Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Marshmallow Cherry Slice

It’s the last week of the month and that means recipe week here on the blog.  This is one of my favourites from church teas.  I don’t make it very often for a couple of reasons.

1.       It fills a 9” x 13” pan
2.       I have a really hard time stopping after only one square.  In fact I keep snarfing this down as long as it beckons invitingly to me from the pan.
3.       See #1 again!

There’s very little baking that I can eat in large quantities, but this is the exception.  There’s just something about the delicate cherry flavour mixed with the brown sugar shortbread base that makes the taste buds quiver for more!  Pardon me while I go and get another slice out of the fridge. J

OK I’m back.  No more teasing, this is a MUST do for cherry lovers.

Marshmallow Cherry Slice
¾ cup butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 ½ cups flour
Mix into a crumbly mixture and press into a 9” x 13” pan.  Bake at 325 degrees F for 25 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool completely.

2 pkgs unflavoured gelatine
½ cup cold water
2 cups white sugar
½ cup hot water
½ cup chopped maraschino cherries
½ tsp. almond flavouring

Cut up enough drained maraschino cherries to make ½ cup of chopped cherries.

Put cold water in a bowl and sprinkle the unflavoured gelatine over it.  Let stand to soften.

Mix white sugar and hot water in a small pot.  Boil over medium heat for 2 minutes.  Stir constantly.  Remove from heat and add the gelatine mixture.  Stir to dissolve.

Beat this mixture with an electric mixer until very stiff.  (As you beat it the mixture will cool, thicken, and change to a white colour).

When the mixture is very stiff mix in the cherries and almond flavouring.  Spoon the topping onto the base and spread around evenly.  Cool in the fridge.

When you're cutting the slice, moisten a knife with hot water to prevent the marshmallow topping from sticking.  The topping will stick to saran wrap and anything it touches (including moustaches) so I recommend using toothpicks to keep the saran off.

This slice will freeze well but mine never gets that far!


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Isaiah 40:29-31 - Renewed Strength


“He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.  Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion.  But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.  They will soar high on wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary.  They will walk and not faint.”  Isaiah 40:29-31

The last part of this scripture is commonly read at funerals and memorial services.  It’s the “soaring” and “running” part that speaks to people’s hearts.  A few years ago we chose it as part of the scripture reading at my own father’s funeral. 

I remember Dad going out to run when I was a teenager.  He had a degenerative lung disease and was determined to do what he could to slow down its progression.  In later years, when he required 24 hour supplemental oxygen, running wasn’t an option.  Simply walking across the room was enough to tire him out.

Most people, when they reach the end of their lives, are too tired to soar and run.  They’ve fought long hard battles with cancer, heart failure, ALS, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, chronic lung conditions, mental illness, depression, and any number of other diseases.

It’s comforting to know when our loved ones leave this life they are freed from the burden of illness that held them here on earth.  In Jesus’ arms they are free to soar once again.  They run with energy and joy far greater than we’ll ever experience in this lifetime.

Not only is it comforting to know this about our deceased loved ones, we can apply this verse to our own lives right now.  I sometimes grow weary from life’s burdens.  I’ve run the race of life too hard in the past and have fallen in exhaustion.

When I watch the news and see the atrocities that exist close to home I feel weak and powerless.  What can I do to make any difference in the world around me?

These verses reassure us God makes a difference in our lives right now.   Do you feel hopeless, ineffective, worthless, helpless, useless, incapable, tired, or inadequate?  Take comfort, "He gives POWER to the weak and STRENGTH to the powerless."

Need a reminder about who God is?  Read the rest of Isaiah 40, particularly from verse 12 onwards.  These verses speak of the unimaginable power and magnificence of God.  Isn’t that the kind of magnificence you want working in your life?

If you don’t know who God is, it’s time to get to know Him.  It’s time to understand who He is and how much He loves you.  It’s time to trust Him to look after you in the good times and in the bad.

To learn about God and His love for you read through the book of John in the New Testament.  Take some time out of your busy day and talk to God in prayer.  Pretend He’s sitting in the chair next to you and tell Him your hopes, your dreams, your problems, and your frustrations. 

God will meet you where you are today.  You can trust Him.  Lean on this promise...

“He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.  Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion.  But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.  They will soar high on wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary.  They will walk and not faint.”  Isaiah 40:29-31

Friday, March 23, 2012

Plagued By Worry?

