Month: May 2011

“Come drink this water, come and drink this blood, come and drink this love that you could not afford.”

A lot has happened and changed in the last year. Trips to India, weddings, birthdays, more traveling, moving, holidays, changing church families, family illnesses and deaths, job-changes… It’s easy to become distracted, loose focus and become shadow-minded instead of Kingdom-minded. At least, it has been for me! So before a trip to Chicago back in October, and again more recently, I really had to have one of those literal “come-to-Jesus-talks” with myself and the Lord. I felt self-absorbed, anxious, and caught up in my own business. Prior to that time, I had been reading the Gospel of Luke and the most impacting motif caught my attention: The only life that counts is the one alive in Jesus. C.T. Studd said it so well in his famous poem: “Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.” The traveling, the birthdays and job changes – as real as all those experiences felt – will fade away and be forgotten against the glory of Jesus.

I let the weight of that sink in and it was a heavy truth to bear.

A wake-up call
Numerous times throughout Luke’s account, Jesus declares that if you want to drink the sweet waters of eternal life, you’ll be required to lay it all down. (Lk 9:24) But what I think most of us miss is that we read these sorts of verses as inconvenient “laws” or restraining commands from a stern Jesus – rather than good and life-saving advice from a good and loving God. Jesus did not tell his disciples that they must lay down their life simply because pain and suffering are just a part of God’s will for their existence, so they needed to suck it up if they wanted to be more holy. It was out of grace he warned his disciples they must lay down their life because he was about to goto the cross to permanently crucify the sinful nature. And unless they had the Eternal One living inside them, they would inevitably perish inside their finite and sinful bodies (Jn 8:24). That was not a recommendation for another aesthetic way of life – it’s a statement about reality.

When we accept Jesus as our Savior from death, we’re acknowledging the historical fact that He nailed our sinful flesh to that dreadful cross for all time. It’s gone. It’s dead. It’s as Paul says in Romans “unemployed.” (“We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” Rom 6:6) This is not an arbitrary or “too-holy-for-you-to-understand” command from Jesus — it’s true, life-giving advice from the Author of Life Himself! In laying our temporal lives down for Jesus’ sake, we gain the eternal life with Him (Mat 10:39). Making the decision to “eat, drink and be merry” forfeits not just your right, but your ability to inherit this humanely unattainable gift. And the death Jesus is referring to is more real and permanent than simply falling asleep or checking out.

If the plane you intended on traveling to Europe in had crashed and sunk to the bottom of the sea, would you still expect to to rely on it to get you to Europe? Wouldn’t you rather find another mode of transportation? In the same way, Jesus announced to everyone: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (Jn 6:63) He proclaimed and demonstrated the crashing and sinking of our fleshly vessels. So why do we still rely on something that was crucified 2,000 years ago to get us into the heart of the Father? 

Finding a way out by letting Him in
In Luke 10:38-42, it says that Martha welcomed Jesus into her home. There are probably more, but these are the three motives I found used most often for welcoming Jesus in the Gospels:
1. Compulsion: Not necessarily in a negative context, but Jesus was invited due to cultural customs or expectations such as perhaps the wedding feast at Cana (Jn 2:1-2). People are not usually impacted in an intimate or personal way by Jesus’ presence under these circumstances.
2. Curiosity (Lk 23:8): Jesus was both intriguing and intelligent. Some had honest reasons for wanting to hear more from him, some did not. The individual’s presuppositions about Jesus determined whether they would accept or reject Jesus upon finally meeting him. Those who merely wanted to test Jesus were not necessarily interested in eternal life or acknowledging him as Lord. And those who came on account of a miracle could easily be offended by Jesus’ teaching, so they were not necessarily devoted to following him either. (Jn 6:22-60)
3. A sincere desire to host and enjoy the presence of Jesus as a guest (Lk 19:5-6). Zacchaeus received Jesus “joyfully” into his home. He was so joyful that he confessed he would repay anyone he had wronged fourfold. He let himself be transformed by inviting Jesus into his earthly and spiritual home. Those who sincerely just wanted to enjoy Jesus left their old lives behind and became new creations. (Lk 5:27-39)
In the case of Martha, she might have initially invited Jesus to her home out of a sincere love for Him, (since we at least know that Jesus was fond of Martha, Mary and their brother Lazarus [Jn 11:5]), but she quickly becomes distracted with “much serving” (Lk 10:40). Soon the act of welcoming a friend became nothing more than a hectic performance and cultural expectation. And in an encounter such as that, Jesus was hardly the center of attention in Martha’s life.
Martha was busy with this show of hospitality and lost sight of the forest for the trees. The King of Kings was sitting in her very home. The Light of the World was pouring forth life-giving bread and from heaven, and she missed it. She missed it! Oh Martha, Martha! If only you had known Who it was that was speaking in your presence! And when she expressed hurt that Jesus was not commanding her younger sister to help her, Jesus very directly and very gently tells Martha that she is “anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.” (Lk 10:41) Luke described Martha as distracted, but Jesus more specifically explains she is tangled with burdens that are keeping her in bondage from enjoying the treasure of knowing Him. “Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Lk 10:42) Jesus compassionately tells Martha: “Oh Martha, you are burdened with many chains. You are hindered by what is perishing. Stop paying attention to what Mary is or isn’t doing, and start enjoying me being here with you. Mary has let me into her heart, and you can not make me leave that place.” He is either the All-Consuming Fire in your heart or He isn’t. 

