Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Your Life Two Thousand Years From Now

A few years ago the band 4Him wrote a song titled, “A Man You Would Write About”.  It’s a thought provoking song leading the listener to consider what would be written about their life if scripture was still being written.  Here’s a link to read the lyrics .

Imagine if your life was recorded in Biblical history for the entire world to read. (There's a thought that chills your whiskers!)  Consider a few people whose lives were:

Adam and Eve – they’re responsible for condemning the entire human race to life outside of God’s intended plan for the world.  Genesis 3 

Cain is a murderer. He kills his brother.  Genesis 4

Sarah doesn’t believe God’s promise that she’ll get pregnant when she’s clearly past childbearing age. She has the audacity to laugh at God.  Genesis 18 

Rahab is a prostitute. Yes, she serves God when she protects the men Joshua sends to scope out the city of Jericho, but the fact that she’s a prostitute is still included in the Biblical historical record.  Joshua

Abraham is generally portrayed as a man of God but even he has his weaknesses. Essentially he prostitutes out his wife not once, but twice, to save his own skin when they arrive in foreign lands. Genesis 12 and Genesis 20 

Moses – we probably know more about Moses than most biblical characters. Typically we think of Moses as a faithful, obedient servant of God, but he’s not perfect either. Before God uses him to lead the captive Israelites out of Egypt, Moses kills an Egyptian, hides the body in a sand dune, and flees the country.   Exodus 2 

David commits adultery and murder and it’s recorded in black and white for us to read 2000 years later.  2 Samuel 11 

Jesus' disciples –The two most notable are Judas and Peter.  Judas makes a deal with the chief priests to turn Jesus over to them. For this betrayal he is paid 30 pieces of silver. Peter, who has sworn he will NEVER betray Jesus, denies any knowledge of Him three times the night Jesus is taken captive.  None of the disciples seem to speak up to defend Jesus in His darkest hour of need.   Matthew 26

Paul – before his conversion Paul's (previously named Saul) life amtition is to hunt down and kill as many Christians as he can.  Acts 8 & 9  and Acts 22 

I could go on but I think you get the message.

When I listen to the song written by 4Him there are two things I stop to consider.

1)      I’m so glad these people have their personal stories recorded in the Bible. Granted it might embarrass them if they were still alive to read it 2000 years later but it’s encouraging for me.  Other than Jesus, there isn’t one person on God’s roster who hasn’t made a mess of their life at some point in time. God isn’t looking for perfect people!

I’m not saying I take pleasure in hearing about someone else’s screw ups. All I’m saying is God still considers you and me useful servants in His ministries even if we’ve got a few smelly skeletons in our closets.

2)      Two thousand years from now, if someone was reading about my life what would it say? What do my day to day activities say about my priorities, about my relationship with God, about my belief in Jesus? What would scripture write about me?

Is the life I’m living today something I’d be proud to have written down for future generations?  Is yours?

Post your thoughts below by clicking on “comments”.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Chocolate Candy Slice

This is a recipe I unearthed from my mother's recipe box. I was hosting an open house a while ago and wanted to make some squares that didn't require a lot of time or effort. This recipe fits the criteria.

Whip this slice up in 10 or 15 minutes, pop it in the fridge for about 1/2 an hour and you've got a rich (I mean sugar high for a week) treat.

Like a lot of recipes I post, this one takes me back to the basement of our small town Manitoba church. The social life of the church revolved around the UCW (United Church Women) and food. You could generally find this slice on a dainty tray casually rubbing shoulders with the peanut butter/caramel/marshamallow squares and the cherry marshmallow bars (two other favourites you'll see in future posts).

In those days no one was aware of peanut or gluten allergies. Life is a little different today so you'll find two versions of the recipe posted below. One is the original version in all it's nut-filled, anaphylactic glory. The other is a version I've adapted to eliminate the potential allergens of peanut butter, coconut, walnuts and gluten.

Here's the easy, no-bake blast from church teas past.

