Welcome to my blog! I'm so glad you stopped by. I happen to be one of those people who lives to eat, and the only thing I love more than eating is hanging out with my family and friends. Grab a cup of coffee and sit down to my daily devotion. I can't wait to tell you what's on my mind today....

Monday, January 31, 2011

Where Wild Shichons Roam...

We have the most adorable little dog you've ever seen!  Our little guy is a relatively new breed called a "Shichon" (or some say "zuchon").  He's a mix between a Shi Tzu and a Bichon Frise.  As you can imagine, he's a fluffly white and beige thing who has quite a lot of personality.  His formal name is Teddy Graham, but we've almost always called him "Bobo".

Bobo is a beggar. I can't imagine what goes on in his mind, but it is probably something like this: They are always eating...I want something to eat...why can't I get a snack?!...I want a snack!!...This is so unfair!  Any time this dog hears a piece of paper rattle, a drawer being opened, anything shaking in a box, or any other potentially food-related noise, he comes running.  He plants himself at the feet of the person making the noise and whines.  He sneezes. He sniffles. He barks. He nibbles.  He makes his presence known because all he wants out of life is the next bite.  He's a beggar, and he's not too proud to admit it.

Bobo was a Christmas present to our children a year ago.  They had wanted a dog for a good while, but Wayne and I were very reluctant to get one.  As a family, we are on the go a lot, and a dog seemed to be a bit too difficult for our equation.  But...Wayne's mother wanted to give the kids a dog.  Our daughter is allergic to most everything with fur, but Bobo has hair and does not shed or have the usual dander that most dog breeds have.  He's hypoallergenic.  So when we went to the dog boutique with Wayne's mother, Bobo was the only dog that would have worked with our daughter.  Because it was 2 days before Christmas, the only other dog there was the yippiest of chihuahuas - that wasn't going to happen, so we asked to see Bobo.  He was already 4 months old, and he had lived his entire life in a kennel cage.  His breeder was a wonderful lady, but the dogs stayed in their kennels most of the time, so when Bobo was let out to see us, he immediately ran to the corner and hid under a chair.  We got him, anyway, even though I had my doubts about his mental stability since he hadn't uttered a single sound, and he hid from us, shaking violently.

When we got Bobo home, he quickly found the closest piece of furniture under which to hide.  The kids spent a good 2 weeks just trying to get the dog out from under chairs and end tables.  He had the run of the entire house, but he chose to stay in "captivity" under things that would box him in.  He still hadn't uttered a sound.  I just knew we had purchased a mentally challenged dog.  Why else would he act like he was bound and in prison unless he had something wrong with him?  Then...all of a sudden...he barked.  He could speak!  And before too long, he ran out to play with the children.  He was a real dog after all!  The changed that occurred in that little dog in the first month was monumental.  He was a new creature if there ever was one!

I think about our little guy, and so many others come to mind.  Through the years of ministry in our own home and in the home of my parents when I was growing up, I have witnessed so many lives set free from bondage.  I have seen people delivered from habits and lifestyles that kept them imprisoned.  What surprises me, though, is not the way that God can bring immediate release to a captive heart--it's the way that a heart set free seems to want to keep walking in bondage.  John 8:36 says, "So if the Son [of God] sets you free, you will be free indeed."  Why is it, then, that people who know Jesus walk around still slaves? I have seen so many wonderful people go through miraculous deliverance of their souls only to go right back to their old ways....being hard on themselves...fighting depression...believing the lies of the enemy in their lives, telling them, "You are nothing. God doesn't care about you. This will be your life forever.  You will never gain this victory."  And so many of these precious people fall for this.  They believe those words that the enemy speaks over them and walk in those lies as if they were reality.  Just like our little dog, we now have the run of the house, so why do we want to act like we are still imprisoned in our hearts and minds?

Don't believe lies that tell you that you are a failure.  If you hear words in your heart and your mind that put you down and depress you, you can be sure that it is not God who is whispering in your ear.  God's voice brings abundant life!  His words bring encouragement and lift us up from fear and depression.  If you feel like you are still in chains, know that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ have already purchased your freedom! 

So be free!  Come out of your prison cells and cozy up to the feast that God has set before you.  If you have accepted Jesus and the life that He has waiting for you, you are no longer a slave to the lies of the enemy--you are free to enjoy God's blessings. ....and you don't even have to beg!

Bobo's favorite foodWell, anything really. BUT  he has been eating Rachael Ray's "Nutrish" dog food in the Chicken and Veggies flavor.  We like Rachael in this house, and I know that she loves her own dog fiercely, so we think her product must be pretty good.  Bobo also likes to snack on little carrots.  What does your dog like to eat?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

If You Only Knew...

I just can't get enough icy cold water these days.  The heater is on in the house, and the air is so dry.  Lukewarm tap water doesn't seem to satisfy...all that I want is water that has been chilled to a pre-ice status in my cold refrigerator.  Because of the hot, dry air, I am running back and forth to the kitchen, passing the kids as I go because they, too, are thirsty.  Imagine my surprise today when we got to church and the pastor's message was on the same topic.  He talked about a deep and never-ending thirst and about the Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar.  Read John 4:4-42.  The story is intriguing, comical, precious, mystical, awe-inspiring....the story embodies the very reason that Jesus came. 

In a nutshell, Jesus was traveling and decided to take the road that went through Samaria.  Jews in that day usually chose to go around, but Jesus didn't worry about on-going spats.  He didn't even worry that interacting with a Samaritan woman and drinking from her bucket would make him ceremonially unclean.  He asked for a drink, and she challenged this desire with the fact that she was Samaritan and He, a Jew.  His response was powerful.  (John 4:10) "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." 

Our Pastor told this true story.  He and his wife went into Brookstone several years back.  It was Christmas shopping season, and they were playing around with all the fabulous massage chairs, telescopes, outdoor speakers... They were having fun in a store filled with gadgets.  His wife spotted a hairbrush that cost $29 and said it was what she wanted for Christmas.  He said, "Well...that's a lot for a hairbrush."  Instead, he picked up $11 worth of little stocking stuffers and went to pay for them.  The lady at the register asked if he had a scratch card.  When they were walking into the store, a sales associate had give them a card.  He handed it to the lady, and she scratched it off.  She looked at him oddly and walked away to confer with a manager.  The manager walked over and said, "I heard there was one of these in existence out there somewhere, but I never thought I'd see it."  The card was good for 100% off the purchase.  This really happened.  He asked if he could pick something else out, but the rules were that the person at the register scratched the card for the items rung up.  It was too late.  He got 100% off of $11.  Wow.

When Jesus looked at the Samaritan woman, He said in essence, "If you only knew who I am, you would ask me for so much more."  We are like the man with the scratch card at Brookstone!  If we only knew who God is and what is available to us, the possibilities are endless!  You see, we ask for a better parking spot at the mall...we ask for a good score on a test...we ask for relief from a headache.  But do we ask for the infilling of the Holy Spirit of God?  Do we receive the presence of the Almighty God to be in us, working through us, on a regular basis?  The Holy Spirit is the Living Water.  This is available to everyone.  It is an inexhaustible wellspring of the life of God.  This is for us the mind of Christ in every situation, the true riches, the Divine purpose, the oil of gladness, the all-sufficient Grace, all-consuming love of God.  We seek a thing in a moment, but God wants to give us the never-ending and abundant spring of Living Water to work in and through us. 

I have had a good, deep drink of water in my life, but the truth is that it did not satisfy for very long.  I still want a good, deep drink of water.  Chances are, I will never get that one singular drink that quenches all my natural thirst until the end of time.  Our spirits are like that, too.  We are forever in need of the refreshing infilling water of the Spirit of God, and we have all that we need readily available to us. Why wouldn't everyone want Living Water? 

My challenge for you is this:  Realize who God is. Know that His awesome presence is with you.  Ask Him to give to you from the inexhaustible wellspring of His Spirit.

Eco-friendly tip:  Invest in a reusable water bottle.  Don't keep buying bottled water.  Many of those companies fill the bottles with filtered tap water.  It's the same thing you can do at home.  Get a filtered pitcher and refill your own reusable bottle.  Don't just use a plastic bottle that came with water or soda because they aren't made for reuse and can release chemicals, etc, over time.  And keep on drinking water!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Simplest Recipe

I collect cookbooks,  I receive cooking magazines, and  I read these things like some people read novels.  I enjoy seeing how other people combine flavors, and, from time to time, I try a few of these recipes out for myself!  I have to admit, though, I prefer simple recipes.  There are many fabulous dishes that I will never attempt to cook because there are 15 plus ingredients and 3 or 4 steps involved.  Give me the simple life!  For example, there's a certain household name in the cooking/decorating industry (a former model-turned-household-mogul, famously incarcerated) who makes the most wonderfully beautiful foods.  They also often happen to look incredibly complicated.  As much as I think this woman hung a tasteful home-making moon, I probably won't prepare her recipes. 

In general, I want to know the most direct route to anything.  I don't care if driving on the main road gets me into more traffic.  I want the straightest pathway with the least amount of turns.  When I'm doing a task, I want the most basic outline of what needs to happen.  And when I'm hearing a story, I'd like just the facts, M'am.  I'm incredibly simple and hopefully somewhat efficient. 

