Monday, July 30, 2012

Isaiah 41:10 - God's Strength Anywhere You Need It

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.  Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you.  I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.  Isaiah 41:10 (NLT)

I’ve seen the truth of this scripture verse repeatedly in my life, most recently last week.  I had an appointment with a new dentist to get a cavity filled.

I know this isn’t a big deal to a lot of people so let me put it in perspective for you.  My husband refers to the dentist as “the spawn of Satan”.  It’s nothing personal against the dentist, just a sentiment towards dental work in general.  I tend to agree with him on this point.

I don’t fear needles and I have a relatively high pain threshold; neither of these things are issues for me.  It’s the sensation of being frozen, the dental dam, and the total lack of control that gets me.  (We'll deal with "control" issues in another post.) 

I’m lying in the chair, dental dam in my mouth, gagging on bits of saliva trickling down the back of my throat, and I know I’m trapped like a rat!  There’s no escape, you can’t just rip off the rubber dam and run screaming from the office.  You might just as well be strapped down on the chair with instruments of torture surrounding you.

Then there’s the freezing.  I have a phobia of having my throat frozen.  It feels as though you can’t swallow and I have fears of gagging, choking, and who knows what else. 

In my world I’d be much happier if they could just do the work without the freezing.  At least I think I would be.  So far I haven’t found a dentist who’s willing to try, although I did manage to talk this one down to only using one dose of lidocaine instead of the standard two.

Just talking about it is enough to throw me into a minor anxiety attack, so you can imagine my state of mind when I walked into the office last Tuesday for my appointment.

They start with the topical anesthetic so you won’t feel the needle going in.  This freaks me out because as you salivate some of it runs down into your throat, temporarily numbing it.  I negotiated a reduction on the amount of this too and proceeded to suction every last drop of saliva out of my mouth so it was dry as sand paper; leaving no chance of anything running into my throat.

By this time I was doing deep breathing exercises in an attempt to stay calm.  My legs twitched with a last ditch effort to make for the door but I managed to restrain the impulse.  (I’m a 44-year-old, rational woman (most of the time).  I can’t just flee from the dentist office in desperation and never come back...can I?)  And then came the freezing.

The injection is a slow process.  They generally do a few pokes to make sure the entire area is frozen.  Here’s an interesting little nugget I read on the internet this evening while writing this...epinephrine is added to dental anesthetic to make it more effective and longer lasting.  Guess what a side effect of epinephrine is?  Panic attacks!  Like I needed any additional help in that area!

The freezing went in and it was time for the dental dam.  I asked for a few minutes by myself.  I closed my eyes, breathed deeply, and prayed.  I prayed fervently.  I prayed for strength, I prayed to not be such a whuz, I prayed for courage, I prayed for God’s peace to be with me in that room.  I breathed in the Holy Spirit and clung to His presence with every unfrozen nerve ending in my body.

I lay trapped in the chair, eyes closed, praying for people  I knew who were sick, praying for the mission team in Africa, praying for the world in general, praying that I’d get through the half hour that was left, praying, praying, praying, and more praying!

The panic did eventually subside a little.  I continued to do deep breathing and focus on God and prayer and I managed to get through the appointment.  The filling is done, I didn’t run screaming from the office trailing bits of desiccated dental dam, and I think they might actually let me come back for my annual cleaning next year.

God was there giving me strength and courage when I had none to offer myself, just like He has been in many other events in my life.  Trust Him to do the same for you.

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.  Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you.  I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.  Isaiah 41:10 (NLT)

Has God helped you through struggles?  Share your thoughts by clicking on “comments” below.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Rich Chocolate Candy

A lot of the recipes I post are ones I remember using as a teenager.  Generally I haven’t used them for quite a number of years and it’s fun to resurrect them and let my taste buds take a walk down memory lane.

I always make a point of trying them out before I post just in case my taste buds suffered from some teenage food tasting weirdness that has since abated with adulthood.

This week was an interesting week in the blog kitchen.  Last month I wrote about my memories of making fudge and posted a Five Minute Fudge recipe. 

That one is quite sweet so for those of you who desire something a little more cocoa flavoured, and don’t want to be bothered boiling anything; I decided to post the other easy Rummoli night favourite - a “no cook” fudge recipe.

I rooted through my cupboard trying to unearth the long forgotten recipe.  I had vague memories of ingredients including a chocolate pudding mix and cornstarch. 

One of my mother’s recipes for chocolate fudge made with chocolate pudding mix finally came to light.  There was no cornstarch which threw me a little (something didn’t seem quite right) but I forged ahead.

The recipe said to put the pudding mix, 2 tbsp. of butter and ¼ cup of milk in a pot and boil it for one minute, stirring constantly, as it would easily stick and burn.

About 30 seconds after I poured in the milk I had major doubts.  I stirred the three ingredients together and balefully eyed a shiny, black, congealed mass in the bottom of my pot.  It looked like something I’d peeled out of the cracks in the concrete on the street. 

Hopeful it would liquefy after the application of heat I attempted to stir the gelatinous blob residing in the pot.  It was futile hope.  Here’s what I ended up with...