CHOCOLATE CANDY SLICE (The Unadulterated Version)

Melt in a double boiler:
1 pkg (300 g) butterscotch chips
1 pkg (350 g) chocolate chips
1/2 cup butter or margarine
3/4 cup peanut butter
(If you don't have a double boiler use very low heat on your stove top).

Stir in:
1 cup coconut
3/4 cup walnuts
1 package mini marshmallows (you can use coloured or plain - it's up to you)

Pour into a 9" x 13" pan. Chill

CHOCOLATE CANDY SLICE (The Allergy Free Version)

Melt in a double boiler:
1 to 1 1/2 pkg butterscotch chips
1 1/2 pkg chocolate chips
1 cup butter or margarine
(If you don't have a double boiler use very low heat on your stove top).

Stir in:
1 cup Rice Krispie cereal
1 pkg mini marshmallows (coloured or plain - you decide)

Pour into a 9" x 13" pan. Chill.

CELIAC NOTE: Rice Krispies may still be a problem for those with Celiac disease as they contain barley. You can generally find gluten free rice cereal in the organic aisle or at a specialty food store.

PEANUT NOTE:  Check the packages of butterscotch and chocolate chips closely - the package of butterscotch chips I used still had the "may contain peanuts" note at the end of the ingredient list.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Billboards From God

Have you ever asked God for guidance in helping you make an important decision? You bring the dilemma to Him seeking a solution but instead of a definitive answer you feel like you’re twiddling the tuning button on the radio resulting in static and dead air.

Many times in my life I’ve brought important decisions to God in prayer.  I take a few minutes in the morning to say something like this,

“OK God, here’s my dilemma.  I really need to make a decision about this and it’s going to affect the next few years of my life.  I really want to do your will and make the right choice so can you tell me what you want me to do and what the right choice is?  Thank You for hearing my prayer Heavenly Father and thank You for answering it.  I know you will.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.”  Then I rush out the door to get on with my busy life.

Isn’t that admirable?  I’m bringing my decision to God. I’m telling Him I want to choose wisely and do His will. So why don’t I get an answer. Why isn’t there a big billboard on the side of the highway that reads,

“Dear Carol…thanks for your prayer this morning. I’m really glad you took six seconds out of your busy schedule to share that with me.  Here’s a numbered, step by step list of what you should do to make that decision. And oh, by the way, here’s a link to a YouTube video of how your life will turn out if you follow my list of instructions.  Have a nice day! God"

If I saw that I’d pull over, take a picture and download it to my computer.  I’d make sure I followed it step by step so I didn’t mess up!

You know I’m being facetious.  My point is we all rush to God when we have problems or important decisions to make.  We expect a response NOW!  Then we get frustrated and disillusioned when we don’t seem to get an answer.  We think we can call on God like a Google search.  Cast up a prayer, get 10,000 hits back in the matter of a millisecond, and pick the one we like. 

God doesn’t work that way.  Max Lucado in his book, “Out Live Your Life”, says, “God has posted traffic signs everywhere we look.  In the universe, in scripture, even within our own hearts...”  Much to my chagrin Max wasn’t referring to advertising spots on billboards. 

In most cases God does answer our petitions for guidance but we’re too busy to get it.  In some cases we ignore the message because it doesn’t come like a lightning bolt out of the blue or a smack upside the head with a two by four.

Maybe God answered you through a gentle conversation with a friend or neighbor.

Maybe God’s answer is found in the persistent nudging of your conscience.

Maybe God answers in the beauty of a sunset, the majesty of a mountain top, or the gentle breeze on your face.

Maybe God answers in a quiet moment of inspiration that comes to you when you turn off the Iphone, the TV and the computer.

We tend to have a one-sided relationship with God.  How many friendships or marriages have you seen where one person does all the talking while the other person just sits and listens?  How successful are those relationships?  They’re not exactly what I’d call healthy.

Frequently we fail to be in healthy relationship with God.  We don’t read scripture every day or spend time listening.  We don’t give God a chance to speak.   We don’t hear the answer because we’re too busy doing the talking!