There was a time in my life when I thought that leading someone to the Lord must be an awfully daunting task.  It seemed like there were too many things to remember...so much ground to cover in one moment that it must be almost impossible.  I was under the youthful impression that only those with an evangelistic "calling" could accomplish such a thing.  How foolish!  There is nothing simpler.  The hardest part is overcoming our own personal fears.

In truth, people want to hear the Gospel.  They want to have the solution to the problems in their lives.  They act as if there is nothing farther from their desires, but they really do want the freedom of a life in Christ.  It's like the little boy on the playground who taunts the one little girl with pigtails.  He calls her names and carries on in a most hurtful fashion...when all along, he wants her affection.  That's how the world treats Jesus.  They act so hateful and juvenile towards the King of all kings, but their hearts are screaming out for the affection of their heavenly Father. 

The recipe is simple.  Share the basic truth of the Gospel.  Jesus came.  He lives a sinless life.  He took our sin on Himself and died in our place. On its own, it is compelling and sweet.  Then you can tell how your life is changed.  Personal stories add great modern-day flavor to the Gospel - it lets people know that they, too, can have access to the greatest story ever told.  If people reject the Lord, at least the seed has been planted.  Trust me, it will stay with them.  But if they are moved to accept Him, the rest is easy.  Romans 10:9 gives us the basic recipe for salvation. "If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,; and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved."

You can trust that the very presence of God will work in their lives after they have received Christ.  There will be plenty of time to give them guidance or to point them in the right direction for help along the way.  Getting people to a place of salvation, though, is easier than we realize.  Our input is obedience.  God does all the rest.  There couldn't be a more direct recipe to soften and sweeten a hardened heart.

Favorite simple recipe of the day:  Corn Pudding.  Take one can of creamed corn and one can of kernel corn, juices included.  Add to that one box of Jiffy corn muffin mix and 3/4 stick butter, melted.  Mix thoroughly.  Put in small casserole/souffle dish and bake @ 350 until done.  It depends on your dish and your oven, but start looking at it around 45 mins.  It should be soft but somewhat solid and slightly golden on the top.  Yum!  My own mother has used it along with a turkey breast to mimic a Thanksgiving meal anytime without the hard work of homemade dressing.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Pick-me-up in the Afternoon

The first thing I ask myself when I'm in a bad mood is this:  Am I hungry?  For some reason, a lack of food seems to irritate me.  I'm a homeschool mom, so I can be a little on edge anyway, but there's an afternoon hour where I really sense the need to get a cup of coffee and a small handful of anything.  My afternoon snacks range from almonds to a snack sized Snickers...or a cup of yogurt to a piece of cheese.  It really doesn't matter what it is as long as I get something in my stomach.  Then...as if by some strange calming force...the whole world seems to be in balance once again.  That, my friends, is the power of a bite of food.

There are other times, though, when my edginess surfaces.  It seems to be a bit more intense and sharply worded.  I can feel this type of discontent deep in my being, and, for some reason, I seem to be the last person to notice what's going on:  I am spiritually hungry.  Our physical beings line up with our spiritual beings in nearly every way.  If there is an agitation that arises from an empty stomach, you'd better believe that there's an even greater intensity that comes from the agitation of an empty spirit.  And no cup of coffee or piece of chocolate can satisfy the hunger therein.

We must always be in a state of constant infilling.  There may be seasons of physical fasting, but there is never a season where we should back off from God's presence or His Word.  We should be feasting on what God has before us every chance we get.  The end result is precious and sweet and pours from our very beings to the people around us.  In fact, I think it would be impossible to be crabby if we are filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit.

The next time you reach for that afternoon "pick-me-up", don't forget to spend a few moments in fellowship with the Lord, as well.  He is the best cure for the lag in our days.

Favorite afternoon snack: Every morning, Wayne and I make enough coffee to afford us an afternoon cup, as well.  We prepare them to our tastes and put them in the fridge for the part of the day where it is needed!  And we always keep an assortment of nuts on hand to give us a boost until dinner.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

It Will All Work Out in the End!

When it comes to food, at least half of the appeal is the presentation.  Something can be delicious but look awful and, therefore, keep people at bay.  When my son was in kindergarten, his class was reading Dr. Seuss, so the kitchen prepared green eggs and ham for them.  It took some cajoling to get the kids to eat the green eggs.  They loved the concept, but they didn't necessarily want to eat them! 

On the flip side, we had a Japanese young lady stay with us for several weeks a couple of years back, and she thought everything looked delicious!  For three solid weeks, every single item that she ate was photographed first.  She turned her plate this way and that, looking for the best possible angle.  Each and every photo was uploaded onto her social network page.  She was so excited about food.  She was studying nutrition in Japan, and she wanted to taste and document everything she could.  It was delightful to watch....if not outright amusing!

The photos my brother-in-law and I took of our children last Fall, however, were not anywhere near delightful.  They may have been amusing to an onlooker, but it was almost impossible to get five children in a row to look at the camera and smile on cue! If you have children, you probably can imagine what I'm talking about.  My sister happened to be out of town on the date of the photo shoot.  That was problem number one.  Our children see each other about once a year since we live so far apart, and they were incredibly excited.  That was problem number two. These kids were all over the place.  At one point, they exited the photo studio and ran down the aisles of a department store.  My son found my sister's three boys lying in a heap wrestling...in the department store...  Once we gathered them back together and marched them back to the studio, I either had to threaten them with their very lives or to make grand promises of ice cream to get favorable responses out of all five.  And after the photos were taken, there was a computer malfunction, and more than half of the pictures were lost from the camera card.  Fortunately, there were two pretty good group shots that we were able to get.  All in all, the moment would have been impossible to an inexperienced cameraman.  We just happened to have a lady who had several children of her own, and she pulled it all off in the end. 

In our household, we are faced with an onslaught of impossible moments.  Frustration levels could run high if were relied solely on our own abilities, but we don't.  We definitely have a higher power at work on our behalf!  We know that we are doing what God has asked of us, so we are confident that He will pull us through every rough spot.  In fact, Romans 8:28 tells us that "in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." We believe God's promises, and we stand firm on the fact that God always has been faithful to us.  Last year, in particular, we were faced with numerous challenges, but the Lord prepared a way for us through every trial. 

We are blessed to serve a God who lovingly cares for us.  Like those squirmy little children at the photo shoot, we are probably all over the place in God's eyes!  There are more than likely quite a few moments when the heavenly Father rolls his eyes and then gently scoots us back into place.  The amazing thing is that the final photos always turn out somehow, don't they?  God is keenly aware of His presentation.  He picks us up from our messes, brushes us off and allows us to come out looking good in the end!

Favorite presentation: I have a wonderful three tiered stand that opens out to serve in staggered heights side-by-side instead of straight up and down.  It's a beautiful centerpiece itself when tasty bites are presented on this stand.  Other dishes can sit around on the table, but the lifted heights of the three plates on that stand make the table so beautiful. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Let it Snow!

The winter is on with full force!  Snow has made its appearance a few times already, and I fully expect to see more of it before February comes and goes.  Wayne and the kids have slid down every hill in town, and they thoroughly enjoy the prospects of more opportunities to go head first down the next mountain.  Personally, I think it's a little crazy.  I don't like to be cold, and I don't like to travel at ridiculous speeds uncontrollably downward with my head leading the way.  But each to his own...  I do, however, like to stay inside and make snow cream with the powdery snow that they bring to me.  Growing up, we always used a little sweetened condensed milk and a drop of vanilla.  In our home, we've done the same or done the next best thing by making a sort of shaved iced, using flavored syrups that we have on hand or juice concentrate.  Either way, the children enjoy a bowl of snow.

I'm not too keen on ice cream unless it's homemade.  Some of my fondest memories of my childhood involve food, of course, and the sweetest ones often involve hand-churned ice cream.  My parents have an old wooden ice cream bucket with a hand crank.  My Dad is the master of the churn!  I remember Mama mixing the luscious overly sweetened mix and pouring it into the canister.  Daddy would then pack ice all around, layering the ice with rock salt.  As a child, I didn't quite understand why in the world we wanted to melt the ice.  That was, indeed, the purpose of the salt.  I couldn't figure it out!  We were trying to freeze the cream, yet Daddy was intent on melting the ice!  It wasn't until some time in my teens that the whole concept made sense.  In order for the cream to get cold, the actual cold had to come from somewhere!  If we took the cold from the ice and re-directed it to the canister, the ice cream could become a reality.  (This is the simplified version of the science at work here.)

This reminds me of one of God's principles.  If we want to receive more in God's Kingdom, we must be willing to pour out all that we already have.  We have to think of our lives as pipelines of God's blessing rather than storehouses of good things.  We don't get to have...we get to give.

In Matthew 10:8, Jesus is speaking to His disciples, instructing them in the act of ministry.  He says, "Freely you have received, freely give." This carries the idea that we cannot just gather for ourselves and save for our own selfish purposes.  We are to be learning all that we can about God, His Word and His Spirit so that we can take it out to people who have the greatest needs.  God's Kingdom is not solely about building us up so that we have all the knowledge and the power and can sit around knowing that we are right.  Rather, God's Kingdom is about lives of servitude.  The ministry of Jesus was one of pouring out all that He had to the people around.  In this way, He was able to minister the love of the Father, and lives were changed.

