March 3, 2014

Light at the End of the Tunnel

There are days when it feels as if this winter will go on forever. We have been fortunate in Oklahoma to have some warm days in the last couple of weeks, yet winter has returned full force, reminding us not to rush the seasons. Today is a snow day, with frigid temperatures and a landscape covered by snow on top of sleet on top of ice from freezing rain.

To stall before going out to clean off the driveway remind myself that summer will come again, bringing with it unimaginable beauty and fragrances, I am posting pictures from a garden tour from last summer. Winter will be a memory soon enough but until then, I hope these pictures help to warm your spirit!

Until next time,

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:3

November 24, 2013

New Twist on My Grandmother's Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

My grandfather's father was a 19th century country doctor. When my grandfather was kicked in the head by a horse, his father didn't mess around. He took my grandfather in the kitchen and performed surgery on the kitchen table. A pumpkin pie was in the oven, ruining the traditional pumpkin pie forever for the young patient - and I imagine the rest of his family, as well.

When my grandparents married, my grandmother was determined to make a pumpkin pie that my grandfather would eat. She found a recipe for pumpkin chiffon pie in a magazine and sure enough, the pie was a hit. It was the only pumpkin pie Granddaddy would eat, and it has been a mainstay of my family's holiday meals for nearly 90 years.

Inspired by a post on my friend Lea's Facebook wall, I decided to try to make a healthier version of Grandmother's recipe. The texture is a little different, but it's still delicious, and has the lighter feel of a chiffon pie.

I changed Grandmother's traditional pie crust by going gluten-free. Similar to a graham cracker crust but with a bit of a crunch, it's the perfect complement to the flavor of pumpkin.

4 1.2 oz. bags of Kay's Naturals "Almond Delight" Protein Puffs
8 tablespoons butter, melted

Crush the almond puffs. (I put mine in a blender but a rolling pin would work.) Pour melted butter over the crushed puffs and mix thoroughly. Press into a pie pan and bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes, until lightly browned.

1 15 oz. can of Farmer's Market Organic Pumpkin Pie Mix
1 envelope of plain gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
3 eggs (separated)
1/2 cup soy milk (I used the Pumpkin Spice flavor, but Vanilla would work, too.)
1/4 cup maple syrup (separated)

Soften gelatin in water and set aside. Beat egg yolk and add soy milk, pumpkin pie mix, and 1/8 cup maple syrup. Cook until mixture thickens. Lower the heat and add gelatin and stir in until thoroughly dissolved. The gelatin will thin the mixture somewhat, so continue to cook on low heat until mixture thickens again. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Beat egg whites with remaining 1/8 cup of maple syrup. Fold into pumpkin mix. Pour into baked crust and chill.

We let it cool a couple of hours before my mom and I each tried a piece. Like her father before her, Mom declared it a hit, although she did suggest that it could use Grandmother's crowning touch...Cool Whip.

I guess there's a limit to how healthy you can go with a holiday favorite.

Until next time, 

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure dwells in you as well. ~ 2 Timothy 1:5

November 19, 2013

Not My Place

Source: Google Images
I can't begin to tell you how many times I have seen someone with a "Homeless and Hungry" sign and thought, "If only I had food in the car, I'd give it to them." Then last week, it happened.

I ran some errands during lunch and grabbed a hamburger and french fries from McDonald's, planning to eat them in the car on the way back to the office. I had just begun to sample some fries when I pulled up at a light and saw the "Homeless and Hungry Vet" sign. For a moment, I was uncomfortable. I had long vowed that if I saw someone asking for food and I had food in the car to give, I would do so. But this was my lunch. I had already started eating the french fries. And it was McDonald's so it wasn't the most nutritious meal to offer someone. It might even be seen as downright insulting.

But I couldn't exactly sit there in front of the guy and continue to eat my french fries. There was that promise I had made over and over again. The voice in my head reminded me that I wasn't being asked to make a huge sacrifice, I was just being asked to do what I had said I would do.

I rolled my window down and held the bag out. "Do you want my lunch?"  "Yes," he replied as he came to my car and took the bag. He returned to his spot, stuck the bag in the bushes, and held his sign up.

Seriously? He wasn't going to eat it? Was he just waiting for lunch hour traffic to die down? Was he hoping for something better? Was he afraid if he was seen eating, it would cost him more lucrative donations? 

Heck, if he wasn't going to eat it, could he give my lunch back to me? After all, I had enjoyed the few french fries I managed to eat before the attack of the guilty conscience.

