended up recommending books to me as I grew. Her tastes ran to classics and she is six years older than me, so I was about thirteen years old when I read “Anna Karenina” at her suggestion. Thanks, Laura! What a ride it’s been.

Be a blessing to someone today. Read aloud to them, even if it’s talking through the clues and answers to your crossword puzzle.

“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, in a simplistic way to differentiate between the two stories, 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.

This is God’s Love and Grace

The other reason I say this is because both salvation stories can have impact and both can 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. Because when it comes to God’s love and grace, one size fits all.

Are you sharing your story? You might want to do that. You could be a blessing to someone today.

Acting on Affirmations

next-life-chapter-cropRead this quote all day until you have it memorized. Repeat it to your friends any chance you get. Type “amen” in the comments because you believe it’s true. Print it out and post it on your fridge. Do all those things if you want. But…

I’ve discovered we have to deal with whatever is in the former chapters of our lives and get over what’s hurting us. Those hurts can include resentment, regrets, and open wounds because we won’t forgive. Real and meaningful progress doesn’t occur if we don’t deal with those things.

Affirmations are okay. But an affirmation is only something positive we tell ourselves which doesn’t become real for us until we’ve acted on it. Take for example one I found on a list for Christians:

“I see others as God’s gift to me.”

Sounds nice, doesn’t it? I believe this so-called affirmation is true. But if, in my daily walk-about, I don’t treat everyone as the gift I believe they are, my words are hollow.

God’s promises are the same. He offers so much to us that we don’t have to work for. However, even though many of those promises are a faith matter, even the most recognizable work in our lives can be accompanied by his “Now, go.” There’s usually something he wants his disciples to do so they will receive the full benefit of the gift.

Read about a man who was born blind in John 9:1-34. He wasn’t healed simply because Jesus put mud on his eyes. Jesus put the mud there. That was God’s part. Then Jesus told the man to go wash his eyes in a pool and he’d be healed. When the man acted on Jesus’s instructions, he went home with the gift of eyesight.

A friend of mine says, “God feeds the birds, but He doesn’t throw the worms into their nests.” Quite often,  God doesn’t just come through with our need and that’s it. On the contrary, we’ll discover that there’s work for us to do which coincides with the work he’s already doing for us.

Go ahead and read your “last chapter.” Then ask God how he’d like you to deal with it. I’m guessing that for you, as it was for me, he’s expecting you to do something. Listen with humility to what he’s saying to you.

Then, “Go.”

And be a blessing to someone today.

Foodie Friday: 8 More Ways to Use Herbs

Last week’s Foodie Friday post offered ten ways to use herbs. We saw tips on how to enhance the flavors of different meats and for creating your own seasoning blends. This time, let’s look at those same ideas for pasta and vegetables.

When working with pasta, you can add new twists to familiar tastes. For instance:

  • Using ground nutmeg smooths out the flavor of Alfredo sauce. Ground mustard, rosemary, parsley and black pepper go well with savory mushroom sauces. Sprinkle tarragon over a primavera recipe.
  • Thyme, rosemary, oregano leaves, garlic powder, and black pepper are good with any pasta salad recipe. Here’s a fruity take on pasta salad. Italian seasoning, basil, crushed red pepper, garlic and onion powders, and oregano give hearty flavor to pasta soups, stews, and casseroles.
  • The several varieties of sauces we use for pasta work well depending on the type of noodle used. Shape and size determine the best choices. Capellini, angel hair, fettuccine, linguini and spaghetti work the best with smooth, thin sauces or sauces with chopped ingredients. Shaped pasta like mostaccioli, penne, rotelle, rotini and ziti are best used with chunky and heavier sauces. Large shells and manicotti lend themselves well to being stuffed with a hearty red sauce or cheese sauce.
  • If you’ve never tried making your own pesto sauce, try this easy recipe which goes well with those finer pastas like angel hair, fettuccine, linguini and spaghetti.

Whether your vegetable dish is a salad or you’re dressing up baked or steamed veggies, herbs will prove a welcome addition.

  • Potato salads, green salads, vegetable salads perk up with dill weed, celery salt, paprika, and white or black pepper. For a new sensation, use lemon pepper seasoning on green leafy vegetables like salad greens, spinach, kale, mustard, collard or mustard greens. Season corn, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and winter squash with ginger, cardamom, dill weed, chives, onion powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, mace, marjoram, or thyme.

When it comes to fish, they fall into categories of mild, moderate and full flavors as other meats do.