In order to have rich and creamy ice cream, the cold has to be taken from the source and given to the cream.  The product is wonderful.  So is the product of the lives that can be changed when we are willing to be given out to the people in need around us.

Let is snow!  And then make some snow cream...

Favorite ice cream gadgetBoth Cuisinart and Krups (and I'm sure others) have ice cream machines where you keep the canister itself in the freezer.  When you want a little bit of ice cream, you can measure up just enough for your family and whip out a container of the good stuff.  It's electric, and cleanup is easy...no salt required! Why wait for summer?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Next to Godliness

Cheese is a wonderful invention.  I would almost rather eat cheese than anything else on the planet.  I love cheese from cream cheese to bleu cheese...from sandwich singles to Swiss.  It is such a satisfying treat, so I guess that makes Raclette one of my favorite dishes.  My family was in Switzerland quite a few years ago, and our friends took us to a cheese market where we purchased all sorts of local cheeses.  We went back to their home and roasted little potatoes, grilled veggies and carved off bits of delicious roasted meats.  These were all arranged on a platter on the table.  Next, we cut slices of cheese from the various blocks purchased and put them all on their individual plates to keep them separate.  Finally, they brought out a contraption that I had never seen.  It was a round thing like a spaceship with little handles sticking out all the way around it.  Each of the 12 handles was attached to a tiny little pan that fit neatly into its own door.  Each guest was assigned their own pan, and we began to take the cheese of our choice, put them in the pans and then put them back into the raclette machine.  This machine melted the cheeses perfectly, and when they were ready, we then poured them over our choice of veggies and meats.  This is Raclette -- a plate of melted, cheesy goodness with a side of food.  It's perfect, isn't it?

I am impressed, however, with more than the cheese of Switzerland!  Switzerland is, in fact, as beautiful as you've been led to believe.  It is a collection of perfectly manicured, rolling hills surrounded by majestically snow-capped mountains.  We drove all around Zurich, and we never once saw a single piece of trash.  The Swiss are very proud of the beauty that surrounds them, and they go to great lengths to make sure that everything highlights the scenery.  The homes and yards are immaculate.  There is nothing that indicates laziness...at all.  I'm amazed at the way that an entire country can work together to accomplish such a herculean task.

I'm from the Southeast, but I've been throughout the entire United States and have to say that almost everywhere I've been, I've seen abandoned homes, broken down cars, excessive lawn ornaments, trash by the barrels, etc, dotting the landscape of our nation.  It's a bit embarrassing when we try to see these things through a foreigner's eyes.  When we have guests who visit, there are certain streets that they will never see!  I'm sure you could say the same of your own cities.  This is the sort of thing that is lacking in Switzerland.  These people are up there breathing cleaner air, and it has gone to their head!

There's an old saying that erroneously gets blamed for being in the Bible:  Cleanliness is next to Godliness.  In the Bible or not, there is profound truth there.  God is a god of order.  The things that He made are so very delicate and exact in their composition.  There are clear rules that govern the makeup of each cell.  He did all things well.  He is very concerned that we are orderly, too, but His concern is with the origin of our intent.

In Matthew 23, Jesus is speaking to a group that had gathered to hear Him.  He addressed the religious groups that showed up at the temple.  Many strived to have the appearance of devotion in an effort to make others around them look bad.  Our Lord's assessment of them was strong. "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.  Blind Pharisee!  First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.  Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness." Matthew 23:25-28

Sometimes, I get a little shy around people who appear to be perfect.  I don't always feel as put together as they are.  And sometimes I am quite embarrassed when people show up at my house and things are strewn about.  The truth is, though, that inside we are all a little messy and in need of a good clean up.  I would rather be a bit externally strewn, making every effort to please God on the inside than the opposite - making external attempts to please people while living with the mess of my heart.  God loves order, but He loves us in our messy conditions.  It is His will to come into our lives and bring about the change necessary for our own internal house-keeping.

Menu suggestionGive raclette a try.  You may not have the machine for it, but you can melt a variety of cheeses that you love and top your favorite meats or veggies.  Keep the carbs off the table, though, to make up for the fat grams you'll be eating!  :) Create your own favorite cheese combos and let me know...I'd like to try them, too!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Let the Games Begin!

Iron Chef is one of my favorite shows to watch.  I watched it way back when it was only in Japanese, and now I watch it in English!  If you haven't seen it, it's a show that has a group of 4 or 5 "iron chefs" who are consistent with the show.  Every week, a challenging chef comes on and picks one of the main guys to challenge.  The secret ingredient isn't revealed until the minute the guys start competing, and they get exactly one hour to make 5 or 6 different dishes that highlight the secret theme.  Some of the items make my mouth water, and others make my stomach roll!  For example, would you ever eat garlic ice cream?  Well...how about a beautifully aged steak with melted gruyere cheese? Of course!

It's exciting to watch the chefs go to the very last second...sweat pouring...hands shaking... And the things they come up with are both classic and newly creative.  Every now and then, I get a few ideas that twist up existing recipes, but for the most part, I just watch to see the fight go down.  The chefs always act so professional, but you have to wonder what's going on in their minds.  Are they thinking, "How could I possibly lose? I'm French!" or "Help!  How many things can one make with capers?" And when the winner is announced, they both just smile and shake hands like the true professionals that they are.

I love a good fight, and I really like to see an underdog rise to the top.  It's kind of a classic American fairy tale, isn't it?  But in my day, I have observed some fights that never should have happened.  My entire life has been spent in the shadow of a steeple.  My parents are pastors, as were my grandparents before them.  I have seen and heard so many things it would make your head spin!  It seems like the people who have the Spirit of God in them should all play fairly, but I have witnessed some unfortunate things. 

Somewhere along the way, some people have forgotten that we are all fighting on the same team!  Eph 6:12 says, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." We are so much more powerful against our enemy when we work together to overcome! God's plan is that we join forces to advance His Kingdom.  In this way, we can show the love of God to the world around us by showing His love to each other.  When we behave with respect, others will see the difference in us and want some of the same love and respect in their own lives.

I would love to go see Iron Chef's "Kitchen Stadium" for myself, and I'd really love to be the judge who gets to taste all the creations. But better yet would be to know that I, myself, have been a part of a winning team, leading others on to victory!

Favorite Iron Chef of the day: Last night I routed for the newest Iron Chef Forgione.  I watched him compete in a series to become the next Iron Chef.  He was polite and respectful throughout.  I like him and wish him success!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Following the Recipes

Are you a good recipe follower?  I'm not.  I usually pour in a little of this and shake a lot of that.  I very rarely get out the measuring spoons and cook something to its exact specifications.  However, I have found through the years that, when it comes to baking, you might want to be a bit more diligent with directions.  Baked goods are very fussy and want to be handled more specifically than other foods, and ingredients aren't as readily substituted. 

When I was in high school, I was on my church's drama team.  We had a skit where a Bible salesman came to the door of a home and rang the bell.  When he was allowed in, the people who lived there weren't sure that they wanted a Bible because there were a few things in it that they didn't like so much.  The salesman said that he could take out things that weren't agreeable, and he ripped out the offending page.  At the next house, it was more of the same.  He ripped out a few more pages.  At the third house, they liked the Bible, but wanted to add things that they felt were missing, so the salesman was able to write in the additions.  And by the time the salesman was done, he had pretty much taken out all of the original pages and re-written the Bible altogether.

The lights went down on the stage, and the anouncer read from Revelations 22 - a warning against either adding or taking from the words written therein.  It seemed like a pretty simple skit, but it had a heavy impact.  The things that the customers were wanting were things like this:  "I don't really like my neighbors. They allow their garbage to spill all over the side of their house, and I can see it.  I don't really like that part about 'loving my neighbor as myself'. Can we take that out?"  or "I don't really want to tell my boss about all the tips that I earned today, so I want to have something written in there about it being OK to tell 'white lies'."  The things that were being changed weren't necessarily the foundations of our faith, but they were subtle changes that could change the flavor of the Word nonetheless. 

The truth is that the Word of God is Holy Spirit inspired.  It's not our place to add to it or to take from it.  We need to be very careful so that our lives will reflect the truth of the Bible, keeping standards that line up with the will of God for our lives instead of letting things slide here and there.  God's plan for our lives is not a legalistic plan, but it is for us to live excellent lives that honor Him, not changing the "recipe" according to our own desires.

When it comes to my cooking, you may never taste the same thing twice at my house.  I may not even be able to replicate a dish because I'm not really sure what I put in it in the first place!  But when it comes to my walk with the Lord, I hope that what you see in me is consistent and holy.  I don't ever want to say one thing and live another.  I hope to keep the outcome favorable to the recipe!

Favorite cookbook today: I love Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa's Back to Basics.  What's your favorite?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

"Interesting" Food

I really love the English language.  I think it is an adventure to craft some phrases and interpret others, looking at the various angles from which they can be viewed.  Entire meanings can be changed simply by changing the emphasis of a single word.  Read these 3 words, changing your emphasis according the the italics: He loves you. He loves you.  He loves you.  Do you see how the smallest inflection can change the simplest of phrases? 

