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....

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Easter Eggs and New Life

I truly enjoy Easter more than any other holiday.  When I was a child, we lived in a beautiful area in Alabama where there were large old homes and a precious little park.  The park had a playground, fields, tennis courts, basketball and a wonderful rose garden.  Almost all of my childhood memories take place out of doors.  When I begin to smell the flowering bushes and blossoms of Spring, memories flood my mind, and I am once again transported to Delano Park.

Every Easter, our church held a picnic at Delano.  We had all the traditional foods associated with the day: ham, potato salad, green bean casserole, asparagus.  But the things that we children most looked forward to were the colored eggs!  We would usually spend an afternoon in advance around the kitchen table, coloring the Easter eggs.  When Sunday rolled around, my father and the other men would hide the eggs for us.  The prize egg always held a few coins - a special treat since the little store across the street sold penny candy!  (As a side note, the prize egg was usually a plastic Hanes L'eggs egg! Do you remember those?)  A sweet lady from church often painted the plastic eggs as gifts for ladies.  She made the most beautiful eggs.

Now I know that Easter eggs are very controversial for many people, but let me give you my take on it.  I don't like that the enemy has taken over all of the holidays.  Holidays that are rich in Christian heritage seem to have transferred attention to fictional characters.  Yes, I have a big problem with that.  But...I refuse to let Satan steal all the fun from my children.  I have always take such opportunities to find godly meanings and apply them.  When we have lived in other countries, I use those colored eggs to God's benefit.  We can always draw a crowd of little children when we walk outside and hide the eggs and hand out baskets for kids to use.  I explain the Gospel and how Jesus gives us new life.  I explain that some of the things that remind us about the new life that we've been give are the baby animals - lambs, chicks, bunnies.  But I spend the time explaining about the eggs.  Our bodies are just the shells.  Inside, we have our minds...but I always focus on the soul housed deep inside.  God doesn't just want one aspect of who we are...He wants to touch all of us.  He wants to give new life to every bit of our lives.

You may want to cling to the controversy of the colored eggs, but I will cling to the Gospel that is expressed in a simple, childlike way.  Use every opportunity to touch the world.  Take what the enemy has done and turn it into a GOD moment!  I tell all of my friends that we don't even think about an "Easter Bunny"...instead we remember the changes that God has made in our life when we see the signs of Spring.

Look for opportunities in the world to express heavenly concepts.  You'll be amazed at how much more good you can do when you take those opportunities versus when you choose to ignore the moment because of the controversy.

May this Spring bring to you great joy in light of the Cross!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Comfort Food

Food truly is the one consistent factor that has the ability to bring us all together.  I have been on many airplanes in my life, and I have made the observation that the ride can be utterly silent….until the peanuts are passed around.  Once we open our mouths to eat, we begin to let our conversation flow.  Food is comforting.  The tension that we may feel in a room filled with strangers begins to ebb away when we feed our bodies.  Food shows up at every celebration – birthdays, graduations, weddings, funerals.  It is the star at every gathering. 

In the past couple of weeks, my family has attended two funerals.  One was the joyous celebration of a man whose life, while gone too soon, was lived for the Lord, his family and friends.  The other was the unexpected farewell of a dear wife, mother and grandmother who will be sorely missed and longingly remembered.  And in keeping with good Southern tradition, friends and family came to visit, bringing with them enough food for an army.  People filled their plates and remembered loved ones with fondness, laughter and tears.  The sadness didn’t disappear, but the comfort of friends and family and a plate of homemade macaroni and cheese seemed to help. 

There are certain places in the Bible that seem like comfort food to me.  There are chapters and verses that come to me like old friends when I need them.  I try to keep a variety in my steady diet of the Word, but there are moments when I just need a constant companion – the Scriptures that I can quote word for word.  It reminds me of the 23rd Psalm.  “Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.”  The staff of a shepherd was used for his personal support, as well as for the guidance, correction and salvation of the sheep.  Doesn’t this sound like the Word of God?  This precious Divinely-inspired Book that keeps our feet steady is also the Book that points us in the right direction, provides a standard that brings discipline and brings salvation when we need it most.  All of this together is a steady and unwavering factor in our lives.  This is the comfort that we have. 

Things around us are bound to change, to wither and to decay, but the Word of God is the same yesterday, today and forever.  I encourage you to devour the Scriptures!  You will never have a bite of comfort food that will satisfy quite like the Bible.  I guarantee it. And when your own personal trials come, you will be so glad to have a true source of comfort.  

