Friday, March 18, 2011

The Award Winning Henders Chocolate Cake Recipe

I grew up on a farm in rural Manitoba.  Our closest neighbour lived a mile and a half down the gravel road and the nearest town was six miles away.  I say town rather than city because the population of Elm Creek was roughly 300 people, so perhaps even town is a stretch – village may be more accurate.  The beauty of growing up on the farm was that you never lacked things to do.  We weren’t allowed to watch very much television and in fact didn’t own a colour TV until I was in grade 5 (and no I’m not THAT old!).  We had our imaginations, the great outdoors and if we were silly enough to admit to our parents we were bored they always managed to find plenty of work in our gianormous vegetable garden!

For me the highlight of the summer (besides playing with the eight to twelve kittens that were generally born in the spring) was the annual country fair.  You’d think the rides on the mid-way would be the biggest attraction, but for me this wasn’t the case.  In fact I’m sure I still experience childhood trauma from allowing my sister to convince me to ride the Tilt-A-Whirl.  I’m more a Merry-Go-Round person and that memory still makes my stomach quiver in fear!  No, the part of the fair I waited for every year was the exhibit building.  Here you submitted various items such as baking, sewing and crafts for judging.  Not only was the winner awarded bragging rights for the year, there was also prize money up for grabs!  I spent hours studying the fair book strategically planning my entries.

One year my sister and I ended up in the same age bracket.  There’s four years between us (I must mention here she’s older than I am) so this only happened once, but that particular year we both decided to enter a chocolate cake.  Of course we were both using the same recipe – the recipe our mother always used.  Excitement was running high the day we were off to the fair to revel in our victories.  To this day I don’t know what criteria the judges used to make their decisions but the recipe obviously is a keeper because my sister won first place and I won second!  The taste test must have been quite the challenge.

So here it is, years later, the award winning chocolate cake recipe.  ENJOY!

½ cup margarine
1 ½ cups white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

½ cup cocoa
1 ¾ cups flour
1 ½ tsp. creme of tartar
½ cup milk

Dissolve 1 tsp. baking soda in 1 cup hot water, add to cake batter and mix.  Bake in a greased 9” x 13” pan at 350 degrees F for about half an hour.

I'd love to hear your opinion of the cake - click on "comments" below to share your thoughts.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dear God, I Just...

I’m relatively new to the “world of prayer”. It’s only in the last year that I’ve made a point of trying to spend time in prayer every day. I’ve read a few books on prayer but when I pray and when I listen to others praying I’ve noticed something that none of the books seem to mention. There’s this little word that weasels its way into our conversations with God. A recent blog post called “What Words Need to be in the Christian Dictionary” from Jon Acuff’s, “Stuff Christians Like” blog caught my eye and set my brain whirring with curiosity. Towards the end of the blog he mentions the word, “just”. It’s a word that I’ve noticed over and over and over again in prayer – mine and other people’s, and now here’s someone else singling it out, so perhaps I’m not the only word nerd out there wondering what’s up with the use of this word in prayer.

What does it mean? Well, for the grammar geeks out there (of which I’m one) it can be an adjective or adverb and actually has thirteen different definitions listed in the dictionary. But what does it mean when we use it in prayer? Does it add anything to the meaning of our prayers? When I think back over times I’ve heard it used and times it’s slipped unheeded out of my own mouth, typically it’s in the adverb form meaning “only” or “merely”. So what are we really saying when we say “Heavenly Father I just ask you to ...” or “I pray that you would just...”. Try substituting the words “only” or “merely” for “just” and see what meaning you end up with. 

In his book “Too Busy Not To Pray” Bill Hybels makes a thought provoking comment. He asks if we really think about what we say to God. He goes on to point out a great example – asking God to bless the food we’re about to eat.  How frequently do we ask God to use a plate of food swimming in artery clogging grease to strengthen and nourish our bodies.  What are we asking? Does it make any sense? Do we think carefully about what we say when we talk to God? Bill Hybel’s point is well God going to take a plate full of eggs, bacon and hash browns that have been sauteed in bacon grease (my favourite Saturday morning breakfast) and prevent it from damaging our arteries?

Do we really think about what we are saying when we absent-mindedly toss in the “just” word? Are we actually limiting God by using this word? Perhaps I’m making too much out of this but I’ve been noticing the word more and more in my prayer time and in churches. Like the cat that playfully tortures the mouse my brain is fixated on this word. What do you think? Does the word “just” have any significance in the life of our prayers or has it simply become the “um” of prayer time; filler while we think about what to say next?  Please feel free to post your thoughts and comments below.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Jonah 4 - Extreme Forgiveness

The last few blog posts have focused on the book of Jonah. We've seen various themes running throughout including rebellion, anger with God, repentance, and God's mercy and grace. Much of what God offers to us is "extreme" and hard for us to comprehend. Phillip Yancey touches on this in his book What’s So Amazing About Grace?”. He actually refers to the “SCANDAL of grace” because we do nothing to earn grace, it is simply given by God.  Why is that so hard for us to understand? We're accustomed to living in a world where nothing is free, but that's not the case with God's grace. Christ already paid the price so we can live as forgiven people.

In chapter four of Jonah God teaches us about extreme forgiveness. He asks some pointed questions that slice straight to the heart of the matter - who are we to question God's right to offer forgiveness, and who are we to withhold forgiveness from those around us? If we take time to contemplate these questions we find ourselves forced to examine our motives, thoughts and interactions in our personal relationships. Take some time today to think about these questions - are you withholding forgiveness?  Click here to view the entire video devotion.