Wayne and I were out to dinner recently with another couple.  The wife asked the waiter if a particular item on the menu was good.  He said, "It's pretty good."  Our conversations continued, and the waiter came around again.  At this point, Wayne noticed his bracelets.  They were beaded and definitely African.  Wayne asked his home country, and he said he was from Kenya.  I piped in and said one of the few phrases that I can say in Swahili, which is "Praise the Lord".  He smiled, and we started talking about Africa.  We actually had mutual friends.  Now, keep in mind that this young man had lived here 7 years, and he was a college student.  He didn't have much accent at all.  He could easily be mistaken for a true American.

So....our friends asked about another menu item.  "Is it good?"  and the young man responded, "It's pretty good."  This was when we recognized his mistake.  The lady started laughing and said, "I think I need to tell you something.  When you say 'pretty good,' we think it's not very good at all."  He was very surprised by this new information.  You see, if you say something is "pretty"...that's good.  If you say something's "good"...that's obviously good.  So why wouldn't the two things together mean "really, really good"?  Go figure.  This is the kind of thing that makes English one of the most difficult languages on the planet. 

The young man thanked us profusely and said, "I think my sales my go up with this new information."

I met a missionary once who was telling us of her many wild and weird experiences with food throughout Africa.  She said that when she was given foods, she used to struggle for the right words to say.  You can't just sit there and say something is delicious when it is revolting, can you?  It simply wouldn't be true. Besides, if you make that mistake, they will give it to you time and again.  This is probably not what you are wanting, so what do you do?  Her helpful hint was to use the word "interesting."  And she phrased it very well.  She said that sometimes, the food she ate was interesting.  Sometimes, it was very interesting.  And other times, it was very, very  interesting.  I had to laugh.

It is easy to misinterpret things, isn't it?  It is easier, still, to take that misinterpretation and get offended by what we think someone is saying or doing.  In the Body of Christ, we need to take extra precautions to be gracious with each other.  We should guard against being easily offended. We are humans who are bound to place our emphases incorrectly.  We are apt to act foolishly on occasion, but we should give the same grace that we want to receive from others. 

Mark 12:29-31 gives us a breakdown of how God wants us to live. 1) we should love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. and 2) we should love our neighbor as ourselves.  This really should get rid of the offense of misinterpretation.  If we want others to cover our mistakes with their love, then we should be willing to offer that same grace to them.  Just like our waiter, people often don't even realize that they are offensive.  They may be making simple cross-cultural mistakes or mistakes based on their own misunderstanding of the appropriate responses. Our grace should be given maturely and without reserve.

I hope that you will eat many interesting foods in your life!  Everyone needs the chance to experience new things.  And I hope that you even find some of those things to be pretty good.

The old saying is this: Chew up the meat and spit out the bones.  Which interpreted means, take the good stuff that is given to you and throw out the things that easily could be offensive.

An interesting food that I've never understood? Carrot and raisin salad.  Why would you do that?  And carrots in jello....why, please?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Tiny Tastes, Awesome Flavors

I am a sucker for appetizers!  I love small bites of food that offer amazing flavor.  A few years back, tapas (pronounced TAH-pahs) restaurants became very popular here in the U.S.  The concept caught on, and people are making money serving teeny tiny little plates with one or two bites of food.  The general idea is that you can try 15 or so plates of various flavors while hanging out with your friends.  I love that!  #1, I love little bitty things... #2, I love to eat lots of different things, so this idea appeals to me greatly.  If you get a plate that you don't really like...well, there's just one bite.  If you like something very much, just order another one.  (It seems to work beautifully until you get the bill and realize that you've just paid $5 or so for each little plate....)

Several years ago, a young Japanese girl was staying in our home for some months.  She had just been released from a Japanese hospital where she had been admitted for attempted suicide.  I had known her since she was six years old and wasn't about to sit idly by while she ruined her life, so I invited her to live with us in the States.  She came - a broken and confused young lady.  One particular morning, we were trying to get ready to go to church when a wave of depression hit her horribly, and she locked herself in her room and threatened to harm herself.  Well, being the sensitive lady that I am, I unlocked the door and put my finger in her face and told her that in no uncertain terms was she going to take her life right there in my house with my children as witnesses...and furthermore, she was going to straighten up and get downstairs and eat her breakfast! She obeyed and came downstairs in a "funk" not unsimilar to a toddler's pouting. 

At this point, I began to tell her that she would battle this forever if Jesus was not the Lord of her life.  I told her that I could help her, but she had to accept Him.  She was very reluctant.  No one in her life in Japan at all was a Christian.  She just couldn't seem to make up her mind, so...I waved a little plate under her nose.  I said, "I tell you what.  You don't have to make your life's decision this very instant because you don't really know what it's all about.  How about this...why don't you just try Jesus.  If He doesn't work for you, then you'll know.  But if you don't try, then you can't say for sure if Jesus is what you need. And...if it works for you, then you need to commit to follow Him with your whole heart."  She agreed to sample this new flavor that I was offering, and we prayed that the Lord will come in and fill her heart.

It was a beautiful thing to witness.  She began to radiate with joy immediately.  My children were young, and my son kept exclaiming that it was amazing!  She was so happy!  He couldn't believe the change that he had seen with his own eyes.  The young lady was equally shocked.  She kept saying, "What happened?  I can't explain this!  I feel wonderful! What happened?"  That tiny little taste of Christ was all that it took to transform her life.  She didn't know that she could be so filled. 

Now, she is nearly graduated from an online Bible School in Japan.  She plays the piano in her local church.  Her mother and grandmother have both come to the Lord, and she is praying for her entire family.  In Japan, this is considered a phenomenon.  Japan has not experienced the revival that has hit other nations, so we continue to pray for the Holy Spirit to be poured out over that tiny, yet powerful, nation. 

Just a little taste was all she needed.  She knew that it was a flavor that she wanted in her every day.  Kind of like the little tapas.  Sometimes I eat things that I love, and sometimes I taste things that I hope I never see again!  If you offer the sweet and powerful flavor of Jesus Christ, people want more.  If you aren't giving them this taste, they will never know what they are missing.

Favorite appetizer of the day: Frog eyes.  I scared you, didn't I?  If you've read any of my past blogs, you ought to be scared, but no frogs are harmed in the making of this yummy treat.  Simply take peppered pastrami (not too thinly sliced) and spread it with softened cream cheese.  Put a whole dill pickle in the center and roll it up.  Put in the fridge to harden for several hours and then slice them in about 1/2 inch thick slices.  If you've done it correctly, it resembles some sort of deep south sushi.  This is a guaranteed hit at your Super Bowl party!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pull those weeds, kids!

Have you ever grown a vegetable garden?  I remember when I was pretty young that someone at our church let my father use their land.  Daddy decided to grow a "little" garden.  I'm not so sure that little is the word I would use, though.  That little garden was 3 acres big, and my parents and we three girls are the ones who would walk the rows, weeding and picking the bugs off the tender shoots.  We drove out to that garden all the time to tend to it long before a single edible thing introduced itself!  We pulled and picked, pulled and picked, pulled and picked, and we girls weren't all too happy to be doing it, either. 

I remember being hot and dirty - which I didn't necessarily mind so much ...I didn't want to be hot, dirty and working.  I would rather have been riding my bike, climbing trees or turning cartwheels than all that nonsense!  But Daddy was insistent on that garden being kept clean and free from weed and pestilence.

When it came time to start picking the vegetation, we couldn't believe how much there was!  We could fill our car trunk with food and come back the next day and do it all over again.  There was such a bounty!  This all started a new line of work...canning.  My mother was busy around the clock putting away the food that would keep us healthy for years to come. 

Since I've been married, I haven't planted a vegetable garden, but I've always kept flowers growing near our front door.  Every now and then I take the kids outside and sit them around the little garden and give the instruction, "Weed!" And just like me when I was young, I hear grunts and groans about the boredom of repetitiously pulling weed after weed.  I hear things like, "Why do we have to do this when they are just going to be back next week?"

Those weeds in the garden tend to grow elsewhere, too.  We have weeds that turn up all through our lives.  Just when you think you have pulled something out that shouldn't be there, a new bad habit shows itself...  or an ugly attitude surfaces... or grumbling increases... or pointing fingers at others becomes too regular... Weeds are like that.  They never go away.  It doesn't matter how much chemical you pour on them.  Eventually, they will come back.  It doesn't matter if you put heavy plastic down and then plant your flowers....you've just hidden your weeds.  In fact, the weeds in our lives are much stronger than the beautiful things that we wish would grow.  That's why weeding is a daily event. 

This is why I try to begin every day with the Lord.  I am like the Psalmist who said, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts.  And lead me in the way everlasting."  (Ps. 139:23)  I need for the Holy Spirit to examine my life and bring to my knowledge the things that are hidden, waiting to surface.  These things need to be dealt with before they can become "mother weeds" that shoot off smaller invaders throughout our lives.  Have you ever pulled at a piece of crab grass?  When the ground is moist, you can see that those tiny shoots that are storming your flower garden really go deep and far into your yard.  Things that are in opposition to God are like this in our lives, and we need the revelation of God to help us keep the weeds at bay.  What seems like a harmless little thing may be a deeper, more powerful force. 

No, I did not like pulling weeds and picking bugs.  But I really did love the sweet, unmarred peas, corn, squash, tomatoes and on and on that we harvested.  When we are diligent at the task of weeding and picking, the fruit that we bear will be beautiful, and others will see the difference of a wise gardener.