Do you create unnecessary stress in your life by worrying about things that never happen?  I experienced this phenomenon earlier in the week.  I planned to drive seven hours to the southeastern part of the province, but two weather warnings had been issued  – a winter storm warning and a blizzard warning.  YAY!!!

Snow is just a fact of life for my travels in the winter but for some reason the word, “blizzard” freaked me out.  I’ve had some white knuckle drives in blizzard like conditions and don’t care to repeat them!

I really wanted to get a good night’s rest but anxiety plagued me in the form of imagined white out conditions and cars in every ditch.  Around midnight when I STILL wasn’t sleeping I whined about the situation on Face book (if I was miserable others should share in it!).

On Monday morning I apprehensively approached the window only to see street lights shining clearly on snow free cars.  To drive or not to drive...that was the question! 

I pointed the car south and headed out, a tight ball of foreboding in the pit of my stomach.  All day bleak sunlight filtered through grey clouds.  The radio announcers continued their dire threats of blizzards.  A feeling of impending doom sat down in the seat next to me.   At any moment I expected to be swallowed by a wall of white.

How many times do you do this?  You allow anxiety about things that MIGHT happen to ruin your day.  Jesus knew people struggle with worry.   He gives us some great advice in Matthew 6.

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life – whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear.  Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?”  Matthew 6:25

“Look at the birds.  They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them.  And aren’t you far more valuable to Him than they are?  Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?”  Matthew 6: 26-27  

What a great question!  “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?”  We all know the answer is a resounding, “NO”!  It’s just the opposite...worry shortens our lives!

“So don’t worry about these things, saying what will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.  So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries.  Today’s trouble is enough for today.”  Matthew 6:31-34

I went through the entire day worrying about a snow storm that never happened!  I spent a restless night worrying about a blizzard that never materialized!  Even if I had run into a blizzard, would worrying make it any easier to navigate through the storm?  No, it just created pointless anxiety.

Are you experiencing sleepless nights or anxiety over something in your life that MIGHT happen?  Do you really need a “friend” called Worry making you miserable?  Try talking to God about your concerns.  Ask Him to look after them and to bring peace into your heart.  He loves us and promises to meet our every need.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 - The Buddy System

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.  If one person falls, the other can reach out and help.  But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.”

This is a difficult verse for me to live by.  I was a shy, quiet kid; making a perfect target for teasing and ridicule in school.  Because socialization wasn't my strength I didn't make friends easily. (Right now those of you who know me as an adult are shaking your heads in disbelief, but it's a true story.)

I used pride as a self-defense mechanism against the pain of rejection by my peers.  I threw myself into academics striving for perfection.  I convinced myself I was smarter than those who made fun of me.  If they didn’t want to be my friends that was fine by me.  I didn’t need them.  I wore pride like a snug, winter coat on a cold January day and cowered behind a wall of perfectionism!

In social situations quite often shyness is misinterpreted as conceit, arrogance or snobbery.  The more I was rejected the thicker my coat of pride became, adding to the standoffish image I projected.

I’ve learned there’s a fine line between pride and healthy independence, but pride is a difficult companion to give up.  In times of perceived rejection it’s always there to comfort, but it also isolates, preventing us from forming deep connections with people around us.

In Ecclesiastes Solomon reflects on life’s idiosyncrasies.  In these two verses in chapter 4, he shares insights about companionship.  Many organizations understand the dynamics of success when we have a companion along for the ride.
  • Weight loss programs – Weight Watchers understands losing weight is a tough battle.  They know people are more likely to succeed with the support of their peers.
  • Addiction programs – people are more successful at staying clean if they have a sponsor or mentor in their lives.
  • Church programs – offer people prayer partners and accountability groups providing encouragement to stay on track in their daily walk with God.
  • Running programs – offer group runs or team you up with a running mate.  They know if one of you doesn’t feel like going out one day the other will drag you along anyway.

I’m still an introvert at heart and take great pleasure from spending a quiet weekend in the house, book in hand or computer on lap, but I've come to realize we need community.  Friends are a blessing.  God has poured so much love, compassion, and support into my life through many different types of relationships and I’m so grateful.  My life would be a very dreary place without all of you.

This scripture passage isn’t telling us to max out our Facebook pages or overdose on Twitter feeds. It’s not a competition.  Some people are simply wired to be more social than others, having hundreds of supportive people in their lives.  Others are satisfied with a handful of close friends.