Then I realized it wasn't my place to question what the guy was going to do with the lunch. It wasn't my lunch anymore, it was his. What he did with it was between him and God. 

The truth is, everything I have is on loan from God. It's my place to remember that and to be obedient to His Word, even when it's inconvenient.

Until next time,

"If you have two coats," he replied, "give one to the poor. If you have extra food, give it away to those who are hungry." ~ Luke 3:11

December 4, 2012

Sing to the Lord an Old Song

Source: Google Images
My favorite holiday station is the one that plays music from the '40s to the '60s. As much as I love Josh Groban's Ave Maria, it doesn't come with the memories of Frank Sinatra's version. Michael Bublé may do a fine White Christmas, but it's not the same as hearing Bing Crosby's classic. And while there are contemporary Christmas songs that I enjoy, they don't come with the depth of personal history as the songs and artists that my parents listened to when I was a child.

Listening to the older versions brings back images of my dad, my grandparents, and aunts and uncles who are long gone. In my mind's eye, they're all gathered around the tree or at the table for Christmas dinner and they're all young, healthy, and strong. I can see my aunt wrapping gifts to place under her tree. I remember my excitement when my grandparents took me to Sears to see Santa. Those older songs bring back memories of traveling to Texas to see family, arriving just in time to be tucked into bed. More than memories of the past, perhaps they're visions of the future, a tiny glimpse of heaven.

And so it is with the old hymns. While the Bible tells us over and over the importance of singing a new song, it never says to throw out the old. God wants us to recognize His mercy in new ways. He wants us to use our creativity to give a fresh perspective on our love for Him. He wants us to be so overcome with emotion for all that He has done that we can't help but burst out in new and impromptu songs, but He doesn't want us to forget all that has come before.

Just as the older artists bring back memories of traveling to spend Christmas with family, older hymns bring back memories of traveling with the Lord. They're spiritual markers. They remind us of God's hand in our own lives, as well as in the lives of those who have sung them over the ages.

Source: Microsoft Clip Art
All Creatures of Our God and King connects us to St. Francis of Assisi, who wrote the words 800 years ago. And Can it Be That I Should Gain and Hark, the Herald Angels Sing connect us to Charles Wesley, the co-founder of Methodism.  All the Way My Savior Leads Me and Blessed Assurance remind us that, despite her blindness, Fanny Crosby wrote more than 8,000 hymns extolling the grace of God. The older hymns connect us not only to ancestors we never knew, but to all of the brothers and sisters in Christ who sang those same songs to praise God. They are spiritual markers not only for individual believers, but for the church.

So, by all means, sing to the Lord a new song...just don't forget the old.

Until next time,

Sing to the Lord a new song. sing to the Lord, all the earth. ~ Psalm 96:1


December 2, 2012

More Than a Season

Source: Microsoft Clip Art
Today is the first Sunday of Advent, and as we sang the familiar songs in worship to prepare for the coming of the Messiah, I had a bit of an epiphany. If we believe that Jesus is coming again - and as Christ's followers, we do believe He is coming again - why do we limit ourselves to anticipating His arrival to the four Sundays before Christmas?

Shouldn't we always be watching for His coming? Shouldn't we live in a constant state of anticipation? Shouldn't we be filled with hope all the time?

I'm not big on New Year's Resolutions, but I'm making one right here and now. I will not limit the spirit of hope and anticipation to a season. I will live my life in constant hope and anticipation, watching and waiting for the return of Christ, because He is coming again.

Come Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free
From our fears and sins release us
Let us find our rest in Thee
Israel's strength and consolation
Hope of all the earth Thou art
Dear desire of every nation
Joy of every longing heart

Born Thy people to deliver
Born a child and yet a King
Born to reign in us forever
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring
By Thine own eternal spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone
By Thine all sufficient merit
Raise us to Thy glorious throne

Until next time,

"Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come." ~ Matthew 24:42

November 23, 2012

For the Beauty of the Earth

Northeastern Oklahoma is usually filled with brilliant colors in the fall, but this year's colors have been, well, muted. Some might even feel that they have been disappointing. A second consecutive year of extreme heat and drought have taken a toll.

We had far too much heat and too little rain, turning landscapes that would normally be alive with brilliant hues of orange and crimson into dull shades of taupe and brown.

Still, even when it seemed that the overall landscape was dreary, there were wonderful splashes of color to be found.. 