Favorite recipe from Daddy's garden: I always loved my mother's combination of onion, tomatoes, zucchinis and yellow squash.  You don't need to add much water bc the veggies have much of their own.  It was seasoned simply with salt, pepper and a good spoon of bacon grease and cooked slowly.  Yum!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Battle of the BBQ!

Since I married a man from North Carolina, I have been forced to eat BBQ across the United States and throughout the world.  We have tasted just about every form of BBQ preparation possible. We have had the stuff that some people want to call barbeque, which is just grilled food.  And we have had the overnight pit roasted meats that are so famous.  We've been to renowned restaurants that go from glitzy to dives, and we have some all-time favorites that I'd like to mention.

Wayne's favorites:  Swadley's in Bethany, OK; Gate's BBQ in Kansas City, KS; Lexington BBQ in Lexington, NC; County Line BBQ in Austin, TX; The Pit in Raleigh, NC; Sonny Bryan's Smokehouse in Dallas, TX; in Memphis, TN; Jim Neely's in Memphis, TN

Linda's favorites: Swadley's in Bethany, OK (It's listed first for a reason); Gates BBQ in Kansas City, KS (Oh, yeah); Whitt's BBQ in Decatur, AL; and Big Bob Gibson's in Decatur, AL

Wayne's list is a lot longer than mine because this is the food of his choice.  I will never turn down any of the restaurants on my list, either.  I love the smell of slow-fired meat, being as carnivorous and I am.  And while we're on the topic of grills and such, we have to give a shout-out to Japanese back yard barbeques!  There is nothing quite like it.  The grilled foods, the sauces, the way that everyone stands around the grill and grabs food off with their chopsticks, the way that conversations are more relaxed and filled with laughter....oh, we love it!  (And it just can't happen here in the U.S. - part of the draw is the way that we seem to be confused the whole evening bc their conversations become more colloquial and less understandable to English speakers throughout the course of the BBQ....the confusion is part of the recipe!)

In any case, no matter how you slice or pull it, BBQ is it's own genre, and people will go to war to defend their opinions in matters of the grill.  The things that must be present to make a good barbeque are this: spices, fire and meat. 

In this same fashion, when we blend the "spices" of prayer and praise with the "fire" of the Holy Spirit and the "meat" of our lives of service, the aroma that reaches heaven is very favorable to God! I think that He loves to smell our sacrifices on the altars of service in our lives.  God loves a good BBQ! 

We can't get too involved in spiritual conversations of BBQ before a raging theological debate occurs, though.  We all have our favorite pits and grills - the shacks on the sides of country roads where the food is the best.  If you are near any of our favorite restaurants, try them out.  If not, let us know what your favorite BBQ is.... we'll plan an entire trip around grilled meat!

Dinner on the Grounds

This week, my family and my parents drove back to our hometown to visit with some friends.  We have had the most wonderful time seeing the people who are more like family than even family.  It has been healing and refreshing to feel so much unconditional love coming towards us on the heels of a few unpleasant experiences elsewhere.  This sweet few days reminds me of so many others in our past where we've gathered together and passed around plates of comfort at a shared table.  Do you remember the days of "dinner on the grounds"? 

My parents are pastors, so I've had many opportunities to peek under lids of tin foil, plastic wrap and dish towels.  I always know whose fried chicken is the best, whose macaroni and cheese you must eat and whose squash casserole will leave you wanting more.  I know who will share recipes and who loves to keep family secrets.  I know when is the best time to get to the dessert table before the gooiest chocolate cake or tartest lemon pie disappears.  I have perfected the art of navigating the potluck, and I've learned that the older the actual container is, the better the flavor will be. 

Like those wonderful potluck dishes, we often gather together with our sweet friends who love the Lord.  You can tell those whose lives are beautifully seasoned.  It's easy to distinguish those who have marinated and simmered in God's sweet presence.  And I just want to run to the ones who have the containers with the most dings and stains.  This is it: I've learned that the saints who have weathered the battles and suffered the wounds of the fight of faith come out strong yet sweet, confident yet tender.  We have so much to learn from the people who have gone before us.

This week, a group of 20 or so of us were gathered in the home of a friend.  We began to sing, and I had to shut my eyes so that the tears of the older parents didn't open my own flood of emotion.  And when it was time to pray, the older ones among us went straight to the throne of God without hesitation.  They know God.  And the sweet thing is that seeing His powerful presence enter the room, I knew He knew them, too.  The time was wonderful - it was a feast laid out.  I sat there being so grateful that, once again, God allowed us the intimate favor of His fellowship.

And, yes, there was food.  We ate just like in the days gone by!  Everyone brought something to the table, and we all laughed and cried and reminisced and caught up....  We need more dinners on the ground, people!  When we mingle the food of fellowship with the sustenance of God's presence, there is an infilling that is multiplied and satisfying. 

So..come on over to my place!  Bring your tastiest dish!  And let's feast!

Potluck favorites, sure crowd pleasers: you cannot go wrong with homemade mac 'n' cheese.  It's what we scan the tables for.  And a Texas Sheet Cake is the most sought after potluck dessert!  Let me know what your favorite potluck dish is....

Monday, January 17, 2011

Water, water everywhere...nor any drop to drink

If I am thirsty - and I mean really thirsty - nothing on the face of the planet can satisfy but water.  I don't like many drinks that have flavor.  I'm pretty basic when it comes to the liquids in my life.  I will drink coffee with cream, unsweetened tea, grapefruit juice and water.  Of course, I'll have an occasional cup of hot tea, but it can't be infused with too much flavor.  My tongue doesn't want any sweetness in my drinks.  It seems to be another one of my oddities because I have a sweet tooth like no other.  I can hardly pass a bowl of sugar without salivating. 

Water is one of the most important things in our lives, yet it seems that there is always a shortage in some place or another.  We cannot live without the benefits of H20.  Our very cells scream out to be replenished.  Have you ever been on a long walk when it's warm?  Do you remember the dry parched condition of your throat until you made it to a water bottle or fountain?  Thirst is nature's way of letting us know we have gone too far without backup.  I'm told that if you feel the sensation of thirst, you should have had something to drink much sooner because once we feel thirsty, our bodies are already panicking. 

The Bible refers to water in our lives, as well. God is called a "Fountain of Living Water".  This sort of water is the kind that gets into the marrow of our existence with abundant refreshing.  The fact that the water in mention is living suggests that this fountain has the ability to foresee our coming needs and provide for us in advance.  Other Biblical references liken the Holy Spirit of God to the water in our lives.  The Holy Spirit is a thirst-quenching factor in our lives.

I know that I have had very "dry" periods in my walk with the Lord - times where I feel very lacking.  These are the times when I have not been soaking up the presence of God.  Maybe I haven't been diving to the depths of His Word to be filled.  Or I haven't been walking with the Holy Spirit in my daily life.  My soul becomes parched, and I long for the cool, refreshing drink of my true Source. 

Most people experience this thirsting of soul that I am talking about.  Many don't have any idea how to quench this longing.  Look around.  We see people striving to fill the void in their lives with so many things.  Some seek wealth and power.  Some seek relationship. Some seek knowledge.  Different people head to different "watering holes" when there is only one real and Divine source of Living Water. 

If I were running a long race, I would gratefully receive the little cup held out for me at the checkpoints.  I wouldn't refuse the sips that were offered to my aching throat.  I would grab the little cup and throw my head back eagerly.  We can be those people, you know.  We can hold out cups of sweet refreshing to the parched souls around us.  Our faith is not arrogant and pushy.  Our faith is life-saving and thirst-quenching.  We don't need to worry about offending the world with the water that we have to offer.  They need it.  If they taste it, they will understand that it satisfies. 

There is a water shortage in the world.  But John 7:38 says that, "Whoever believes in me, out of his/her belly will flow rivers of living water."  God supplies our personal need and then makes us a conduit of His Spirit to the thirsty souls around us.  We have tapped a never-ending source.  Let's make it known.

Our favorite bottled water?  Wayne and I like Springtime water.  It's not one of the more expensive waters out there.  We love that it is sweet and lacks aftertaste.  For the most part, though, we use our Brita filter pitcher in our home.  It's the cheapest way to get a good drink.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Closed on Sundays

I just love Mr. Truett Cathy.  He is a Southern hero of sorts.  You may not know him by name, but you surely know his great invention....the chicken sandwich!  He may not have invented chicken, but his claim is that the fried chicken sandwich is all his idea!  Mr. Cathy is the founder of Chick-fil-A.  This famous chain started in a little town outside of Atlanta in a small restaurant known as The Dwarf House.  My family actually ate there once.  It is an old-style short order diner complete with a long silvery counter and round red stools.  The back half has been remodeled to look just like any other Chick-fil-A, but the front remains pretty much the same...the way Mr. Cathy started.  Their menu includes things like sweet potato souffle, a "hot brown", homemade coconut pie and - get this - beef!  (We saw one of the customary Chick-fil-A mascots cow-ering in a corner...da da dum..) 

The thing that I love most about Truett Cathy is not necessarily his chicken.  I love his faith.  He established his restaurants on Biblical principles, and he remains committed to integrity and good old-fashioned service.  When you say, "Thank you," to a Chick-fil-A employee, you will always get, "It's my pleasure," in return.  That's so sweet.  They are all pleased to serve us!  And why shouldn't they be?  Their work environment is uplifting.  Everyone is smiling.  Very few people complain. They hear Christian music all day. And....they get Sundays off.  No one ever has to beg for a day to go to church!  It's automatic at Chick-fil-A!  This is a wonderful thing. 

