Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Easiest, Richest, Never-Fail, Five Minute Fudge

Quite often when I was growing up my family would sit around the kitchen table on Saturday evening and play a board game.  One of my favourites was Rummoli (which I’ve since discovered originated in Canada – just a bit of trivia for those enquiring minds who want to know).

To play Rummoli you need a deck of cards, the Rummoli board, and some plastic playing “chips”.  I still have our original board; yellowed and held together on the back with black electrical tape, but original none-the-less.

I was generally pretty good at the game but sadly not a gracious winner.  One particular fateful evening stands out in my mind...

I’ve just won the entire game; I’m standing in front of my chair at the end of the table.  I’m taking great pride in my victory; gloating and lording it over my older sister.

It’s not a good idea to tick off your older sister.  With one push she sends me (in mid-gloat), and the chair behind me, careening backwards through the glass doors of our china cabinet.  There's a very large crash...then dead silence.

Things are a little fuzzy after that.  They say you tend to blank out traumatic events.  I don’t think Mom and Dad were all smiles about the incident. 

In my sister’s defense...I was taking great glee in throwing my victory in her face and I probably needed a reality check.  (And by the way today we are best of friends and I love her dearly.)

But I digress...back to the fudge...

It was tradition that the loser of the Saturday night game had to make fudge.  This easy five minute recipe was generally the one of choice.  It didn't take long to make, cooled quickly (so you could indulge before bed), and never failed.

I can’t remember if we ever got fudge the evening of the china cabinet incident.  I do still have the china cabinet though...complete with new glass doors.   :)

Share your family “incidents” or traditions by clicking on “comments” below.

The Easiest, Richest, Never-Fail Five Minute Fudge

2 tbsp. butter
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 2/3 cups white sugar
½ tsp. salt
2 cups mini-marshmallows
1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla
½ cup chopped nuts (optional)

Butter an 8” x 8” pan.  Mix butter, milk, sugar, and salt in a pot.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Cook for five minutes.  Make sure you stir this constantly or it will burn to the bottom.  Remove from heat and stir in marshmallows, chocolate chips, vanilla, and nuts.  Stir until chocolate and marshmallows are melted.  Pour into buttered pan, cool, then cut into squares.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Hebrews 13:1-2 - Dinner Tonight?

“Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters.  Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!”  Hebrews 13:1-2 (NLT)

Sitting in church this weekend I couldn’t deny thoughts of discontent cavorting about in my mind.  We started “church shopping” a year and a half ago.  We’ve been attending this church for just under a year and haven’t made any connections. 

As we sat there I couldn’t help thinking maybe we’d chosen the wrong church.  I turned to my husband and said cynically, “If we’d stayed at that Baptist church we went to a couple of times we’d probably know people by now and be involved in ministries.”  Were we in the wrong place?

To be fair to the church, I’m probably not in the best frame of mind this weekend.  I’ve been travelling off and on for the past five weeks for work and am exhausted.  In fact before church my husband came upstairs to find me curled up on the couch, pillow under my head, eyes closed, wishfully thinking about a nap!

Last weekend I’d spoken at a retreat with a group of women from Southwood United, the church I attended when I lived in Calgary.  The weekend focused on finding freedom through forgiveness and as I opened up and shared some of my experiences with the group the sense of love and acceptance was overwhelming.  I realized how much I missed the presence of these women in my life.

A couple of weekends before, my husband and I were in Calgary for the weekend as I was speaking at Southwood and the sense that this was our church family was too strong to deny.

So perhaps I brought just a little bit of negativity with me this weekend when we returned to the church we’ve been attending since moving to Stony Plain.  I was frustrated...I wanted to be involved, I wanted to be connected, and I wanted to serve in the ministry of the church.

I chose this passage of scripture for the memory verse this week because it reminds me I have a responsibility to reach out to those in the church and work on making those connections myself.  I can’t just blame the church for the fact that we’re not “plugged in”.

Reaching out to people is not something that comes naturally for me.  I’d rather speak to a group of two or three hundred strangers than talk one-on-one with someone I’ve never met.

But this verse reminds me that God wants us to reach out to people in our church and in our community to get to know them.  We need to get past the shallow, “How is the weather today” conversation and get to know people on a more personal basis.

Inviting people into your home to share a meal is a great way to start.  Sharing food helps to “break the ice” and conversation flows. 

