Monday, September 29, 2014

(1) Sweeter: Jesus Is a Lion

We know the phrase: Lion of the Tribe of Judah. But have you ever stopped to think about the fact that our Heavenly Friend is a Lion?

He's a Lamb, too, of course; but we know that part pretty well. It fits the man represented in most of our modern portraits of Him: a gentle guy with white-white skin and girls' hair, who blesses little kids, teaches good morals, and passes out free lunches. A meek and mild lamb, somebody who is entirely safe. But is that Who Jesus is?
“Aslan is a lion - the Lion, the great Lion."
"Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"
"Safe?" said Mr Beaver Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”
Jesus was okay with danger to Himself. Why? Because looks are deceiving, and He knew His Father had everything under control! I'm sure the Cross looked awful, but He could endure it by looking at the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2).

It's time we learned to be okay with danger and unpleasantness, too. Psalm 84:6 says that when God's people pass through the valley of Baca, we make it a well. So the not-so-nice parts of life, the parts that make us say, "Why?" - God intends for those very parts to become wells from which we find refreshment. When we embrace the valleys, passing through them instead of searching frantically for some way around them, then we can actually learn the lessons God has for us. And one day, either here or in Heaven, we will thank Him for those very valleys!

What valley does He have you in right now?

(1) Sweet: Mint Chocolate Cheesecake

For the Crust -

  • 16 oz crushed vanilla wafers, processed to a fine powder
  • 2 tbsp butter melted

For the Filling -

  • 16 oz cream cheese, softened (2 boxes)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 extract 
  • 6-12 drops green food coloring

For the Ganache -

  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 4 oz semisweet chocolate chips

1. For the Crust - Process wafers in a food processor or blender. Melt butter. Pour into a large bowl and add butter. Stir to mix and combine well with a fork. Pour into a greased springform pan and press on bottom and up sides to create the crust.

2. For the Filling - In a stand mixer, cream sugar and cheese. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add vanilla and then eggs one at a time, scraping down bowl after each egg addition. Add Creme de Menthe and stir to combine and until color is consistent. Pour filling into springform pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 45-55 minutes or until center is set. Let sit to cool completely. Place in refrigerator for 12-24 hours. When ready to serve, run a sharp knife around the inside of the pan and release the cheesecake. Top with ganache and serve.

3. For the Ganache - In a heavy bottomed saucepan over low to medium heat, bring heavy cream just under boiling. DO NOT LET BOIL OVER. Pour hot cream over chocolate chips in a bowl and stir to melt chips. Let sit for 5 minutes and spread over cheesecake. Slice and serve. The cheesecake can be refrigerated with ganache if you prepare ahead of time.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The "Take Care of Yourself" Delusion

We've all heard these words. Most of us have probably even said them. I picture a group visiting Grandma in a weatherbeaten farmhouse; and when they leave, she kisses each one on the cheek and says, "You'uns take good care of yourselves, y'hear?" She means well, and I have no fault to find with her. What I will say is this: This is one piece of advice you should never, ever follow. It's self-defeating. Why?

The song goes like this:
 "Love is like a lucky penny.
Hold it tight, you won't have any;
Give it away, and you'll have plenty -
You'll end up having MOOORE.

Love is something if you give it away,
Give it away, give it away.
Love is something if you give it away; 
You'll end up having more."

God is the best Father and takes perfect care of His children, so we don't have to worry about that part. Now, I didn't say that we will understand or like everything He does. We often won't understand, and will even frequently dislike it. But that's just cause we're the finite humans that don't know much. "We'll understand it better by and by."

Jesus said the two most important rules are to love God, and to love each other.
So leave yourself in Father's capable hands. Then get out there and forget yourself in loving people!

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Kitchen Fiasco :)

This afternoon I was stirring up a batch of peanut butter cookies and thinking that it looked awfully small. I thought I might as well make two batches, and so I went to the pantry to find another peanut butter cookie mix. Sure enough, there was one right there! I was just about to use it when something - I'm pretty sure it was God - said, "Save that one for later." 

I hesitated. "Why?" I thought. It didn't make much sense to me, and I almost went ahead and used the second mix anyway. But I didn't. Instead, I finished mixing that one little batch and put the cookies in the oven. The package said 8-10 minutes, so I set the timer for 8 minutes. When it went off, I opened the oven door and found - the most burnt food I've ever seen! What on earth? 

After some thought, I realized that because it takes me longer than normal to do most everything, I probably shouldn't preheat stuff anymore. And yeah, that mix God had me save for later? It made some beautiful cookies tonight, one of which is in my tummy! :)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Another Fantabulous Week at LLBC!

God has given me an awesome summer at Laurel Lake Baptist Camp. During Girls Week, God taught me that He really cared about my prayers. This past week - Open Week - He did say yes to some of my requests; but He also taught me that His care for me goes so much deeper than that!

Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O Lord, You know it all.
Psalm 139:4

A few of the blessings this week:

1. Monday morning even before the first camper arrived, the camp director came and prayed with me personally, for the Father to give me a great week. Not something I had even thought to ask for, but God is so good that He pours out blessings even without our asking for them!

2. Tuesday morning I thought about how during Girls Week God had moved me to pray for the souls of two of my campers and by Thursday afternoon He had saved them both. I asked Him to do it again. Tuesday afternoon one of my girls was very squirmy when we talked about the Gospel in one of the "classes"; so I was concerned and prayed for her. But I'm ashamed to admit that I got distracted  as soon as that class ended. Still, Tuesday night she trusted Christ; and Wednesday night another one of my girls also got saved!

3. Wednesday morning at 11:30, we all left the pool in our wet clothes. Everyone scattered, including all those who tend to be there offering me a hand; and so I was left to walk alone. I looked at the distance, thought about the time it would take me to walk to the dorm, change, and walk to lunch. By the time I got there, I figured two or three bites MIGHT be a possibility! :) 

This girl loves food; and frankly, the very thought of not really eating between breakfast and supper rendered me pretty distraught! My emotions have been all out of whack ever since the accident. And although I WAS able to keep the tears back; I wasn't able to keep the sobs away. But just then, a mission-team van drove up. "Do you need a ride?" “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31).

4. Wednesday afternoon, I started feeling really tired. I thought, "Well, I'm halfway through the week. I could really use some kind of pick-me-up to give me some fresh energy." Within five minutes, a girl came to where I was sitting and playing card mafia with mine and other campers. She put a frappuccino in my hands and whispered, "Mom made these for the staff." 

To our bountiful Father above, 
I will offer a tribute of praise! :)

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Does God Really Want to Answer MY Prayers?

I've always known He has the ABILITY to answer my prayers - He can do whatever He wants, cuz He's big like that! But that doesn't mean He's gonna do things just because I want them. At Gethsemane, Jesus didn't want the Cross; but that Cross was the Father's will for Jesus, so He didn't take it away. My heart is obviously way less in tune with the Father's than Jesus' heart was - I mean, I'm a sinner! - so what's the chance my requests are gonna line up with His will very often?

It shames me to admit this, but I've always kinda had this thought in the back of my mind, always kinda doubted whether the Father really cared about my desires.

But then there was last week, counseling five girls at Laurel Lake. There was one prayer I prayed, a prayer I knew was selfish the moment I prayed it - not bad, just selfish - and I told God so. "God, I don't really want you to do that. Just change my attitude, please." To EVERY other request I made that week, God said yes!

1. Monday night my girls had trouble getting to sleep; I tried a few things, but nothing was working. I prayed for an idea, and one immediately popped into my head. "If you girls turn your words and electronics off, I'll buy you all a free canteen (snack)." Whaddaya know? It worked!

2. Tuesday morning, I had a hankering for a good rainstorm and asked God for it. I didn't really think He would do it - change the weather, "just for me"? Especially when a lot of people really, really dislike rain? But sure enough, Tuesday night it RAINED! And rained some more! :)

3. Tuesday night my girls had trouble getting to sleep again. I knew I didn't have enough on me to keep offering extra canteen, so I asked God for a new idea. Immediately, I had one! "I know y'all say you don't need to sleep, but I do need my sleep; and I can't really sleep until y'all do, so please do it for me!" I knew I had some very sweet girls, and they were nice enough to fall silent and still as soon as I asked in this way.

4. By the time I finished my Gospel-color-nail-polish devotional Tuesday night, I was confident that two of my girls needed Jesus. I started praying intensely for their souls, and for a clear Gospel presentation in the worship service. In Wednesday's worship, guess what the pastor talked about? My cabin also heard clear Gospel presentations in Wednesday's Bible study and Thursday morning's craft session. The Gospel was repeatedly presented in terms of things God did for us, as well as our response - to believe.

5. The pastor hadn't been doing a song after his message, but after Wednesday night's Gospel message I felt I was supposed to pray for him to do a song and let his message have time to really sink in before the kids ran outside to snack at canteen and play whatever their late-night activity was. I prayed that way; and after the message, he did a song!

6. The week's theme was "Today I Will," and there was a banner we were supposed to have our girls write on. Thursday afternoon, my girls and I stopped by the banner to write. Both of the girls for whom I had been beseeching the Father wrote "Today I will believe" (separately). And I know I saw a distinct change in one.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Love Onion

God's love is like an onion. 

At the outermost level, His love is so big and broad that the Scriptures tell us He loves the WORLD! "He's got the whole world in His hands!" 

Yet the bigness of His love hardly makes it at all impersonal! He loves ME, and always will. "Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love" (Jeremiah 31:3).

May our love be like an onion, too - big enough to include the world; but then loving everyone in the ever-narrowing circles in which we run until it gets personal enough to make that one person we're talking to feel truly special!
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