We all know that one of the commandments is to "remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy."  The Lord built a day of rest for us into our busy weeks.  This is the day that we go to worship, hang out with our families and forget all about the busy-ness of the week.  God knew that we all get so focused on our own stuff and that we need a period of time to relax, regroup and refocus.  I think it is no accident that this coincides with our recognized day of worship.  How better to refocus than to remove our worries and stress and look completely on the face of the Lord.  Ideally, we should do this every day, but Sunday is a great time for us to gather together with others who love God just as much as we do.  This bolsters our faith and keeps us accountable to the Word. 

If you have to eat fast food, stop by Chick-fil-A.  Pick up a comment card and thank Mr. Cathy for his faithfulness to God and for the example he has set for so many young employees.  And when Sunday rolls around, throw a pot roast in the crock pot and come home from a day of worship to hang out with your precious family.  Because...Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays.

My Sunday suggestionTake a hike!  We love to go for a good walk in the woods on Sunday afternoons.  Our family observes so many things in nature, and we tend to forget all the stuff that has gone on through the week. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Cookies! Get your Girl Scout cookies!

The Girl Scouts are at it again!  I see you, cute little pixies, behind those card tables in front of my supermarket!  I see you with your vibrantly colored, hand-drawn posters, vying for my attention as I try to focus on my grocery list!  I know what you're trying to do!  You're trying to lure me in with promises of do-si-dos, samoas, tagalongs, peppermint patties!  The names have changed through the years, but your cookies remain the same: delicious, compact, satisfying.  Some of you have even braved the snow to ring my doorbell!  Oh, you're good.  And I just have one thing to say about it, "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!" 

I have waited all year long to stock up on my Girl Scout cookie boxes!  I am in the habit of buying several boxes and sticking the whole lot of them in the freezer.  They are the perfect little snack to pull out when the kids have sleepovers or when us moms have a cup of coffee.  Who doesn't love a Girl Scout cookie?

I think of these tiny, satisfying morsels of sweetness the same way I think of 5-10 minutes on the sofa with a cup of coffee and the Bible.  Some days and times are made for hours of study and preparation and some days I'm good to get in a solid 5 minutes of quiet time before the entire household is up and in my personal space.  I used to fret over it, thinking that I had not pleased the Lord with so little time.  In our busy schedules, though, I've learned that if I can't have a huge chunk of time for study, I can take the moments here and there that I have and add those together.  Do the math.  If you give 10 minutes every morning, you've given 70 minutes at the end of the week.  Seventy minutes sounds much better, doesn't it? 

I'm also in the habit of stealing other little moments.  For example, folding clothes is the perfect time to pray over each person in my home. Stirring the pot or loading the dishwasher, I can pray for other parts of the world that the Lord has laid on my heart.  Taking a shower, I can intercede with the Holy Spirit.  Sitting in the car while Matthew is in guitar is 30 whole minutes of time to read and hear from God. 

Just like a little Girl Scout cookie grabbed from the pantry, I can grab these little compact moments with Jesus.  Our quiet times don't have to be drawn out hours every day.  Yes, there is a need for more in depth study every now and then, but if you don't have that kind of time, be sure to take the few minutes here and there.  They really do add up....and they truly are satisfying!

Favorite Girl Scout Cookie?  I love the Samoas - and like most of these cookies, they have changed their name.  I just bought 4 boxes and still don't know what they're called now.  What's YOUR favorite Girl Scout cookie?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Milk and Honey

Honey is nature's candy.  Have you ever bought those little straws filled with honey and sucked out all the sugary goodness?  We love those around here.  Any time we see honey straws, we stock up.  We stock up on honey, in general, any time we see it being sold locally.  Not only is it a very good topping on toast, oatmeal, yogurt, but it is also helpful for people with hayfever.  A friend of mine who is an entomologist told me that if you eat honey from local bees, you will get special antibodies that help when pollens are at their peak - because honey is made from the same pollen.  He recommends at least a spoonful a day.  What a sweet remedy!

Some people love to drink honey milk.  My children love it, but I rarely make it.  It's just that...a warm mug of milk flavored with honey and maybe a sprinkle of cinnamon.  It's a really nice substitution for hot cocoa, and it's worth a try!  Two amazing things at once: milk and honey!

When I was 15 or so, my family was on a trip across the United States.  We went the Southern route, starting from my home state of Alabama.  We stopped somewhere in Mississippi to spend a night with some distant cousins of ours who happened to be dairy farmers.  We only spent one night there, but it was quite an education.  My cousin who was a year older than me (and whom I had only met that evening) offered to wake me at 4a.m. and take me with him to milk the cows in the morning.  This was a chore that had to be done twice a day.  He explained to me that there was no such thing at all as a vacation for a dairy farmer.  "You have to milk the cows!  They can't be ignored!"  So....I got up at 4a.m. to witness this thing that I knew I'd probably never see again.  I had it in my head that we would all be seated under cows milking away, and he humorously let me believe it, leading me even further down that ridiculous path!

When we got to the barn, which was a couple of miles away, I was amazed at the order and technology of a dairy farm.  It was much cleaner in the milking environment than I had imagined.  Each cow was cleaned before she was led to the milking machines.  These machines are very interesting!  They are designed for udders alone.  There is a contraption that hangs from overhead and comes down under the cow with a little vacuum system that has four little nozzles.  These separate arms are then place on the cows udders, and the milking begins.  Basically, my cousin's job was to wash the cow, attach the machine and repeat until all the cows were done.

During this process, I asked, "How many gallons of milk can one cow produce?"  I was thinking maybe 100 gallons in her life or so...but the answer was staggering! He told me that cows "in the wild" (haha) would yield about 10-12 gallons a day if nursing her calf.  But a cow on a modern day diet could produce as much as 120 gallons of milk a day!  Wow! What are they feeding these guys?  (It's a little scary, isn't it?) That is quite an abundance of milk!

In Exodus 3,  God spoke to Moses from the burning bush.  He told Moses that He had seen the misery of His people, and He was ready to deliver them.  He promised to take them to a land, flowing with milk and honey.  I absolutely LOVE this analogy! Is anything more pleasing?  A land flowing with milk and honey....I want to go there! God was promising to take them from a place of oppression and lack to a place of  freedom and abundance.  The chapters that follow are some of the most exciting in all the Scriptures.  The interesting thing is...when they got there (Numbers 13)...they didn't recognize it as the provision of God!  They were too afraid to enter in and had to spend more time wandering in the desert.

I wonder how many times we are like the Israelites?  We shy away from our blessing because it may involve more work than we had anticipated...or it looks a little daunting... like maybe we will fail... I think of my cousin with the dairy farm.  It was a lot of work.  They never could take a vacation as an entire family, but then again, they were doing quite well.  They had all the milk they could drink!  A beautiful home, a huge garden, lots of employees.  Not bad if you ask me.  Sure, they got up at 4 every morning, but they were very happy to do it.  There were many blessings that went along with all that hard work!  I don't want to miss the opportunities that lay before me because I'm afraid of what they may require of me.  I hope I'm never like the Israelites in expecting things to be handed to me without a little fight.  How about you? Are you ready to enter your Promised Land?

Don't be afraid to possess your land flowing with milk and honey!  And...after you milk all those cows, sit back and enjoy a warm mug of honey milk!

Helpful hint of the day: Buy organic milk!  :)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Bring Home the Bacon!

I love to get out of bed in the morning and eat breakfast!  I absolutely love the crunch of homemade granola with Greek yogurt and a drizzle of honey.  There's really nothing like it to wake me up and keep me full until lunch!  As for eggs, grits, bacon....well, I like those things, too, but I usually want a meal like that later in the day.  Breakfast food, in general, appeal to me.  I've been know to eat a waffle or two with my fried chicken at Rosco's Chicken 'n' Waffles in California.  It's an experience everyone should have at least once.

When it come to fried chicken or bacon?  Well, that's a conundrum!  How could I ever choose between the two?  They are both such mainstays in a well-rounded Southern diet!  But if the bacon's crispy, it will win out for me every time! 

When I was a child, the story of Jesus delivering the demon-possessed man from the Gerasenes region was always a puzzle to me. [see Luke 8:26-33]  I never could understand the "whys" of it.  I understood the part about him delivering the man and restoring his life to a more human state, but I couldn't get the part about all the pigs running off the cliff!  It just seemed so...useless!  I mean, that's a lot of bacon!  I'm sure that Jesus had very good reasons...unfortunately, we only know what is recorded.  I have, however, heard some speculation about the story. 

We know that pork was against the dietary laws of the Jewish people, as given by God Himself.  Some have speculated that the pig farmers in the region were owned by the Jews.  If that was the case, then our Lord knew exactly what He was doing.  Even if the farmers weren't eating the pork for themselves - selling it to the Gentiles, perhaps - they were making money on something that clearly was not ordained by God.  I don't know the facts about it, but that would make more sense to my feeble mind than mere pig demise.  The story continues that the people in the area were not too pleased by this and asked Jesus to leave.  I imagine that having their money source cut off was a true bother.  God always knows best, though.