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Flying Fish

I was sitting on an airplane recently when I came across an article in the airline's magazine about an odd occurrence:  flying fish.  Now I have seen flying fish with my very own eyes.  I was on a ferry once in the East China Sea.  I was with a few friends, and the ferry ride took about 3 hours or more.  Somewhere along the way, people began to take photos, so I got up and went over to the side.  There was an entire school of flying fish traveling alongside.  It was an incredible thing to see!  This was before digital cameras...I had an old clunker of a 35mm, and I didn't get a good shot because of the speed of the fish. 

On my last trip to Japan, some of us were remembering this trip, and one of my friends said, "Oh, they're delicious!"  What?! Who eats flying fish?! Well, this brings me back to my article...

There is a tiny village in Yoro, Honduras that is located high up in the mountains.  Once a year, for at least over a century, the heavy summer rains of June or July produce a bumper crop of heavenly fish that fall directly from the clouds!  Scientists have been studying this phenomenon since the 1960's, and our modern ways have yet to determine the cause of the raining fish!  Lluvia de Peces (Rain of Fish) is a highly awaited day.  No one knows when it will occur, but the locals look forward to it every year.  As soon as the rain comes, they run outside with their baskets, scoop up the fish and begin to prepare the ensuing feast.  All of the fish are the same sardine species, and all are approximately 11cm long.  There is one more unique feature:  they are all blind.  Scientists have speculated everything from an underground cavern that randomly spouts once a year during the heavy rain (no go-they've searched) to a waterspout that picks the fish up from the sea and deposits them there (also not a good suggestions since all of the fish are the same species, size and blind-every year).  There is quite simply no explanation. 

The locals have it figured out, though.  Over a century ago, the terribly poor village was in the midst of a famine.  People were dying for lack of food.  The priest, Father Manuel de Jesus Subirana, fasted and prayed for 3 days and nights on behalf of the people of Yoro.  This time ended in the very first Rain of Fish.  If this is the case, I can only imagine that the people of Yoro have an undying, unprecedented faith in their unseen God!  This is a creative miracle, the likes of which I don't think I've ever heard!  We all know of the multiplication of fish from the Bible, but this is more like manna from Heaven--for more than 100 years!  I find this story so very fascinating!  ...So much so that I would love to go camp out in Yoro to see it with my own eyes!  And what fascinates me is that the faith of Father Manuel was so great.  He simply took Philippians 4:19 to mean what it say:  "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."  

God never meets our needs according to what we have or what we can aid in accomplishing.  No!  He meets our needs based on what He has at His disposal!  This is such a wonderful concept!  It takes me back to the Samaritan woman at the well who wondered how Jesus could give her water that would quench all thirsts when He didn't even have a bucket!  Does the Creator of everything really need a bucket?  Does the God of all gods really need a stream or a river to come up with an endless supply of flying fish?  No.  All that He requires is that we ask and believe.  It's so simple that we often stumble over this elementary process.  Ask.  Believe. 

I hope the scientists never convince us that they know the reason for Yoro's beautiful rain!  I hope that the Lord keeps them searching until His return!  I love the fact that the faith of one man turned the heart of God to one village for much longer than that man's eyes could ever see!  Now that's what I'm talkin' about!  I want that kind of faith to see that kind of creative supply! 

Grab your baskets and get ready!  The fish are about to fall!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Coffee Companions

I'm snuggled up in bed, waiting for my coffee to brew.  This is one of my favorite times of the day.  I'm not even remotely a morning person, but I secretly love to be the only person awake in the house.  I can study, write, daydream and savor the first strong cup of coffee for the day.  This is something like Heaven for me, and that little ding that lets me know that my coffee is ready is somewhat like the ding on the elevator that gets me there!  I don't think you have any clue as to how serious I am!  I get almost giddy every morning being alone in the quiet with my coffee....my only regret is that it doesn't happen later in the day. 

The truth is that I adore my family.  I love every single second spent with them - the good, the bad and the ugly.  But I can't hear myself think when so many people are talking at once (which seems to be the way we conduct business around here).  I don't think that my thoughts are all that special, but it's usually in the quiet and contemplative moments of my life that God's voice is crystal clear.  I love that.  I've heard many times that the best response when an atheist asks, "How do you know God is real?" is simply to say, "I spoke with Him today."  Who can deny that?  You'd either have to be a fool or the real deal.  The fruit of either is evident in our lives, isn't it? 