Sometimes God calls us to look at the big picture. Other times, He calls us to focus a little closer in order to see the details in His handiwork. And He reminds us that, no matter what, there is always beauty to be found.

Until next time,

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. ~ Ecclesiastes 3:11

October 5, 2012

Be Careful Who (and What) You Follow

It took me awhile to get the hang of it, but once I did, well, the rest is history. I am addicted to Pinterest.

The concept of creating boards and pinning pictures seemed so absurd that I couldn't imagine why anyone would do it. Then one day an invitation popped up in my email. I ignored it at first but after a few days I decided to go back and see what it was about. I was overwhelmed. It was a couple of weeks before I looked at it again and I still couldn't understand the appeal.
And then one night I was bored and went back a third time. That's when I was hooked. I've tried very few of the helpful hints that I've pinned and none of the recipes, but I do have my eye on a craft for the near future. I have over 240 craft pins, but I tell myself that I'll get to them someday. At least one is a start.

One of the people I began to follow was a friend and former coworker. She has four young children so I wasn't surprised that she didn't pin very often. Occasionally I would see a series of pins showing adorable girl's rooms in shades of teal pinned to a board with the name of her oldest daughter. I thought she must be preparing to change the room from little-girl-pink to something that would reflect how quickly her daughter is growing up. Sometimes there were pins of party ideas, or fun treats and I would think about a fun mom she is.

After watching these pins for a couple of months, I ran into this friend and asked if she was redecorating her daughter's room. She laughed.  "No, that's not me. My daughter has hijacked my Pinterest board." It turned out I was following a nine-year-old. And if that was not humbling enough, the nine-year-old had more followers than I did, a fact which made that child positively beam with pride when I told her.

It got me thinking about how easy it is to allow substitutes to get in the way of the One we should be following. It can be exercise, or travel, or food. It can be relationships, or politics, or, um, Pinterest. It can be work, or family, or church stuff.  It can absolutely anything (and everything) that keeps our focus off of Christ.

And when I realize just how many things I allow to distract me from Christ, that's humbling, too.

Until next time,

"Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and
take up their cross and follow me."
~ Matthew 16:24b (NIV)

September 15, 2012

Judging by Appearances

In one of my last posts, I told you about going to hear Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein speak as part of the 40th anniversary of Watergate. They only spoke in about 10 cities, so it was a fairly unique opportunity to hear their take on the events firsthand.

One of the most interesting parts of their talk centered on my favorite president, Gerald Ford. I know, he was president such a short time and you don't hear a lot of people say he's their favorite president, but I have admired him almost from the moment he took the oath of office. There was a bit of a detour in my admiration for him when he granted a pardon to Richard Nixon. That was largely because, at 15, I thought the trial of a former president would be great entertainment. By the time President Ford ran in 1976, I had changed my mind and respected him all the more for the pardon and I was disappointed that I was eight months too young to vote for him.

It took Woodward and Bernstein a little longer to come around. As they told the story, the Sunday morning that President Ford announced the pardon, Bernstein called Woodward, waking him. He didn't beat around the bush, blurting out "The S.O.B. pardoned the S.O.B." Only he didn't say "S.O.B.". They were both convinced that a deal had been made between Nixon and Ford before Nixon resigned but they could never find any evidence to substantiate their suspicions.

It was many years later, as the 25th anniversary of the Nixon resignation approached, when Woodward was working on a book and called President Ford and asked if he could talk to him. Ford immediately agreed to an interview. Woodward traveled to California and the two men met for the first time. President Ford spoke about the turmoil the country had already been through in the two years between the Watergate break-in and the resignation of President Nixon and his belief that a trial would have torn the country apart. He truly believed we needed to put it all behind us, and the only way to do that was to grant a pardon. Now he had said this before, including the first sworn testimony a sitting president had ever given before Congress, but it was the face-to-face conversation in the historical context provided by the passage of a quarter century that made Bob Woodward realize he and Carl Bernstein had been wrong about the pardon.

Source: Kennedy Library
Not only were Woodward and Bernstein convinced they had been wrong, but so was a vocal critic of the pardon, Ted Kennedy. Largely as a result of Woodward's book, the Kennedy Library awarded President Ford the Profile in Courage Award in 2001. This is a portion of Sen. Kennedy's speech as he presented the award:

At a time of national turmoil, American was fortunate that it was Gerald Ford who took the helm of the storm-tossed ship of state. Unlike many of us at the time, President Ford recognized that the nation had to move forward, and could not do so if there was a continuing effort to prosecute former President Nixon. So President Ford made a courageous decision, one that historians now say cost him his office, and he pardoned Richard Nixon. I was one of those who spoke out against his action then. But time has a way of clarifying past events, and now we see that President Ford was right. 