“There is but one life to live, ’twill soon be past, and only what’s done for Jesus will last.”

Playing the game of Christianity
I do want to take a moment and clarify: There is nothing inherently wrong with opening your home to guests and tirelessly working to meet their needs and show them kindness. You may touch many people with your hard work. But your hard work – unless it’s done out of self-sacrificing, wholly desirous love for Jesus – will not stand the test of the Refiner’s fire. Performance died a humiliating death on Calvary 2,000 years ago. Your humanistic social justice works were nailed to a crude wooden cross and hang there still. But Jesus… Jesus is more alive than any man, and He is presently sitting in Victory at the right hand of the Father and will be for all eternity. “For the death He died he died to sin, once for all, but the life He lives He lives to God.” (Rom 6:10)
Also, many times I hear Christians trying to use Mary’s example in scripture to justify their mission to “sit at the feet of the Lord” rather than be responsible for The Great Commission, aka The Great “Go-mission”. I’ve personally found many Protestants, in particular, favor hiding behind this one instance in the gospels so they may continue in their disobedience towards healing the sick, cleansing lepers and casting out demons. To those of you in that camp with ear to hear: “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” (Jm 2:26) The pharisees spent plenty of time in the synagogue and had extensive intellectual understanding of the scriptures – but they were identified by Jesus as disobedient “white washed tombs.” When we talk about bearing fruit, we need to put on (and keep on!) our Kingdom-helmets and think from an eternal perspective. Mary was bearing fruit for Jesus in this case because there was an inward submission to the Lordship of Christ – not some external religious gesture. So some of us need to grow up spiritually, move on from our religious demonstrations and step into the royal identity God has given us.

There is too much at risk to play the game of Christianity. Your pride, time and possessions combined are not worth half as much as another man’s soul. And how trivial to let them stand in the way of something with such enormous consequences. As Harry Ironside once said: “No one who really wants to count for God can afford to play at Christianity.”

He is the Lord and there is no other
There is freedom in laying it all down. If you let go of your life-raft, there is an aircraft carrier waiting to rescue you from inescapable death. Where there is true life there is joy, and both can be found in Jesus. When we say “yes” to the King of Kings there’s no turning back. Jesus will have dominion. The early church recognized that and they made it their mission to see that it came to pass – beginning with their very own life. Jesus is not just a savior from death or hell or sin or a bad test grade – He is The Lord and there is no other. It is inevitable that every single particle in this universe will bow it’s knee, submit to the authority of Jesus, and confess that only He is Lord of all. When that day comes, we too will bow our knee and say “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.” (Lk 17:10)

Don’t miss the surpassing value of Jesus in the midst of this busy and distracting world. Come and lay down your life at the feet of the Author of Life. Lay down your to-do lists, what other people expect of you and be set free by the One who defeated death and put the powers of this earth to open shame (Col 2:15). Ask yourself what the One thing is and don’t look back. Say “yes” to the One who was obedient to the Father unto death so that everything according to His own Word should finally be fulfilled (Mt 5:17-18). Say “yes” to the One in whom all the promises of God find their Yes! (2 Cor 1:20)
Jesus refresh our hearts and minds with your Living Word. May we all be reminded of our role in this epic mission you have charged us with and triumphantly say in the words of the old hymn: ” I surrender all! I surrender all! All to thee, my blessed Savior, I surrender all!”