The food doesn’t have to be fancy.  In fact I recall a failed dessert whose base would have made a better Frisbee than a food source, but we salvaged the topping by scraping it off and “eco-binned” the concrete base.  Don’t think that wasn’t a conversation starter!

So this serves as a reminder to order to meet people and be connected in the church I have to invest time and energy in reaching out and making those connections. 

Would you like to meet more people, make new friends, and have deeper connections?  Have you tried inviting people into your home?  Share your thoughts by clicking on “comments” below.

“Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters.  Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!”  Hebrews 13:1-2 (NLT)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

How Big Is the Log In Your Eye?

I’ve learned through experience it’s never a good idea to judge someone else.  You can never truly say how you’ll react in a given situation until you’re living right there in the heat of the moment.

Consider these scenarios…

1.      You press charges against a teenager who’s caught shoplifting a pair of running shoes from the store where you work.  You want him to receive the severest penalty so he’ll learn a lesson.

QUESTION:     If  you knew you were going home this evening to face three hungry children and an empty cupboard would you give in to the temptation to dip into the petty cash drawer before you left work so you could buy a little food for your family?

2.      You look down on your neighbor when she tells you her marriage ended because she had an affair.

QUESTION:     Did you stop to consider how quickly the “harmless flirting” you do with your married co-worker could degenerate into a full blown affair, given the proper circumstances?

3.      You view the homeless people on the street as lazy, good for nothing bums.

QUESTION:     If you lost your job tomorrow and couldn’t find work for six months where would you be?  How far in debt would you be?  Could you keep up your mortgage or rent payment?

4.      You see ex-convicts as outcasts of society, not to be trusted, and certainly not to be given a second chance.

QUESTION:     Would you be able to restrain yourself from taking the law into your own hands to get revenge on someone if they hurt your child?  Would you end up in jail because of your need to seek revenge?

Please don’t misunderstand.  I’m not saying circumstances make it OK to blur the lines of morality or to take actions that are illegal.

I’m simply commenting on the fact that we’re quick to judge and condemn other people when they do something wrong or act in a way we feel is inappropriate.  Here’s our problem though; given a desperate situation we might find ourselves dancing around blurred moral or legal boundaries.

Jesus has some very sound advice for us when it comes to judging others…

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.  For you will be treated as you treat others.  The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.  And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?  How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?  Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”  Matthew 7:1-5 (NLT)

Are there any “logs” in your eye that need to be removed?  Please share your thoughts on this topic by clicking on “comments” below.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Psalm 32:1-2 - Guilt Free Living

“Oh what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight!  Yes what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!  Psalm 32:1-2 (NLT)

This past weekend I had the privilege of speaking at a women’s retreat for Southwood United Church.  We were in a beautiful setting, nestled away in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains overlooking the Ghost River – a perfect setting for drawing close to God.

The theme for the weekend was, “Freedom Through Forgiveness” and we explored the parable of the prodigal son in detail, looking at each son’s failure to have a close, personal relationship with their father. 

Both sons distanced themselves from the father figure – one by physically running away, the other by separating himself through his own pride and resentment.  But the father never gives up – he reaches out to both sons, extending his arms in a welcoming embrace that promises mercy, grace, and forgiveness.

I remember living a life filled with guilt because of past mistakes.  I remember what it feels like to keep secrets from friends and family, to hide parts of my life, to lie to protect my secrets.  It's exhausting and demeaning.  I was filled with guilt and shame.  I believed I was a terrible person, undeserving of love and I felt God could never forgive me.

We read Psalm 32 as part of our worship service on Sunday morning at the retreat.  It’s a beautiful psalm, so full of hope.  David knows what it feels like to have the burden of sin and guilt lifted from his shoulders.  He speaks of experiencing wonderful joy and freedom in confessing his sins to God and receiving forgiveness.

Three years ago I felt God calling me to a life in His presence.  I made a decision to share my secrets and risk it all...risk losing my friends and the family members I held so dear.  I shared my secrets and confessed my sin to God and I experienced the same amazing joy described in this psalm.

When we seek forgiveness in God’s loving arms we move into a life free from guilt and shame.  We’re freed from the heavy burdens we carry with us. 

Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt.  I said to myself, ‘I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.’  And you forgave me!  All my guilt is gone.  Psalm 32:8

I’m living proof of these verses.  It’s such a relief to live a life free from the unbearable burdens of guilt and shame.  Return to God and find your own freedom in His forgiving arms.