It's easy to look at Woodward and Bernstein and wonder why it took them so long to realize they had been wrong, but the truth is we all allow our preconceptions to cloud our thinking. I see liberals who refuse to cut George W. Bush any slack and who question his motives in all areas. I see conservatives who refuse to cut Barack Obama any slack and who question his motives in all areas. If only we could set aside our emotions and political biases for a minute, we might get a glimpse of two decent men, each of whom has made some good decisions and some bad decisions. We might learn that it is possible to respect someone with whom we disagree on many issues. And we might just grow up a bit.

If only...

Until next time,

I said to myself, "In due season God will judge everyone, both good and bad, for all their deeds." ~ Ecclesiastes 3:17 (NIV)

July 30, 2012

Ready for This Particular Chicken to Cross the Road

When you live in the Bible Belt, every shot fired in the culture wars seems to be the shot heard 'round the world, or at least throughout our section of the world.

The current battlefront can be found at Chick-Fil-A. I refuse to take sides, although I'm sure there are those who think not siding with them (whichever side they're on) is taking a side.

Call me silly, but I think companies can support whatever causes they may choose to support and customers who don't care for those decisions can choose to take their business elsewhere. That seems simple enough.

I don't understand Christians turning this into a holy war with snarky comments and pictures on Facebook. These Christians represent both sides of the issue.

Really? Jesus gave his life for a holy chicken war?

I think not.

Paul indicated in I Corinthians that marriage can be a distraction from the Gospel. While he wasn't speaking to this situation, I think it applies. While there are married couples who manage to serve the Lord fully through their marriages, as Paul says, most who are married have divided interests. As Christians, when we let ourselves become distracted by who is or is not supporting gay marriage, we have divided interests. 

Sometimes I wonder if we all have a case of spiritual ADD as we bounce from one battlefront in the culture war to another. Whenever Christians get caught up in this stuff, we're not focused on Christ. We're focused on convincing others that we're right. That's not our job.

God does not call us to make people just like us, which is a good thing. Jesus unloaded on the Pharisees over that sort of thing, masterfully employing the phrase, "son of hell." (I alternate between chuckling that he used that term to describe religious leaders and feeling convicted that he could be referring to me.)

We're called to love others. We're called to tell people about Jesus. We're called to tell the world about God's grace. We're called to share the story of God's love for each of us, love demonstrated in Christ's sacrifice.

Nothing else compares.

Until next time,

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. ~ 1 John 4:10

July 14, 2012

My Brush With History

I'm a news junkie, largely because I love to watch history unfold. My earliest memory of a national event is President Kennedy's assassination when I was 4, and I have no doubt that's what taught me at an early age that history isn't just in books. It happens all around us. 

So a few months ago when two men whose work was connected to one of those historical events that I watched unfold came to town, naturally I wanted to see them. My friend, Trella, and I looked forward to the night for weeks. We knew we needed to plan better for this one after finding ourselves watching George Will from very bad camera angles on a monitor in a standing-room-only area outside the auditorium where he was speaking a few weeks earlier.

We arrived two hours early. We were so early that the ushers tried to direct us to the VIP reception to meet the speakers but we knew we I wouldn't be able to stop giggling long enough to pull that off. Instead, we went into the basketball arena (the University of Tulsa learned something from George Will's popularity) and carefully chose our seats. Since we were the first to arrive, we had plenty of choices. We decided we wanted to be dead center. Unfortunately, the VIPs who were invited to the reception had several rows of the center section reserved just for them so the closest center seats were many rows back from the stage. Like Goldilocks, we tried those seats for awhile but decided we could do better. By that time others were beginning to arrive so our options were more limited. We moved to the section just to the right of center and found seats near the aisle two or three rows back from the stage.

We were rewarded for our efforts when the speakers came out, walking right in front of us. One of them was visibly surprised by the size of the crowd - a few thousand people - filling the arena. They took the stage and spoke for an hour or so about their experiences and the historical event which had propelled them to fame decades ago. The whole time I couldn't believe that I was so close to these men who have been household names for most of my life. When they opened the floor to questions, I knew I had to get in line.

I've never been one of those people who goes anywhere near a microphone in front of a crowd, but here I am, asking my question.