I still dream of my billboard by the side of the road but I know it’s not a reality.  The only way I’m going to hear God speak is by spending time with Him.  When I ask Him to tune all my senses to be ready to hear the message He has for me and when I go into the day watching for ways He might speak to me, I’ll begin to hear His answers.

How does God speak to you?  Post your thoughts by clicking on “comments” below.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Slave To Debt

In January I wrote a post on acquisition addiction (part 1 and part 2), which typically results in debt.  Are you haunted by bill collectors? Stalked by credit card companies? Have a sick lump of dread in your stomach every time the phone rings because you’re afraid it’s another collection agency?

Do you take a cash advance on one credit card to meet the minimum payment of another? Are you using the 1990’s Roseanne Barr method of avoidance by not signing the cheque when you put it in the envelope to the utility company because you know there’s not enough money in the account for it to clear? You have to LOOK like you’re trying to send them money…so you pretend you FORGOT to sign it.

Are you living on payday cash advances with inflated interest rates of 29% or more and administration fees that gobble up your pay cheque before it hits your bank account?  Are you sinking a little deeper every day in the sea of debt? Is the water closing over your head in spite of all your efforts and hard work?

If you find yourself mired in desperation brought on by debt I want you to know there’s still hope.  I’ve been there and admit to using all of the various tactics listed above. I’ve also experienced all of debt's negative emotional friends:

        Shame                      Fear                      Anger
        Frustration                Desperation           Panic
        Depression                Apathy                   Dread
        Helplessness              Worthlessness

I dug myself out of the pit once. Now my husband and I are back in because of choices we made during the last two years. It’s so frustrating! We’re slaves to debt.

The money we make isn’t ours to spend, share and give; instead it’s going to lines of credit and credit cards. It’s sickening! We’re no longer free to be generous the way we’d like. We’re no longer free to use God’s money in ways that please Him. Until it’s paid off debt is our master.

We kicked 2012 off with the decision to start the process of getting out of debt.  It’s not easy to take charge of your finances when you’re overwhelmed.  You don’t want to know just how deep the hole is; but if you’re ever going to be free from debt’s shackles this is where you need to start. 

Gather up your statements, your bills, your loan documents, and your IOU’s. Get a sheet of paper and a calculator and sit down at the kitchen table. On the sheet of paper list every creditor to whom you owe money and write down the amount you owe beside it.  Now punch those numbers into the calculator, add it up, and finally face your foe - the total dollar value of your debt.

I understand this is a terrifying process.  When you live in debt for an extended period of time the only way to survive is by refusing to face reality. Right now your stomach’s churning and panic lurks around the corner. It’s OK, take a deep breath.  Half the battle is facing reality.

Now take it a step further - beside each creditor write down your minimum monthly payment. Add this amount up. Beside it write down your total monthly take home income.

Some of you are relieved to see your monthly income exceeds your monthly debt payment. Others feel your heart sinking because that’s not the case. Your monthly debt payment exceeds your monthly income.

At this point I’d recommend seeking help from a professional. There are a lot of good financial counselors who can set up a debt repayment plan or determine if you should file for bankruptcy.  In Canada you might want to check out as a starting point.

I also recommend you visit Dave Ramsey’s website at .  Dave has some great resources to help you get on a budget and systematically tackle your debt. He hosts a daily talk show via podcast giving callers advice on their debt scenarios. You'll learn alot just by listening. You can pick up his book, “Total Money Makeover” or find a church near you offering the Financial Peace University course.

Dave speaks from experience and his advice is sound. I highly recommend his website if you’re looking for a method to stop the debt madness and re-gain control of your finances.

You’re probably feeling discouraged, demoralized, and defeated. So here’s a pep talk. Just because you’ve made some financial mistakes doesn’t mean you’re a worthless person. Even if it comes to the point of bankruptcy God still loves you. Money doesn’t define who we are in Christ and it shouldn’t define who we are as people. Don’t lose your identity just because you’ve lost control of your finances.

You don’t need to be a slave to debt for the rest of your life. Are you ready to break its chains? Share your thoughts by clicking on comments below.