When I take the time to speak to God every day and to hear His voice, my life is clearly touched by His presence.  It is equally as obvious when I go on about my business without taking that time.  I think that the Psalmist had it right when he proclaimed,  "Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked." Psalm 84:10

Being in the presence of the Almighty God is so rich and comforting.  All of the details of life that swirl around in my head throughout the day are erased in the company of my Lord.  None of the things that squander my time hold any importance when I sit in my Father's lap.  Just one moment with Him is so much better than to spend a lifetime in a palace.

God loves to meet me for coffee.  Of course, He'd meet me any other time of the day, but we both enjoy the quiet of our mornings together.  I think it's His favorite time of the day, too. 

Bitter Fruit

Citrus fruits are amazing.  I will eat nearly anything that has a hint of lime!  There is nothing more flavorful than a roasted chicken marinated in garlic and lime with a bit of cilantro.  My mouth waters just thinking about it!  And the kids and I will drop anything to munch on a bag of Tostitos with a hint of lime!  But citrus doesn't end there... Lemons are so powerful and good!  A little zest of lemon skin sends dressings, sauces, salads, etc, over the top!  Lemon juice is one of the basic ingredients in any kitchen.  Sweets made with lemons are always at the top of my list, starting with my childhood favorite of lemon drops and moving on the the tart and tangy lemon squares that never fail to make me close my eyes and smile. 

There are far more varieties of citrus than you could imagine!  One of my favorite flavors of all times is yuzu, or citron.  It is a peppery, bitter, slightly sweet citrus that you just have to try, but my very favorite fruit just might be the pomelo.  Its flavors are similar to the yuzu but a bit more mellow. 

One year, Wayne and I were given several boxes of tangerines, oranges, citrons and pomelos.  We were glad to have them, but we had so much that we realized we couldn't actually eat the fruit before it went bad.  Our plan was to juice them all and freeze the juice so that we would have that wonderfully fresh flavor any time we wanted it.  We started by pressing the juice from each fruit, but we soon realized that this method would take forever.  We came up with the brilliant idea to peel the outer skin and then completely blend the fruit.  We next strained the juice through a sieve and captured only the sweet and precious golden nectar.  This was working out wonderfully until we got to the last batch.  At this point, we had been working for several hours, and the last batch had sweet tangerines and a few random citrus fruits, including pomelo and citron.  It took quite some time to peel and prepare the fruit, so we started in.  Wayne and I began to have some discussion as to whether or not we should include the more bitter fruit in our juice.  I assured him that it would be delicious (I happen to love grapefruit juice and thought this batch would be especially good). 

We finished the last bit, patted ourselves on the back for all the hard work and poured ourselves a glass...it was horrible!  I'm talking about turn-your-mouth-inside-out-and-kill-your-taste-buds horrible!  We had spent so much time on it, too.  It was so very disappointing that all of the tangerines were wasted like that.  What we had failed to think about was that when you eat both citron and pomelo, you should go as far as to remove the membranes that surround each segment.  They are too bitter to be eaten, and that intense bitterness had flavored the entire gallon of juice. 

Proverbs 18:21 tells us that "the tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit."  This is a sobering verse to say the least!  We have the ability to bring so much life and joy and purpose to everyone around us...but in that same manner, we have the ability to bring destruction through the impact of our words.  I wish that I could say that every word that has escaped my mouth has had a sweet and pleasant taste, but it just isn't so.  I have experienced the lingering bitterness of the fruit of my lips on more than one occasion.  My tongue is my undoing, it seems.  No matter how hard I try on my own, words escape my mouth that should have never surfaced. 

Being closely encased in family is probably the perfect breeding ground for such moments.  We love the people around us so much, but because of our love for them, we can become easily disappointed when we see that they aren't reaching their full potential.  It is all too easy to say things that are hurtful.  We should learn to filter what we say through the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.  This is much easier said than done, but it is well worth the time that it takes to practice and perfect this godly skill.  I often have to ask myself, "Would I say this to a person that I hardly knew?"  If I wouldn't dare, then why in the world would I say it to someone whom I love so much?  Apologies go a long way towards sweetening the fruit. 

It was amazing how a few bitter fruits could spoil the juice of fifty or more super sweet tangerines.  I would never have imagined the power of a handful of bitter over a multitude of good.  We should keep this in mind when speaking.  The enemy will take the few harsh words that are spoken and taint every wonderful thing that we say with the memory of the pain of those few words. 

