Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Dead Wooden God

What God are you worshiping this Christmas? Isaiah makes a fabulous point in chapter 44:13-19. Here’s a brief synopsis of his message...

A carpenter draws up blueprints for a statue. He carefully selects an appropriate tree and cuts it down. He wastes nothing of the tree; using it as fuel for his fire to heat his home and cook his food. He holds a part of the tree back and fashions it into a statue. He sets the statue on the mantle, calls it his god and bows down and worships it.

Where’s the logic in this?!? How can a statue made from the same tree as the wood that heated the house and cooked the food be a god? Once the tree is cut down it’s dead. The statue is just a dead piece of wood.

Can the statue create? Can it communicate? Can it control day and night, wind and rain, moon and stars and sun? Can it inexplicably cure cancer and restore someone to complete health? Can it bring peace and joy into your life? Can you have a relationship with a dead piece of wood? Can it offer you forgiveness and freedom from the mess you’ve made of your life?

It’s fairly easy to see the obvious answer to these questions is a resounding, “NO”. There’s no possible way a dead piece of wood can do any of these things no matter how many times you ask it. Most of us don’t go out and buy statues, bring them home, call them our gods and start a religion around worshiping them. Let’s consider a question a little closer to home.

Can you have a personal relationship with your big screen TV? (No, bonding with it for four hours every night to watch reality shows doesn’t count.) Will you find unending happiness and inexplicable joy in your new BMW or will it only bring you debt and stress once the initial pride of ownership wears off? What about the job that’s taken the place of your family? Can it bring you freedom and unconditional acceptance? We’re not so different than the people Isaiah speaks to. Our idols are just more subtle.

This Christmas let’s take time to quietly reflect on what god we’ve been worshiping and what god we plan to worship in 2012. If you look for Him you’ll find the Christ child. The true, living God lying humbly in a manger, not forcing Himself into your life, but extending an open invitation for you to welcome Him into your heart.

What god are you worshiping this Christmas?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Caramel Corn

Looking for a sweet popcorn treat for Christmas? This is quick and easy. It's great for munching on at home or for giving as a homemade hostess gift.

Start by popping between 1 cup to 1 1/2 cups of popping corn (this measurement is unpopped corn, not actual popped corn). Dump this in a large pan or roaster.

Melt 1 cup margarine in a large saucepan and stir in:
2 cups brown sugar
½ cup syrup
1 tsp. salt

Boil together for five minutes.

Remove from heat. Add 1 tsp. vanilla and 1 tsp. baking soda and stir well.

Pour syrup mixture over popped corn, mixing well to coat kernels.
Bake at 250 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring corn every 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool. You will have to break it up once it's cool as the kernels will stick together. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Eyes Of Jesus

I spent last week in rural Manitoba with my step-mother while she recovered from chemotherapy. When Sunday rolled around I decided to go to the Austin Evangelical Fellowship church just around the corner from her house. (That’s Austin, Manitoba population 450, not be confused with Austin, Texas population...a lot more!)

Pastor Colin Bell preached a thought provoking message based on Luke 10:30-37. He challenged us to see people through the eyes of Jesus and consider what the implications of this might be.

Do I really want to see people the way Jesus sees them? Can I handle that? Am I willing to take the time to ACT on what I might see if I truly open my eyes? Am I prepared to get involved in the messy lives of other people? Are the lives of other people even any of my business? Don’t I have enough of my own problems without worrying about the lives of others? How might this change my life, or the lives of those around me? I’m left with a lot of questions, and not many satisfactory answers.

I don’t know if I really want to see others through the eyes of Jesus. This means I’d have to look past the ragged clothing, the dirt stained skin, the shopping cart filled with garbage bags and the filthy hair of the person living on the street to see the story behind the haunted eyes. I’d realize this person once had a home, a family, a job. I might come to understand we’re really not much different and I might have to respond with some sort of action; but what?

I admit to an internal struggle when I encounter a homeless person. I don’t know how to act and I’m uncomfortable. Do I ignore them and walk on by? Do I reach into my purse and give them money? Do I say the standard, “hi, how are you today?” Do I give them the address for the local soup kitchen? Why should my reaction to them be any different than my reaction to the cashier in the grocery store? I’d greet her with an optimistic hello and ask her how her day is going – so why not the street person?

If I see people through the eyes of Jesus then I’m obligated to show love to the rude, woman in the office with her impeccably manicured nails, coiffed hair, layered make up and designer suits. It means looking past the outward facade of snobbery, rudeness and anger to see the insecurity and poor self image lurking beneath.

These are just two possible scenarios in a day of seeing through the eyes of Jesus. Imagine the impact of this action over the course of a week, a month, a year. Perhaps we appreciate our own lives more fully when we get involved in the messiness of others’. Maybe the answer to our own problems lies in helping other people overcome theirs. Is it possible that seeing people through the eyes of Jesus frees us to see ourselves through His eyes; to finally recognize the deep, deep love He has for us and the world around us?

Are you ready to see through the eyes of Jesus? Are you ready to rise to the challenge of loving people just the way they are? Are you ready to love yourself the way Jesus loves you?

Share your thoughts below by clicking on “comments”.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Cherry and Mint Snowball Experimentation Update

Last week I posted a recipe for snowballs - the only candy I know that's made out of a vegetable (assuming a potato qualifies as a vegetable which is another whole controversy...vegetable, fruit, decide).

This evening I had an opportunity to experiment with the recipe and am pleased to report a successful trial in flavouring with maraschino cherries and almond extract in one batch and mint in another. Both are quite nice with a dark chocolate coating.

So, for anyone who's feeling adventurous - start with the same snowball recipe from the original post - one boiled, mashed potato, add 1 cup icing sugar.

For Cherry Snowballs:
Instead of the vanilla extract add 2 tsp. almond extract and about 1/4 cup of chopped maraschino cherries. Add enough icing sugar to make a soft dough. (You'll find this takes more icing sugar than the original recipe as the cherries add more liquid into the mixture.) Just keep adding icing sugar until you get a dough you can roll into balls and set on waxed paper. Then dip in melted semi-sweet chocolate. Voila, yummy chocolate covered cherry snowballs!

For Mint Snowballs:
Instead of the vanilla extract add 1 tsp. mint extract (you can add more if you like a stronger mint flavour, but I found it quite strong with just 1 tsp.) Add enough icing sugar to make a soft dough, roll in balls, allow to set on waxed paper and dip in melted semi-sweet chocolate.

Merry Christmas! Enjoy!