It’s about allowing ourselves to be vulnerable enough to develop close relationships.  We all need someone who loves and supports us through our struggles, our weaknesses, our hopes, our dreams, and our moments of despair.

Do you find the thought of letting people into your life intimidating?  Perhaps you're letting the barriers of pride or insecurity stand in the way of close relationships today.  God can help you get rid of the barriers .  He loves you no matter who you are, what you’ve done, or where you’ve been.  If you’re struggling with loneliness, pride, or insecurity, pray Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 throughout the week.

God I know two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.  If one person falls, the other can reach out and help.  But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.  I don’t want to be the person in trouble today.  You love me even when I don’t feel loveable, Lord.  Replace my feelings of insecurity with a deep knowledge of your unfailing love for me.  Replace my coat of pride with a blanket of humility.  Help me step out of my comfort zone and reach out in friendship to those around me.  Help me move past fear to a place of faith.  In Jesus name, Amen.

Memory Verse:

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.  If one person falls, the other can reach out and help.  But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.”  Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NLT)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time

Have you ever had one of those, “it seemed like a good idea at the time” moments?  I have a lot of them.  They’re generally related to my travel schedule for work when I plan to do things like:
-          Driving to Prince Albert and back in one day (a 14 hour drive).
-          Booking a fourteen day road trip across three provinces to see customers and work trade shows (a mere 5000 km drive).
-          Booking myself on the 6:30 a.m. flight so I can arrive in Winnipeg early enough to make a 10:00 a.m. meeting (forgetting the fact that I’ll have to get up at 3:30 a.m. to make the flight).

These are all real life examples, all of which seemed like good ideas in the planning stage.

About 12 hours into the Prince Albert trip, blinding, snow flurries bouncing off my windshield and headlights functioning as well as a snow shovel in Texas in July, I started to question the sanity of my earlier decision.

As my car lurched along the last 100 km towards home, after surviving the 4900 kilometer drive through the wilds of Northern Manitoba and the treeless plains of Saskatchewan, I fought the urge to claw helplessly at the driver’s window whimpering, “let me out, let me out...I can’t drive any more...”  At that moment the fourteen day road trip didn’t seem like such a great idea.

I won’t even get into the 3:30 a.m. debacle!  I think you get the idea.  Ever had one of those moments?  I think Ezra did as he prepared to return to Jerusalem with a group of exiled Israelites.

Ezra joins the Old Testament scene after the destruction of Jerusalem.  The temple of God has been demolished and the Israelites are living in exile in Babylon.  But, the kings of Persia have re-considered the choices of their predecessors and now allow the Israelites to return to their homeland to rebuild the temple and worship their God.  

The work is underway when Ezra, a descendent of Aaron the priest, makes ready to return to Jerusalem.  Ezra has the kings’ favour, and more importantly, God’s favour, but there’s an interesting moment when we see Ezra struggle with fear and faith. 

Ezra 8:21-22 says, “And there by the Ahava Canal, I gave orders for all of us to fast and humble ourselves before our God.  We prayed that He would give us a safe journey and protect us, our children, and our goods as we traveled.  For I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to accompany us and protect us from enemies along the way.  After all, we had told the king, “Our God’s hand of protection is on all who worship Him, but His fierce anger rages against those who abandon Him.”

And there it is...the “it seemed like a good idea at the time” moment.  Ezra, a man who is sure of his faith and his God, has boasted of God’s protection to the king Persia.  He’s backed into a corner and now must weigh his fear of attack against his faith in God.  If he asks the king for protection on their journey his testimony to God’s ability to do this is worthless. 

How does Ezra respond?  Ezra 8:23 tells us, “So we fasted and earnestly prayed that our God would take care of us, and He heard our prayer.”  Continuing to verse 31, “We broke camp at the Ahava Canal on April 19 and started off to Jerusalem.  And the gracious hand of our God protected us and saved us from enemies and bandits along the way.”

Ezra trusted God.  God met Ezra in the middle of his fear; in the middle of his, “it seemed like a good idea at the time” moment. 

We all have times when we’ve made a commitment that feels like a good idea at the time but fear gets in the way...

  • You’ve volunteered at the homeless shelter but when the day comes you’re afraid of what you might see or feel.
  •  You’ve agreed to share your testimony with the church but that morning you’re terrified of how people will respond.
  •  You’ve decided to admit you have an addiction but you’re afraid you can’t live without it.
  •  You’ve promised to see a marriage counselor but you’re afraid of what you'll find out.
  •  You’re determined to seek healing from past abuse but are scared to relive those moments.