Keep it sweet!  After all, you will be the one eating the fruit!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

True Satisfaction

I guess I'm still a kid at heart.  One of my favorite treats of all time is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I am such a sucker for about a half inch thick layer of peanut butter!  ....and crunchy peanut butter is even better!  But what makes a really good sandwich great is the bread.  I have never been a fan of white bread.  I don't even like soft wheat bread.  I want a slice of bread that is hearty, crunchy and kind of bites back!  If it has nuts and seeds, it is all the more enticing because the quality is heightened. 

The way to make a perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich is to toast the bread with a bit of butter before slathering on the peanut-y goodness.  A nice, thin layer of fruit-only jelly or jam is the next addition.  Finally, the thick and crunchy layer of peanut butter.  And to push this over the top, I drop the jelly entirely, add banana slices and drizzle with honey.  But...like I said, it all comes down to the bread.  It has to be chewy and nutty.  A sandwich of most any kind is delicious as long as it is on the right bread.

I have never been one to bake much bread.  I've given it a shot a time or two and been successful, but it isn't my thing.  My husband, Wayne, has a weak spot for bakeries, though.  Any time he smells baking bread, he feels compelled to go in and buy a loaf or two.  And I have to admit that the smell of freshly baked bread is somewhat heady!  Even if I'm not hungry, I can smell bread baking in an oven and my stomach begins to growl. Real estate agents have been known to pop a loaf into an oven to entice prospective buyers to linger a bit longer in an open home.  The fragrance of this staple is alluring.

Jesus Himself recognized the desire that wells up in us when we are in the presence of a loaf of wonderful bread.  John 6:35 states, "Then Jesus declared, 'I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry.'"  There is a hunger that is deep within each of us that can't be satiated by any other means.  Every human on the planet has a void that is created especially for the infilling of the Almighty God.  There are so many other things that promise to fill our emptiness, but time and again, truth is revealed:  Only Jesus can satisfy our hungry souls.  We can try to satisfy our yearning with many other things, but they are temporary replacements. 

Some will even try to offer over-processed versions of truth, simplifying God to the point where there isn't much substance.  Don't fall for it.  Some people want to change who God is and make Him a fru-fru version of the real deal - kind of like putting those biodegradable packing peanuts next to a loaf of good, hearty bread.  The substitutes are easy to spot. The only thing that can ever meet your deep cravings is the pure and hearty substance of the one true God of the Bible.  Jesus is the only way to get to a place of deep satisfaction in your life.  Weigh everything against the Word of God.  If someone is selling a version of God that does not line up with the Bible, it is nothing more than filler. 

Once you learn to rely on God Himself, everything else in your life becomes like a wonderful component of a truly great sandwich!  With the proper staple of the Bread of Life, our lives are full and satisfying, and the quality of ingredients becomes evident - even enticing - to those who know us. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Milk - it does a body good!

One of the greatest joys of my life was giving birth to my children and then nursing them while they grew and developed.  I think that the body's ability to give sustenance to offspring is one of the most precious things in all of God's creation.  God's thoughtful attention to every detail is astounding.  I remember my own babies yearning for food when it was time.  The body knows when it needs nourishment.

As we get older, we begin to act not on natural cravings but on desires.  We eat what isn't necessary and crave what isn't the best.  But somewhere deep inside, our bodies still know what we need.  We were designed that way.  In fact, our spirits are designed to crave what is beneficial, as well. Commercialism is designed to play on our weaknesses.  Marketing aims directly at what we desire vs. what we truly need. 

Late night ad campaigns show piping hot cheeseburgers or stringy, cheesy pizzas.  When our bodies are at their most vulnerable, the commercials begin.  The same thing happens spiritually.  In our society we are attacked at every turn.  Scantily clad women appear on every commercial that targets a man, and men with perfect abs sell products to women.  The ad campaigns target our weaknesses, and a war for our spiritual health ensues.

Just like those late-night burger ads, though, when I have eaten a healthy supper and been filled, those ads don't even begin to bother me.  The same thing applies to the spiritual temptations that exist.  The Bible says, "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation."(I Peter 2:2) The spiritual milk that is so necessary to our lives is the Word of God - the Bible.  We should look to this word as the food of our existence.  We should eat it every day.  Becoming creatures of godly habit goes a long way towards deflecting the enemy's attacks.