Biscotti on a budget

Michael and I would like to celebrate our new budgeting system by baking a coffee-lover’s favorite, Brownie Biscotti!

One of the main reasons I ended up making these was to find a way to use what I had on hand. Michael and I are trying out a new budget over the next few weeks and meal planning is one of our big changes. Ideally, we want to schedule all of our meals ahead of time to last over the course of two weeks. The goal being to prevent those little trips to the store (not even for the tiniest thing, like… mini chocolate chips) thereby reducing our grocery costs.

Well, since I like keeping sweet snacks on hand for Michael to take to work, I decided on making biscotti. I scanned the recipe to check off ingredients and found I had everything I needed to make them – except those pesky “mini” chocolate chips. Which really in the scheme of things, is like a negative eight on my crisis scale. So I made an executive decision and used regular-sized chocolate chips.
Mini chocolate chips are for lightweights
The result came out even more yummy than usual. In fact, I’m not even going to bother using the minis in this recipe anymore. It’s just one less thing for me to keep on hand. I buy those big bags of Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips at Costco anyways, so it’s not like we’re experiencing a chocolate chip famine over here.

In the past I’ve had problems with the biscotti sticking, so I always spay the cookie sheet with Pam, use a couple sheets of wax paper, then I spray more Pam. Spraying the cookie sheet helps the wax paper from moving, and spraying after helps the loaves from sticking. I formed the “loaves” on the sheet and baked them for 20 minutes.

Unbaked “loaves”

Cocoa is notorious for making desserts drier, so I also have trouble with this recipe being on the brittle side when I’m slicing the loaves. To help with the breakage and crumb problem, I used a pizza cutter instead of my bread knife. Worked like a charm. I kept the baking temperature at 375°F when I put the biscotti back in to harden. Each side baked for eight minutes, rather than the ten to fifteen the recipe calls for.

Fresh baked loaves, waiting to be “biscottied”
They came out perfectly firm and crunchy. I went ahead and melted some Lindt 85% cocoa with vanilla almond bark and drizzled it over the biscotti. I always reserve the corners for “taste-testing” and hands-down, this ended up being one of my best batches.

Who knew budgeting could taste so good?
Where’s a hot cup of coffee when you need one?

Is budgeting easy or difficult for you? Can you think of ways to reward yourself for your good budgeting habits?

Almost house church strawberry muffins

Each Wednesday I make, bake (and sometimes decorate) a special something for our pot luck meal at house church. This past one was no different, except for this one small little detail: we didn’t end up going.
I was in a muffin kind of mood when Wednesday rolled around, so I went to my trusty to find a new recipe. I decided on these Blueberry Cream Muffins.

These turned out great.  I used a white sugar-flour topping combo from another recipe to give them a little crunchy texture. I didn’t have any blueberries on hand, and even if I had, I still would have used strawberry since I’ve been getting my blueberry fix from Mrs. R’s scones. I used our BlendTec to chop up the whole frozen strawberries and I increased the amount of sugar the recipe called for. I also used a combination of half brown-half white sugar and added cinnamon for more flavor. The result made for soft, moist and moderately sweet muffins.

Other changes I would like to make in the future include increasing the amount of fruit by another cup at least, and using a brown sugar and crushed almond topping rather than the sugar-flour combination. I also wouldn’t mind toying around with a healthier alternative by substituting yogurt for the sour cream, coconut oil for the vegetable, and using all brown sugar instead of only half and half.

So my muffins were baked, packaged and ready to go. All was going according to the usual plan… until Michael came home about an hour and a half later than normal. He has recently transitioned onto a new process team at work and the hours have taken some getting used to. Instead of working eight hour days, the new normal will be for him to work a minimum of nine to ten hour days. But, as the old proverb says: “In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.” (Ecc. 7:14) So he strikes while the iron is hot and while there is work to be had.
When Michael eventually got home he was exhausted, so we decided to stay in. But that left me with sixty muffins to deal with… So, I kept some out (for taste-testing of course!) and froze the rest. I plan on pulling what’s in the freezer out for next Wednesday and bringing them to our house church potluck meal. Crisis averted.

 When have you’ve spent a long time preparing for something only for plans to change or cancel at the last minute? How do you handle unexpected changes in scheduling?

