Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sweeter: Thoughts on the Thanksgiving Takeover

Long ago, when this girl was young, Thanksgiving might well have been the ultimate holiday! I remember decorating windows with autumn-leaf window clings, listening to pilgrim-stories, dressing up as a pilgrim, sharing a literal feast with my family, and giving thanks to God and to my family for blessings from the past year.

Later I heard wind of some kind of shopping-thing the day after Thanksgiving. Momentum seemed to build over the years until this shopping started to majorly overshadow the holiday. People went out earlier and earlier, until this year many people actually hit the stores Thursday evening!

Don't worry; I'm not going to say that it's always a terrible thing to do Black Friday, or even to have a family tradition of doing it together. I'm not even saying it would always be bad to go buy something on Thursday.

But let's step back for a minute and look at the big picture, the 2 kingdoms at war in our world. Where might they stand on this whole thing?

Well, I don't really feel like God ever got in a fight with anybody over any deal. "For God so loved the world that He gave" (John 3:16). And - thanksgiving is something He wants us to have a LOT of. "In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

On the other hand, black is dark. The powers of darkness are selfish, ungrateful, and consumer-oriented. Somehow I don't think evil forces were ever too happy with a whole day being set aside to thank God. Since 2 Timothy 3 tells us that "men shall wax worse and worse . . . in the last days," I'm expecting Black Friday to keep gaining ground until it eventually overtakes Thanksgiving entirely - with most people, anyway.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Sweet: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars

Moist and flavorful spiced-pumpkin bars 
loaded with chocolate chips 
and topped with a thick smear 
of creamy, dreamy cream cheese frosting.

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Total time: 25 mins

Dry Ingredients
·        1 cup all-purpose flour
·        2 teaspoons cinnamon
·        ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
·        1 teaspoon baking powder
·        ½ teaspoon baking soda
·        ½ teaspoon salt

Wet Ingredients
·        2 whole eggs
·        cup brown sugar
·        1 cup canned pumpkin
·        ¼ cup milk
·        ¼ cup oil
·        1 teaspoon vanilla extract
·        ¾ cup mini chocolate chips

Cream Cheese Frosting:
·        4 oz cream cheese, softened
·        2 Tablespoons butter, softened
·        1 cup powdered sugar
·        1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9x13-inch pan with non-stick spray.

To make bars:
Combine dry ingredients a large bowl, set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine all wet ingredients. Fold wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in chooclate chips until evenly distributed. The batter will be very thick. Transfer into prepared baking dish and bake for 14-15 minutes. If you have trouble spreading the bars to cover the pan, spray a spatula and the top of the batter with non-stick spray.
Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes before cutting into 12 bars.

To make cream cheese dipping sauce:
In a mixing bowl using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth and fluffy. Stir in powdered sugar and mix until creamy. Add vanilla and stir until evenly distributed. Spread on pumpkin bars and serve immediately.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Sweeter: Free E-copy of Passport Through Darkness!

Get it here:

Sweeter: Good & Bad People-Pleasing

It's taken me a while.
But I think I've finally figured it out - maybe.

Here's the *big* question:
What's wrong with trying to please people?

1. When I try to "make people happy" - i.e., to get them to be pleased WITH ME and to want to be my friends - in other words, when the actions I take are really self-serving (aka selfish) . . . that's bad. 

The bad people-pleasing usually takes a lot of effort, is usually somewhat exhausting, and ALWAYS requires doing something "nice" that is also either fake or contrived.

Example: I wear skirts. Partly because I like them and partly because it's what I think God wants me to do. But what if I wore them because I know people who believe that way, and because I wanted those people to think well of me? What if the only reason I wore skirts was to earn other people's good opinions of myself?

An example of something bad I actually do to "please people": When I feel like someone's mad at me, I tend to rack my brain for some reason why they might be mad and then to apologize for whatever I did/said that I think they're mad about. Which tends to backfire and to only result in their being scared to death of spending time with such an awkward person!

Something else I tend to do: If someone seems scared to talk to me, I tend to try to think of a pleasant conversation to have with them in order to change their minds into thinking they can afford to be my friend again. Which, tends to backfire, too! :)

But please don't be afraid to talk to me! I'm really tryin' to do better about this! Yes, those sentences was probably yet another example of the negative kind of people-pleasing. In fact, a big part of why I included any (both) these examples of stuff I actually do was because I thought it necessary in order to please people, because I felt like I had to include these examples in order to keep people from being mad at me for writing this post, to keep them from thinking that this post is about me passing some kind of judgment on them - which it's not. 

I'm trying to say that this is a struggle for me - which should be absolutely obvious after that paragraph of people-pleasing (which may well have been the bad kind - I don't know; and for the sake of this post, I'm not even gonna worry about it).

2. However, when my efforts to please other people are truly God-motivated and others-focused - in other words, when I'm forgetting myself in real Christian love - i.e., when it's actually about pleasing THEM instead of getting them happy with ME . . . isn't that 1 Corinthians 13? Which is good, right? 

Example: What if I notice some older homeless man looking lonely and depressed. What if I think I sense God leading me to talk to him, to try to get him laughing about something? What if I notice - but ignore - all the weird looks my friends give me? (All the looks that say, "Why are you talking to him?") What if all I'm thinking about is, honestly, what I can do to be a blessing to this guy? And what if I succeed in getting the guy to laugh? 

Yes, that actually happened a few weeks ago. . . .

Sweeter: God's Beautiful Way

"And we know that all things work together 
for good to those who love God, 
to those who are the called 
according to His purpose" 

(Romans 8:28).

Friday, November 7, 2014

Sweet: Date Bars (Homemade Fig Newtons :D)

2 1/2 cups chopped dates
1 cup plus 1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup butter
2 cups rolled oats

In a saucepan combine chopped dates, brown sugar, and water.
Bring to a boil and cook until dates are soft enough to be mashed with a fork (about 5 minutes).
Set aside to cool.

In a separate bowl combine oats and your brown sugar.

In another bowl cut in butter with flour, baking soda and salt (previously sifted together). It is best to work with cold pieces of butter as they are easier to cut into the flour.

Once butter and flour are mixed together thoroughly, combine with oats and brown sugar.

Press half of the oat mixture over bottom of a greased 8 x 8 square pan.
Pack the layer down firmly with a fork.

Next place entire date mixture for the second layer.
Cover and spread evenly.

Cover with remaining oat mixture and pat until smoooth.

Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 35 minutes or until a light golden brown.
Cool before cutting into squares and serving.

Enjoy! :)

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Sweeter: Operation Stars and Stripes

Bless our military this Christmas! From November 5-21, donate signed Christmas cards and new DVDs to the collection at the Battle of Richmond Visitors Center, 101 Battlefield Memorial Highway, Richmond, Kentucky 40475. 

Don't live in Richmond? Not to worry! You can send your gifts directly to Rosalyn-Sue Smith, President, Operation Stars & Stripes, Inc., 483 Old Canton Road, Suite 100, Marietta, GA 30068.

For more information, visit