Last year, we watched several close friends - and even ourselves - as things that we valued were slowly stripped away.  The economy took a dive, and our assets drowned.  Some friends were hit much harder than others.  A few of the families gathered together for regular prayer, and God began to reveal interesting correlations to us all.  He was OK with us losing our things.  In fact, in one sweet prayer meeting, the Lord specifically said that He was taking away the encumbrances that kept us from giving ourselves wholeheartedly to Him.  When we looked at it that way, there was more grace for the hardships that we were going through - loss of business, loss of home, loss of employment.  We were more able to wait on the Lord for his exact provision to be given, knowing that He had a plan that involved more of Him and less of our personal desires.  We often look at our circumstances through our very 2-D glasses.  We can't see all of the dimensions of our lives the way that the Master can.  He not only sees 3-D, but He sees the entirety of past, present and future.  He has vision that is interlaced with wisdom.  Sometimes our losses bring us in much better alignment with His purposes for our lives.  I'm praying these days to have God's vision for my circumstances instead of my own limited understanding.

Like I said, I hate the loss of so much bacon! But God is my source!  He won't let us be stripped bare without making provisions for us. Philippians 4:19 says, "And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus."  His promises are so much stronger than our situations.  God will supply all of your needs - even if you lose a little bacon in the meantime!

My absolute favorite bacon preparationPig Candy.  This one requires a lot of prep work because it can be very messy.  I usually line a cookie sheet with foil and then build a little foil "wall" all the way around it (otherwise, the bacon grease splatters so much that you'll be cleaning your oven for days).  I put a raised rack in the cookie sheet, as well, so that the bacon gets really crispy.  Once that is done, put a generous amount of brown sugar in a plate and take your strips of bacon, pressing the sugar on both sides to coat.  lay the strips carefully across the rack and put in your pre-heated oven - 325 or so.  Cook for 12-15 mins (or to your desired crispiness.  The sugar that falls below the rack will inevitably burn first...turn on your vent and keep your eyes on the bacon itself.  Don't let your bacon burn, though!  What a waste that would be!  Let it cool a little before you devour it - otherwise, you'll burn your mouth!  Some recipes suggest adding things like cayenne or ginger to your brown sugar...it's up to you.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Never Hunger Again

I really love gourmet foods from time to time, but the things that I crave are always the simple things.  I love my mother's pot roast with roasted carrots and potatoes.  I will never turn down a warm bowl of homemade oatmeal with brown sugar and cream.  Vegetables straight from the garden are some of my favorite things, beaten only by a good tart apple from a back yard tree. The things that make my mouth water are the everyday things that are a part of my life.  Oh, I love my comfort food.

One year ago today, though, I found myself caught in the middle of something that was so foreign to me.  Every single image that my brain was seeing was something that I had never seen before.  Comfort was no where to be found.  I went with three friends to Port au Prince, Haiti, and we landed 53 minutes before the earthquake hit.  Obviously, we were caught off guard.  No amount of preparation could have readied us for the things that we would see over the next few days.  If you had told me what I was about to encounter, I never would have believed you.

We slept on a soccer field with upwards of 10,000 people.  We helped bandage the people there.  We helped deliver babies (having no medical training for it, whatsoever). We witnessed a miraculous multiplication of our food and water.  Most people, including us, were sitting around wondering what to do. You can't imagine the lack of option.  Everything was destroyed.  There was no power and no running water. The people on that field mostly sat and talked to each other with all their time.  On the second evening, though, a beautiful thing happened.

We ladies had spent several hours that morning giving everything that we had to give to the people around us.  We saw a multiplication of bandaids and ointment as we helped those precious people.  We had delivered babies - one of which was breech.  The Lord Himself turned the child to proper position when we prayed.  We were amazed at His presence.  We were unsure of what would happen in the coming days - possibly months - but we were certain that God was with us.  The people knew God was there, too, because all evening and night following the earthquake, the people on the field had prayed, sung and praised God with sweet fervor.  And here, on the second day, they continued to lift up the name of the Lord over their situation.

Now, the evening of the second day arrived.  We had not eaten a proper meal since the morning of the 12th in the Miami airport.  We were hungry but OK.  Some people on the soccer field had found a couple of very large cauldrons.  They scooped water out of a nearby ditch (I watched this in dismay, praying continually that no one would get parasites and die without treatment.). And there, on the field, they made huge pots of rice and beans.  We were about to break out our granola bars and munch on them when the ladies who had been cooking came walking towards us.  They carried 5 plates - one for each of us ladies and Pastor Val, our driver. The plates held little mountains of rice and beans.  In all my days, I've never tasted anything so good.  These people needed every bit of food they could get, but they had watched us work with them, pray with them and cry with them all night and all day, and they honored us with some of the very first plates of food.  I cried.  I was humbled. I bowed my head and thanked the Lord for every single one of them, for His presence, for this food, and, yes, for the experience.  On the field, God had unlocked in my heart a faith that was unwaivering.  I was fed far more than rice and beans.  I had devoured the promises of God and was satiated.  There was such a peace and such a comfort.  I can't describe it because it is something you must experience.

I read somewhere that around 75% of the world survives on rice.  It is one of the simplest foods in our pantry.  Like that rice, I am provoked to think, "What should be my staple?"  I think that the Word of the Lord - the Bible - is a staple in my life.  When we were in Haiti, surrounded by people who had nothing, every now and then the people on the field would stand and begin to quote something in creole.  I asked Pastor Val the first time, "What is that?"  He said it was the Lord's Prayer.  Again, it happened, and I said, "The Lord's Prayer?"  He said, "No. Psalm 23."  The next time? Psalm 91. The next? Psalm 121.  The people who had nothing were using everything in their storehouse.  They were quoting whole chapters of the Word of God.  I was impressed.  And equally so, I found the Words that were hidden in my heart to be a source of comfort, joy and promise.  I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that we would be delivered.  His very Word declares it to be so.  I never once felt overcome by despair because the God of all Gods had sustained me.

I pray that you will be able to know this peace and joy that I experienced.  I didn't realize that it was in me until I was faced with the moment.  There was such a comfort in the food of God's Word and the water of His Spirit. I was prepared for the earthquake.  I just hadn't known it before. 

My menu suggestion? Try rice and beans today, and pray for the population of the world that has little else., especially remembering the people of Haiti.  Ask the Lord to send His Holy Spirit in revival to every corner of the earth...and give thanks for all the you've been given.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Aliens on the Menu

I don't really like unusual food.  People just keep giving it to me.  Someone previously joked - and is probably correct - that growing up in Alabama prepared me for the other things I would encounter.  What did I eat in Alabama?  Well, the things that aren't so common for the rest of you would be things like frog legs, land turtles, squirrells, rabbits, deer, wild boar, opossum.  But people in other areas eat things that even we call strange.  When in Texas, I was served calf fries (you'll have to look that one up). And even stranger would be the mountain oysters that I've been given (same line of thinking...but raw??? Come on, people!). If you go to other parts of the world, they'll give you snails, sea slugs, rats and on and on. But the question that people ask me is this:  What is the weirdest thing you've ever had?

I lived in Japan for a few years, and I was given so many interesting foods.  Because there are so many animal lovers out there, I won't give you the entire list all in one lump...I'll sort of spoon feed it to you little by little.  At one dinner alone, I was given a few of the strangest on my list.  I was taken to a very, very fancy little restaurant by my employer and his wife.  This place was incredibly exclusive and supremely expensive.  It is probably the most costly meal of my life.  I believe that my portion of the evening was somewhere around US$500.  Japanese food typically comes in a series of tiny little bowls and plates, but usually they arrive at the same time.  In this restaurant, however, the tiny dishes came one by one, as if to highlight their...uh...uniqueness.  Right off the bat, weird food #1 was set before me: I had a tiny raw quail egg that I was supposed to break into a little bowl.  Then, I was to take a sea cucumber (you really need to look him up) and squeeze out the contents of his stomach into the little bowl with the quail egg....I used the little bitty whisk that accompanied the dish, frothed it up real good...and drank it.  Oh, my.  there's not much more to say about that. 

Same dinner, next course... I was given a food said to make my brain operate at maximum potential: a raw tuna eyeball.  I'm just not joking.  These things are a lot larger than you think, and they are quite challenging to eat with chopsticks! (and, oh, so slimy) The dinner kept plodding along...gills of a bottom dweller... tiny, tiny live octopi....and rounding off with a gigantic squid that was placed in the center of the table.  The colors on that creature were beautiful and something like the aurora borealis.  The sparkling hues were mesmerizing and constantly shifting.  I can't explain how beautiful it was.  I knew that he was the selfsame squid that we had seen just minutes before, swimming in the stream that ran through the entry of the restaurant.  He was so fresh that his skin was still alive...but that wasn't all....HE was alive!  The minute I reached out to get a piece of squid sashimi, this magnificent water creature reached up with his very strong tentacles and grabbed my chopsticks! I was at war with my food! My hosts just chuckled and watched me struggle.  I blushed a little but kept up the fight.  Before long, several tentacles were wrapped around my chopsticks, and I knew I couldn't get them back.  A waitress ran over, and together we were able to free my utensils...and dinner continued.  Weird, right?