The first guy responded that my question was a good one. Or maybe he said it was great. No, I think he said it was the best. question. ever. Oh, I have no idea what he said, I just know he indicated he liked the question and I couldn't believe he was looking directly at me as he spoke. Then he turned to the other guy who spoke to me for several minutes as he continued to answer the question. Although his words were obviously intended for everyone in the arena, he looked me directly in the eye the entire time, as though he was speaking only to me as he told a story. It was a thrill I can't begin to explain.

It was a day or two later before I had a revelation about that night. I was thrilled for the opportunity to talk to these guys who had impacted history. But I get to talk directly to the One who created history every. single. day. And while His Word is clearly intended for everyone, it speaks directly to me each time I read it. Why do I forget that? Why aren't I as excited to greet Him every morning? Why do I take speaking to Him throughout the day for granted? Why do I neglect Him?

I won't lie. There are still many days when I take my relationship with God for granted, but then are those other times when I break through that indifference -- or more accurately, when I allow Him to break through my indifference -- and I find that I can still have that same feeling with God that I had for those few minutes when two famous guys answered my question. No, that's not right. It's not the same. It's way better.

Oh, and who were the speakers? These guys -- and Carl even looked up!

I couldn't have been more excited if they'd been Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, themselves!

Until next time,

You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen!  Repent and do the things you did at first. ~ Revelation 2:4a-5b

May 10, 2012

His Grace is Sufficient

There is a street in downtown Tulsa that for most of my life, was one-way -- northbound only. It has been a two-way street for around 10 years now...maybe more. To be honest, it still kind of freaks me out when I see a car coming towards me on Boston Avenue.

If I worked downtown and drove on Boston every day, I probably wouldn't give it a second thought but as it is, I only drive down that street a few times a year, almost always northbound. I don't think I've driven south on Boston more than half a dozen times in the years since it has been two-way. It just doesn't feel makes me tense and it's almost as though I can hear a voice in my head screaming, "Danger, Will Robinson!" as I see buildings from the "wrong" side.

But just because it feels wrong to me doesn't mean that it actually is wrong. The city determined years ago that it no longer made sense for Boston to be one-way. They did a study -- I suppose they did, anyway. (I'd hate to think they messed with my head without doing a study first.)  They painted a yellow line down the middle of the street. They publicized it in advance and officially declared it a two-way street. But I can't help it. After all these years, a two-way Boston Avenue still doesn't feel right to me.

Driving down Boston causes an internal struggle for me. Being a member of a Southern Baptist church causes an internal struggle for me, as well, and has for at least 15 years. Don't get me wrong.  I agree with most Southern Baptist doctrine. I love my church. That church has been a part of my personal history for over 50 years. Each day as I put on my makeup, I am confronted by a scar over my left eye that has been there since one of the first Sundays I set foot in the church as a 2-year-old child and was injured in the nursery. For many years I have seen that scar as a reminder that God called me to that specific church. 

But it's no secret that many Southern Baptists believe that women are less than men. They don't come out and say it quite that way, but that's their meaning. Most who hold that opinion will tell you that they believe that men and women are sort of equal but were created to serve different purposes, and it just happens that the woman's purpose is to be subservient to men. They point to verses to justify their positions -- verses that were not written in English and that can be translated and interpreted in more than one way. They can read explanations about the different interpretations and still refuse to consider any possibility that perhaps, just perhaps, the interpretation they have clung to all of their lives is not the best interpretation of that scripture. It doesn't feel right to them, just as a two-way Boston Avenue doesn't feel right to me.

Just because allowing women to serve God wherever He calls us doesn't feel right to some people, doesn't mean it's wrong. God is absolutely the same yesterday, today, and forever. His grace has always been sufficient for all of us, men and women alike. But we were not intended to stay the same yesterday, today, and forever because that would be a sign that we're not growing and maturing in our faith. If we are growing in our faith, we will be changed.

Not permitting women to serve fully is not an affront to women. It is an affront to the Holy Spirit who indwells each woman who follows Christ, just as He indwells each man who follows Christ. Women do not receive some diluted version of the Holy Spirit. Women don't function in the power of the Holy Spirit on some kind of pro rata basis. We receive a full measure of the Holy Spirit when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. To deny the role of that Spirit within women is to deny God, Himself.

We cannot deny God and glorify Him at the same time. Until Southern Baptists figure that out, we will never fully be the church that He has called us to be.

Until next time,

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. ~ Galatians 3:28