A scone that stands alone

Monday I had the pleasure of joining a friend of mine for a tea and bake date at her home. Mrs. R is a part of the house church I fellowship with in Kansas City. And since she also shares my love of baking and good conversation, it basically makes her a woman after my own heart. The recipe on the agenda for the day? A trusted family favorite: Blueberry Scones.

Typically assumed to be Scottish in origin, scones are identified by their buttery and flaky qualities. They are similar to American biscuits and can be classified as a “quick bread” since they do not require yeast to rise. Scones are so popular in the UK however that, according to a study released in 2005 by the market research firm, Mintel, the 500 year old pastry brings in a total of £64 million pounds a year – that’s roughly over $90 million USD! [1]
I confess I did absolutely nothing to contribute baking-wise during our tea and bake date at Mrs. R’s. Unless you count sitting on a barstool, sipping Earl Grey and keeping her distracted by talking about education, politics and rearing children. The recipe she used comes from “The Pie and Pastry Bible” by Rose Levy Bernabaum. And true to their reputation, these scones were perfectly firmed on the outside while flaky and soft on the inside. They delivered a buttery and mildly sweet flavor, with the dried blueberries adding a nice tang. I enjoyed them so much, in fact, that I immediately searched for the recipe on the internet after I got home. I eventually found this blog, which had the Orange-Cranberry variation of the recipe Mrs. R used.
When I decided to make these myself this weekend I felt a little intimidated by the whole rolling out and folding technique, as I am notoriously clumsy with a rolling pin. But it proved to be a simple enough task and I was able to use my cake lifter as a way to keep my edges straight. Before rolling out the dough, I separated it into halves using chocolate chips in one bowl (for the DH) and dried blueberries again in the other. I was more than pleased to find results were consistent with Mrs. R’s. I was also happy to report the chocolate chip scones passed the famed “Michael-safe” test. I think after the forth one he determined they were compatible with coffee and so worthy of our dessert rotation.

In baking, I’m extremely partial to recipes with culturally-specific tradition and history. There’s just something about preparing a pastry, bread or dessert that you know has been passed down generation after generation after generation. I especially feel this way when I know it’s a personal family recipe, like my family’s Norwegian kringla or their German egg noodles. And even though this particular scone recipe was no family secret, I still found myself imagining that in some way I was helping to preserve a small piece of Scottish tradition. (I say imagine, because to my knowledge I have no known Scottish ancestors – but I do love Braveheart & bagpipes!)
  I’m looking forward to trying these scones with the original dried cranberry and orange zest ingredients (referenced in the blog link above). I’d also like to look into how well these freeze because I think they’d make a perfect dessert for the meals I take to Veronica’s Voice.

What is one of your favorite desserts to make and why? Do you ever try a different recipe for that dessert, or do you stick to the same one every time?

1. Macphie Launches New Ultra Scone | Macphie. High Quality Bakery and Food Ingredients Suppliers and Manufacturers, UK. | Macphie. Macphie, 13 June 2005. Web. 15 May 2011. .

My Poopy Cupcakes

For Mother’s Day Michael and I made plans to spend the afternoon with his grandma. I made the chicken pot pies ahead of time and froze them, but I waited to make a dessert. I was hunting for an orange-chocolate cupcake combo and decided on this recipe from Chockylit’s Cupcake Bakeshop blog. Then I did a little more searching and used this frosting recipe over at
I really wanted to like these cupcakes. I really did. Unfortunately the flavors of the Cara Cara orange simply killed this recipe (and I don’t mean that in the recently popularized “good” kind of way).

Please note the delicious “cat poop” inspired frosting.

There were so many things that went wrong with this baking experience… Starting with not planning ahead. Instead of sitting the butter out and waiting for it to soften gradually – I nuked it. Yes, I committed one of the seven deadly sins of baking and microwaved my butter. Then, also due to my lack of preparedness, the proper oranges for this recipe remained sealed away in my freezer, hence the Cara Cara oranges. But the most damaging blow was over-mixing the batter. The end result was like biting into a orange-cornbread-textured cupcake with a chocolate flavored turd on top.

A poopie look to match an equally poopie flavor.

Oh.. and at the time the decorating choice was completely unintentional. But in hind-sight, maybe it was a bit of a Freudian slip, eh? Needless to say, these were “reserved” for Michael to hawk up to his co-workers rather than grace his grandmother’s taste buds.

Would you still try to give away a dessert you knew was less than your best, or would you rather chuck it and pretend it never happened? What’s one of your worst meal disasters and how did you respond?
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