I almost believed in aliens that day.  That squid was watching me with those huge eyes, and he almost outwitted me in our battle.  The colors of his skin were certainly other-worldly.  Yep, it was an alien.  All facts pointed to the obvious. 

I Peter 2:11-12 reminds us that we, too, are other-worldly.  "Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.  Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us." I'm not saying that we're as lowly as squid, but we should be a little odd when compared to the world.  We can't live lives that blend in with the things that go on around us. Rather, we should be outstanding in behavior and appearance - so much so that the world keeps an eye on us.  If they are watching us, then they will see the glory of the Father at work in our lives.  Something about us will be like that beautiful skin on the squid.  There will be a divine, colorful, transparent beauty that is mesmerizing to the people around us. 

Go ahead and be a little different! I love the uniqueness of you! And...let me know...what's the weirdest thing you've ever eaten?

Favorite snowed-in edible? (since we are, in fact, snowed in)My children love to come in to a mug of steaming hot cocoa!  We make it the old-fashioned way...with whole milk, cocoa powder, sugar and a drop or two of vanilla.  Much, much better than instant!

[For the menfolk who need interpretation: (thanks to MK-lol) We belong to God and are not, therefore, to be like the people around us.  We should be examples of God's glory to this otherwise dark world.]

Monday, January 10, 2011

Company's coming! Get ready!

Last night we had dinner at some friends' home.  We were served a wonderfully rich, creamy dish that we love!  We don't even want to know what goes into it!  I'm sure the fat grams would make my head reel!  But I love it all the same!  It's what's known in the South as "Company Food."  Company food is the stuff that is so good and rich that you can't eat it every day...therefore, it is reserved for those special moments when company comes!

As children, we looked forward to having guests in our home.  It meant Mama's best would be on the table.  And it meant dessert would make an appearance! Never once did our mother say, "Company's coming so we need to mess the house up a bit and put something nasty out to eat."  Quite the opposite.  We always gave our best. These days, I keep a few "special" items in the pantry for "occasions."  I don't always know in advance what occasions there may be, but I am sure to have something there....just in case company drops in.

Luke 6:45 says, "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.  For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks."  I am in a constant state of inspection in my own life, making sure that there are only good things that will surface. I would hate to be around friends and only give out the refuse of my heart in our conversations.  I want to be able to give them the rich goodness that is there.  Just like our company, I want to be able to feed people something good.  The only way to do that is to stock my pantry with the best ingredients available: the Word of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit.

"Company's coming!  Clean up the house! Set the table!" [her Mama said.] If it's all done well, then once they get here, all we have to do is entertain!  It's pretty easy, really.

Favorite "go to" appetizer: Very nice whole grain crackers, a block of cream cheese and a good hot pepper jelly.  This is such a Southern staple.  Just put the cream cheese on a small plate and pour the jelly over it.  Serve with the crackers.  It's so easy yet so very delicious!

**[Interpretation for the menfolk, as requested by Marty K.: Get the "good stuff" in your heart so you can give the "good stuff" out to others. - hope this helps]

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Out with the new, in with the old!

Since I was a child, I have never really enjoyed raw tomatoes.  It's just not my thing.  I love everything on the planet that has a cooked tomato in it...I just don't want them raw.   That's pretty funny, considering how healthy I'm always trying to keep my family!

When I was pregnant with our second child, our family went to visit friends in Europe, using miles we had accumulated.  We had a wonderful time seeing Wayne's friends from his YWAM days (Youth With a Mission).  Our second stop on the trip was Norway.  It was a great time. This family is not only the typical gorgeous group of perfect blonds, but they also have amazing, fun personalities to go with it!  Our oldest child played with their two.  The kids didn't really speak the same language, but they played for hours and hours, laughing all day.  These few days are on the top of my travel list...but...during the whole time in Norway, I did not eat a single vegetable.  No, not one.  We ate tons of bread, hotdogs, cheese, sour cream, licorice (I loved it all, mind you)....but not the first vegetable.  Being pregnant, this was so foreign for my body!  I always make a point to have colorful food in my life. So...by the time we left Norway and headed off to Switzerland, I was at the point of desperation.  When we got to our Swiss friends' home, my hopes were high because they were vegetarians.  I was really looking forward to dinner.

Dinner time rolled around, and I sat by the kitchen counter, watching my sweet friend prepare the evening meal.  She pulled out the largest bowl of tomatoes you have ever seen and started quartering the little things.  I watched in amazement as every single tomato was prepared.  She then added olive oil, balsamic, mozzarella and fresh basil, topping it off with sea salt and ground pepper.  Your typical insalata caprese in a bowl.  I waited for the next dish to be prepared....and I waited...and I waited... It never happened.  We were all served gigantic bowls of raw tomatoes for our supper - even the children.  Much to my surprise, their kids devoured their bowls and came back for more.  I couldn't let children out eat me when it came to my veggies!  So I ate heartily.  I was so very glad that I did!  My body thanked me!  Instantly, I felt that I had done a good thing for the child I was carrying!  And...believe it or not...I found out that the raw minions of my youth no longer bothered me like they had before!  I could do this tomato thing!  I believe that I grew up a little that night.

These days, if you come to my home, you're likely to have the occasional insalata caprese dish.  I do love the combo of the tangy tomato and balsamic with the fruity, nutty sweetness of the olive oil.  And who couldn't love the cheese?  A lady in the last town where we lived took this a bit further for us and introduced us to the wonderful varieties of heirloom tomatoes.  An heirloom is generally considered to be a variety that has been passed down, through several generations of a family because of it's valued characteristics. I like that.  I mean, I'm a sucker for old family "treasures".  Who knew you could pass down your vegetation, as well?  This reminds me of Exodus 20:5-6.  "I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments." This is the perfect illustration of how both justice and mercy dwell in the person of God.  He is just and doesn't let our wrong-doing go unnoticed.  But do you see how short his anger is? Wow!  When compared with His long arm of mercy, the justice of God is not as scary as we want to believe.  He has promised to bless our family line to a thousand generations!

I know this to be a fact.  Growing up, I committed my fair share of foolish acts. And I received punishment for almost every one.  But I have never, ever been able to leave the path of blessing that my family before me had established.  My parents, their parents, and on back for the generations that we know - all of them have loved the Lord and served Him wholly.  The goodness of God is so sweet to me and now to my own children.  Just like the heirloom tomatoes, we have been handed the valued characteristics of our family line.  And when I think that multiplication of that "thousand year blessing" happens with each new generation who faithfully follows God, it's mind-staggering! My children's children's children (and on and on) have such great things to look forward to!

So...this summer when the tomatoes start hanging on the vines, go to your local farmer's market and pick up a few of the older varieties.  There's a reason the seeds have been passed down!  They have flavors that are superior to their mass-produced supermarket cousins!  Go ahead! Out with the new, in with the old!

My favorite veggie of the day: I love, love, love asparagus!  Try some roasted at high heat with olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper.  you can also toss in some onions, garlic and a little lemon or orange zest for extra flavor.  I like to roast ours until the floral ends get slightly crispy.  Yummy!!!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Sippin' Sauce!

My husband, Wayne, has been on the road a lot through the years, and the one thing he loves to bring home is...sauce.  Chipotle sauce, raspberry chocolate sauce, honey pecan sauce, mesquite BBQ sauce....you name it!  If it's a sauce, we've undoubtedly eaten it!  I have dipped, dunked, swirled, coated, injected, basted, infused just about everything I can think of.  And, to be honest, I don't really like sauces.  I love "spreads" (think Nutella, nut butter of any sort, good cranberry relish on a turkey sandwich), but sauces aren't for me.  I want to taste the flavor of the chicken itself - enhance it? Sure!  Smother it? No way!

Have you ever had a piece of burnt toast, scraped off the blackest bit, and then put your jam on the top to eat it?  You can still taste the essence of the burn!  I happen to be completely OK with that.  But the point is that once that burned flavor is achieved, it's very difficult to mask.

In general, I'm not very good at masking anything.  If I'm happy, I'm very happy.  If I'm sad, I'm very sad.  If I need to sleep, I better go ahead and do it because I'm only tormenting the people around me if I keep my grumpy self in the room.  But I know people who can move from one situation to the next without changing their outward demeanor.  I wish I could.  When it comes to things of God, though, we just can't fake what's in our innermost beings.  There's no way to counsel someone when I have nothing at all on the inside.  I can't scrape off the complacency of my heart and quickly cover it with a few good scriptures.  Of course, the Word of God is powerful and will do its job, but the full potential of the moment in ministry is lost if I am not prepared.

2Timothy 4:2 reminds us to "be instant in season and out of season." This means that we should have the Word of God and His precious Spirit in us, ready at all times for whatever comes our way.  There is so much to be said for a daily time with God.  Reading the Bible, talking to the Lord.  These things should be such integral parts of our lives that we are prepared for every moment - and not "hot" some days and "cold" on others.  We should be filled with the presence of God so that no "masking of flavors" will be required when someone needs prayer. 

If you like your sauce, put it on!  But don't hide the flavor of the thing you're eating! If it's chicken, for goodness sakes, let us taste the chicken! 

Wayne's favorite sauce Chipotle BBQ.  He will put it on anything from steak to scrambled eggs.  I kid you not.  Personally, I'm not a big fan of the whole chipotle flavor