  • For delicately flavored fish like flounder, sole, orange roughy, or trout, enhance them with thyme, tarragon, dill weed, garlic powder, oregano or white or black pepper. The moderate flavors of salmon, snapper, catfish and rock fish peak up with dill weed, Italian seasoning, tarragon, lemon and pepper seasoning, oregano, garlic powder, or pepper. Tuna and swordfish are full-flavored fish. They wake up to the addition of basil, rosemary, oregano, marjoram, thyme, garlic powder, and red or black pepper. Tilapia With Corn Salsa satisfies a craving for Mexican food.
  • When cooking shrimp or scallops or for creating any seafood recipe, try tarragon, garlic powder, thyme, oregano, lemon pepper, red or black pepper or parsley. Whether steaming crabs or broiling lobster, the unique flavors of dry mustard, red pepper, lemon pepper and chives work well.
  • Substitutions are helpful to know because, when you’re out of something fresh, something from your cupboard comes in handy. For 1 medium-sized onion, use 1 tablespoon onion powder. One eighth teaspoon garlic powder. One half teaspoon garlic salt is a substitute for 1 medium clove of garlic. Substitute one fourth teaspoon ginger for 1 teaspoon fresh ginger. In general, for 1 tablespoon fresh herbs, use 1 teaspoon dried herbs.

It may sound strange, but this Spinach Chicken Manicotti uses nutmeg and basil along with the main ingredients.

 And a fast, easy tuna dish, Tuna Crescent Rings.

Remember to have fun while you navigate the kitchen and try new herb combinations. You might even decide you’d like to start your own herb garden. Then you’ll really be a Foodie!

 

 

photo credits Taste of Home

 

 

 

Foodie Friday: 10 Ways to Use Herbs

Something great happened the day I decided to be brave and begin experimenting with herbs and spices. I still use recipes, especially for baking. But cooking “by guess and by golly” is generally pretty much how I do it. Now I enjoy cooking much more. I also enjoy the results more.

For instance, I never make my famous spaghetti sauce the same way twice. I may be using the same herbs, but never in the same amounts, and it always turns out tasty. More than one person has said I should market it.

However, knowing a little about which spices and herbs work well with different foods can help. It can also be a boon to have some spice blends on hand to use so you don’t have to buy those small bottles and packets with additives and cranked up cost.

Add These to This to Get That

  • To enhance the flavor of beef, use bay leaves, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, lemon pepper seasoning, rosemary, marjoram, oregano, or thyme.
  • When cooking with pork, which has a mild flavor, give it some oomph with basil, caraway seed, ground ginger, Italian seasoning, oregano, savory, rosemary, or garlic powder.
  • Where I live, we eat wild game. Enhance those flavors with marjoram, thyme, bay leaf, garlic powder, or onion powder.
  • Turkey is traditionally flavored with poultry seasoning or sage, but you can also try oregano, black pepper, herbs de Provence, onion powder, rosemary, savory, or basil.
  • Chicken and Cornish hens come alive with such herbs as dill weed, basil, ginger, oregano, thyme, chives, bay leaf, garlic and onion powders, paprika, rosemary, sage, or tarragon.

Make Your Own Seasoning Blends

If you need a little jump start to try some new herbs, here are a few blends you can mix up to experiment with.

  • Salad herb blend: 2 tsp. basil leaves; 1 tsp. dill weed; 1 tbsp. marjoram leaves; 1 tbsp. parsley flakes; 1 tbsp. tarragon leaves. If you like to add protein to your salad, match these ingredients to the list of which goes best with each herb.
  • Meat and vegetable blend: 1 tbsp. basil; 1 tsp. celery seed; 1 tbsp. marjoram; 1 tsp. onion powder; 1 tsp. thyme.
  • Taco seasoning: 1 ½ tbsp. oregano; 1 ½ tbsp. garlic powder; 1 tbsp. paprika; 2 tbsp. cumin; 1 tbsp. chili powder; ½ tsp. allspice.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and tweak the blends to your own taste. There’s no right or wrong combination. An advantage to using herbs and blends is that you can spice up your food without using salt.

What’s That Flavor?

Herbs naturally have different flavors. In addition, they fall into categories of mild, medium and robust. Chives and parsley are examples of mild-flavored herbs. Some medium-flavored herbs are basil, dill weed, marjoram, and mint. Stronger-tasting herbs are those like bay leaves, oregano, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon, and thyme.

 Tips for Keeping Herbs and Spices Fresh

  •  Avoid storing spices near the stove, dishwasher, sink or a window. Dried spices don’t spoil, but they can lose strength. Moisture and heat contribute to this. Be sure to never sprinkle or pour spices directly into a steaming pot since the steam introduced into the bottle hastens loss of flavor and aroma. It also results in caking. For the same reason, if you’re measuring from the bottle with a measuring spoon, be sure the spoon is dry.
  • Some folks like to use fresh herbs for everything and that’s a great idea. You can always substitute dried herbs for fresh if you know how, and vice-versa. Check it out here.

Next week, you’ll get ideas for enhancing other foods like pasta, vegetables and seafood. We’ll also have suggestions for substitutions, cooking tips, and a recipe or two.

Bon appetite!