I don't want to remain a baby.  Just like I wouldn't want to remain a baby physically, lying on my back and screaming for my every need, I don't want to be like this in my spiritual life.  I want to be able to grow up - to reach a place where I can turn and help the ones around me who are in need of food.  We are of no good to the people around us if we are incapable of feeding ourselves and helping to provide for the needs of others.  Babies are cute...to a point.  There comes a time in every child's life where the baby talk must end.  The tantrums are no longer acceptable.  And there comes a time in every spiritual life where we must be strong.  We cannot go on forever relying on the continuous counsel of others.  We need to get to a place where we can feast on the Word of God, hear His voice and make wise decisions with the help of the Holy Spirit. We need to grow up in our salvation. 

I loved nurturing my children, but I was so very glad when they were weaned.  What a blessing to raise healthy children who could feed themselves!  I am sure that God longs for us to drink the milk of His Word - but I am equally sure that He is pleased when we get to a place where our teeth can sink into the meat of mature fellowship with Him.

Are my roots showing?!

During my recent trip to Japan, I was overjoyed to catch up on all my eating!  In fact, I think I gained at least 5 pounds in 12 days!  That's pretty hard when you consider that Japanese food is some of the healthiest on the planet....I must have eaten my weight in sushi!  The Japanese have quite a lot of food items in the market that we don't see very often here in the U.S.  Daikon is one.  It's a very large type of radish that can be as long as two feet with a diameter of six inches.  That would be a large one, but I have seen them that size.  On this trip, I saw them growing in a local garden for the first time.  They are almost comical.  They stick right up out of the ground, making their presence known.  The taste is very unique.  Daikon is eaten in a variety of ways. 

If you are familiar with Tempura, you probably know that you put a mound of grated white stuff into the sauce where you will dip your fried seafood and veggies.  This stuff is daikon.  It aids in digestion.  Daikon is also eaten stewed, as a veggie in soups and as bright yellow pickles called "takuan".  I must admit that it took me some time to get used to the flavor.  It has a very earthy taste - not unlike a parsnip.  This earthy taste seems to take on a bit of kerosene-like essence when made into pickles.  It's not the tastiest thing I've ever had, but it is very, very healthy. 

Other roots that are eaten in Japan include the burdock root and the lotus root.  The burdock root looks like a very, very long parsnip.  It can be three feet long, but it remains quite skinny.  The lotus root is very pretty.  When sliced open, it has a beautiful flower shape that makes it very appealing in various dishes.  Roots and tuber veggies make up a good portion of our food if you think about it....carrots, potatoes, parsnips, yucca, radishes, jicama.  Usually, we don't eat the greens that surface.  We stick to the roots of these plants, but the greens are very often impressive.  What we can see above the ground is often huge in comparison to the goods beneath.

Hebrews 12:15 says, "See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many." I have given much thought to this topic lately.  I have been praying with different people through the years who have had on-going troubles.  It seems like they are doing all the right things.  It seems like they are walking in ways that would keep them far from reproach, yet they are struggling with many difficulties.  The Lord has been revealing, through His infinite grace, that there are very often bitter roots that lie deep beneath the surface in our lives.  These roots are far from the view of others, as roots usually are, but their shoots tend to grow tall and wide.  Sometimes when the fruit of our lives is yielding unpleasant results, we need to ask the Lord to examine what lies beneath.  There may be the tiniest root of unforgiveness in our hearts that can grow a mighty tree of difficulty.  There may be some residual bitterness that must be removed before the wild and untame weeds of our heart can be replaced with the beauty of God's presence. 

If you find that there is a place in your life that is inexplicably difficult, ask God to reveal to you what roots lie there.  You may be surprised to find that a simple apology or forgiveness can remove so much hardship.  God is more than able to get us past the hard places.  We usually think that roots are hidden, but they have such strong growth attached that they announce their presence with certainty.  I know that it is so tough to forgive someone who has not even asked for forgiveness.  But we can do all things through Christ!  God's perfect plan is that we all walk in health and wholeness.  So much of our wholeness involves removing roots of bitterness that want to lodge in the cracks of our broken hearts. 

When it comes to a diet, roots have healthy, if not medicinal, purposes in our bodies.  When it comes to our spiritual lives, though, all roots should be pulled out except for the roots planted by the love of God.  Talk to God about the roots that remain in your heart, and ask Him what should go.  He is so gracious and will show you what should be removed.