These, and others, are all valid fears.  Maybe it’s even escalated to the point of terror and you’re on the verge of panic.  Doubts haunt you.  It’s a natural means of protecting ourselves from more pain.  But fear can’t be allowed to have the final say in our lives.

Sometimes you have to dig deep to find a small seed of faith in your heart.  It might take a lot of excavation, but once you find it, cling to it.  Take that tiny seed, ask God to help you push past your fears and take the next step.  Ezra chose to put God first and faith won the battle over fear.  Let’s follow his example in our lives.

What are your, "it seemed like a good idea at the time" moments?  Click on "comments" below.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

2 Corinthians 1:4 - A Comforting God

2 Corinthians 1:4

“He (God) comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.  When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” (NLT)

Two of the letters Paul writes to the people of the church in Corinth are recorded in the New Testament.  The letter recorded in 2 Corinthians starts out with the encouraging words quoted above.  Followers of Christ were being persecuted and Paul reminds them of God’s presence and His provision of strength and comfort during times of struggle.

“For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with His comfort through Christ.  Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation!  For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you.  Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer.  We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.” (2 Corinthians 1:5-7)

This is reassuring scripture; to know God pours His comfort into our lives even when we’re staggering under the burden of our troubles.

I’m certain however, that telling someone who’s at the end of their rope their troubles are for their "comfort and salvation" isn’t going to win you any awards in the, “Most Comforting Friend” category.   That’s not what you need to hear in the middle of your crisis!

So what do we take away from this scripture?  God never leaves us to struggle through our burdens ourselves.  He provides us with strength, surrounds us with friends, and sees us through our trials.  Only after we've emerged from the river of sorrow and pain, are we able to turn around and see the times God threw us a life preserver to keep us afloat.

Once we’ve won our battles we’re able to join others who are waging similar wars in their lives.  We remember the pain we experienced and can offer empathy.  We understand their hardships and can provide insight and greatly needed support and assistance.

Let’s write 1 Corinthians 1:4 on our hearts this week so we never forget God is our comfort and we are His hands and feet in comforting others.

Memory Verse:

“He (God) comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.  When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” (NLT)  2 Corinthians 1:4

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Verse-A-Week Challenge

I’ve always wondered about people who quote scripture.  You’re having a friendly discussion and without warning they become a walking, talking version of Biblical text!  It’s like you suddenly accessed an audio version of the Bible on ITunes, complete with chapter and verse reference!   I stand there dumbly, my mouth a gaping chasm of disbelief!  How do people do that!?!

When I try to quote scripture it comes out sounding more like this, “Oh ya, that reminds me of this great scripture I read the other day.  It was in or Mark.  No.  Wait.  John, it was definitely John.  Anyway Jesus was talking about vines and branches and branches getting cut off and burnt.  But the good branches have fruit on them and won’t get cut off.  And abiding...ya we’re supposed to abide with God...”

Isn’t that concise and Biblically sound...NOT!  It’s my reality, though.  A passage of scripture comes to mind during a conversation and I’d really like to share it but all I can remember is the general thought behind it.  I can’t give you any actual quotes, nor do I know exactly where to look to find what the Bible really says.  ( is a God send! At least you can do a key word search!) 

I wonder how credible I am in sharing the gospel story if I can’t back it up with scripture.

It’s time to take steps to change the dismal state of my scriptural memory banks.  And guess what; you, as readers of my blog, get to join me!  :)

In addition to my regular mid-week blog posts, each Sunday I’ll post a memory verse for the week.  Those of you subscribing by RSS feed will receive it as soon as it’s posted.  There’s always a delay with the email subscriptions so those subscribing by email will receive the verse Monday morning.  Each verse will be tagged with the label “Scripture”.  If you want to access an earlier verse you can get there by clicking the "Scripture" label at the right hand side of the blog.

We’ll have the week to incorporate the verse into our brains’ memory banks.  Think about it as you’re driving to work, enter it as a note on your iPhone or Blackberry, write it on a sticky note and post it on your fridge, save it as a screen saver on your computer, post it on your Facebook whatever helps you retain information. 

Within a year we’ll be able to access 52 memorized verses whenever our hearts desire.  What do you think God can do in your life with this much access to His word?  

Who’s going to join me?  Watch for the first verse on Sunday.