“Oh what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight!  Yes what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty! 
Psalm 32:1-2 (NLT)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Deuteronomy 31:6 - Don't Be Afraid

So be strong and courageous!  Do not be afraid and do not panic before them.  For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you.  He will neither fail you nor abandon you.  Deuteronomy 31:6 (NLT)

These are final instructions Moses gives the Israelites as he’s about to die.  He tells them Joshua is taking over as their leader and will help to bring them into the land God has promised them.

The Israelites' track record of trusting God isn’t stellar.  Moses has led them for a long time and knows how they respond in times of stress and uncertainty. 

Even though they’ve witnessed God’s power, seen the proof of His presence as He leads them in a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night they still struggle with issues of trust and reliance.

In times of uncertainty or stress they still become discontented and rely on things other than God to try to satisfy them. 

Here are some examples:

  • Making the gold calf as a tangible god to worship...Exodus 32

  • Demanding meat to eat because they were tired of the mana God provided faithfully...Exodus 16

  • Whining about being thirsty and needing water...Exodus 15

In Deuteronomy 31:6 Moses reminds the Israelites when things get a little crazy in the Promised Land they need to look to God for their security, not to the potential distractions around them.

It’s good advice for us today, too.  When your life gets a little crazy and it's filled with stress and anxiety where do you look? 

It’s easy to try to find peace or distraction in the world around us...alcohol or drugs to numb the pain, spending money in excess to boost self-esteem, sexual promiscuity to convince ourselves we're lovable.  We let panic take over and cling to the first thing promising security, even if it’s false security.

We need to listen to this reminder from Moses.  Throughout the Isrealites' journey God proves faithful.  His presence is always there and He provides everything they need. 

When we allow Him into our lives He does the same for us.

So be strong and courageous!  Do not be afraid and do not panic before them.  For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you.  He will neither fail you nor abandon you.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Matthew 22:37-39 - Overcoming Human Nature

"Jesus replied, "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself."  Matthew 22:37-39

Last Sunday I had the privilege of speaking at Southwood United Church in Calgary.  We looked at the realities of navigating our lives in light of the darkness that tends to be human nature. 

In these verses from Matthew Jesus tells us how to overcome our dark tendencies and live out our faith.  I invite you to listen to the message by visiting Southwood's podcast archive at .  Click on the message titled, "Real Life".

Friday, June 1, 2012

Snickerdoodle Cookies - No Cream of Tartar

Snickerdoodles are a cookie I was always attracted to as a teenager.  I'd bake them over and over again.  The name was fun to say and I always thought they should be a tasty vanilla flavoured cookie.

And they were for the first couple of bites.  But then the after taste of the cream of tartar would kick in leaving me with an nasty sour taste at the back of my throat.

I'd go for awhile without making them and then hope would spring eternal and I'd try again, only to be disappointed...again.

I hadn't made them for years but was looking for something different to make for my husband for lunches and snacks.  He's a crunchie cookie kind of guy and is quite fond of the vanilla flavour.  I thought snickerdoodles fit the bill, but the nasty aftertaste still lingered in my memory.

I decided to do some research into whether cream of tartar was an essential ingredient in the snickerdoodle recipe.  According to what I read on the internet (and we all know everything we read there is true) cream of tartar is an acid salt produced as a by product in the sediment of the wine making process. 

It has a fancy scientific name and a chemical formula which I won't bore you with but apparently I could have found some at the bottom of my carboy when I was bottling wine a few years ago.

Because it's an acid it reacts with baking soda to cause the leavening effect you expect to get when you put baking soda into a recipe.  And here's the good news...baking powder already has a component of cream of tartar in it, but without the nasty acidic taste.

So I decided to see if it's possible to make Snickerdoodles with baking powder instead of baking soda and eliminate the after taste.  For those enquiring minds who want to know the answer is yes and here's the recipe I've been using.


2 ½ cups flour
½ tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup butter
2 eggs
1 ½ cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

2 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. cinnamon

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs - beat well.  Add vanilla and mix.

Add flour, salt, and baking powder and mix until you have a soft dough.

In a separate bowl mix the 2 tbsp. sugar with 1 tbsp. cinnamon.  Pinch off small amounts of dough and roll into balls about 1" in diameter.  Dip in sugar/cinnamon mixture.

Bake at 375 F for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges begin to brown.

HINT:  If you find the dough is sticking to your hands, rub your hands with flour before you start rolling the dough into balls.

There you have it all the information you ever wanted to know (and some you didn't)
about cream of tartar! 
Enjoy the snickerdoodles!