I messed around with it a bit, giggling helplessly while adding milk and icing sugar, but to no avail.  There was no redemption for this black blob, short of being turned over to the oil refineries as bitumen.  It hit the bottom of the eco-bin with a heavy, wet splat!

You’ll be happy to know that’s not the recipe I’m posting this week.  I called my sister (still giggling helplessly) who bailed me out (laughing the whole time) by giving me the recipe I wanted in the first place.  The end result of this second attempt is a little more appealing.

As long as you can melt butter in the microwave you can make this recipe.  It’s super easy, and feeds the desire for instant gratification because you can eat it within about half an hour of making it.  I hope you enjoy it.

Do you have any cooking disasters that sent you into fits of laughter?  Share them by clicking on “comments” below.


Spray an 8” x 8” pan with cooking spray or coat with margarine or butter.

Measuring the following dry ingredients into a mixing bowl:
2 cups icing sugar
½ cup cocoa
½ cup cornstarch

Melt ¾ cup butter in the microwave.  Pour the melted butter and 1 tsp. vanilla into the dry ingredients.  Stir this together quickly (it sets up in no time so make sure you’re ready to stir when you add the butter and vanilla).  Pat into the pan and allow to cool.  Cut into squares and enjoy!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Matthew 7:7-8 - Persistent Pursuit

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”  Matthew 7:7-8 (ESV)

Do you have times when you wonder where God is?  Do you feel He’s abandoned you when you need His presence the most?  Are you reading this and thinking, “God, what God, I’ve never been able to find God?”

If you have these thoughts you’re not alone.  On any given day you listen to the news around the world and wonder, "Where is God?"  Where is He in the famine in Africa, in the violence in Syria, in the recent shooting in the movie theater in Colorado?

Closer to home; where is God in your cancer diagnosis, in the death of your child, in the depression of your spouse?  Quite often life doesn’t work out the way we hoped and injustice surrounds us.

All of the “where are God” questions are valid thoughts, not to be dismissed lightly.  They’re cries of outrage at events that warrant attention.  When times are darkest we feel completely alone.  We cry out to God but feel as though there’s no response.

A lot of times we use our emotions to define God’s presence.  We think of His presence as that warm fuzzy feeling we get when we’re wrapped up in a fleece blanket.  This creates a problem.  If we’re associating God’s presence with the warm fuzzies how will we recognize Him in our darkest moments of grief, sadness, or depression?

Our relationship with God is so much more than just the warm fuzzies.  God doesn’t abandon us in our mourning and grief.  He mourns and grieves with us.  His heart breaks when ours does.  He doesn’t want you to have cancer.  He doesn’t want your child to die.  He doesn’t want your marriage to end.  He doesn’t want the violence in Syria and he doesn’t want people to starve in Africa.

I believe all of these things grieve Him deeply.  In Psalm 56, David knows God cares about his troubles.  He says, “You keep track of all my sorrows.  You have collected all my tears in your bottle.  You have recorded each one in your book.  My enemies will retreat when I call to you for help.  This I know:  God is on my side!”  (Psalm 56:8-9 NLT)

I think it’s harder for us to stay in close relationship with God when we’re struggling.  We associate an “emotional high” with God’s presence and when we’re depressed and don’t get it we assume He’s abandoned us.

Jesus tells us this isn’t true.  In Matthew 7:7-8 Jesus tells us to look for and pursue God.  He promises if we persevere in seeking God’s presence we will be successful in finding Him.

I understand that’s hard to do sometimes.  It’s hard to be persistent when you’re caught in an undertow of depression.  It’s hard to pursue God when you’re physically exhausted.  It’s hard to seek God when you’re living in daily chaos. 

I encourage you to lean on the promises from Jesus; ask for God and receive Him, seek God and find Him, knock at the doors of heaven and allow God to show you the way inside. 

Pursue Him and you will find a relationship with Him that is so much deeper than just the warm fuzzies.  You'll find His comforting presence with you in times when you need it the most.

Do you struggle with maintaining your relationship with God in the hard times of life?  Share your thoughts by clicking on “comments” below.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”  Matthew 7:7-8 (ESV)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Job 1:21-22 - Faith Reflections

“I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave.  The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away.  Praise the name of the Lord!”  In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God.”  Job 1:21-22 (NLT)

These are the words Job utters upon finding out he’s just lost his livelihood and his family.  His donkeys and farmhands are gone, his sheep and shepherds are killed, his camels and servants are dead, and all his children perish when a house collapses on them.

Job is devastated.  He immediately begins to grieve, but somehow, through what appears to be super human strength he doesn’t blame God, instead he worships Him.  I wonder; if I lost everything, could I respond like Job? 

Quite often in church we sing the song, “Blessed Be Your Name”, by Matt and Beth Redmond.  The song basically says we praise and worship God when the sun’s bright, life is good, and all is right with the world. 

But it goes on to say we still praise Him when life’s struggles come our way; when we’re faced with challenges and pain and when we’re suffering  in a pit of darkness.  As I’m singing I ask myself, “Do I really believe those words?  Can I live them when the time comes?”

Recently I had a conversation with a friend about homelessness.  She said we’re all just one pay cheque away from being on the street.  There’s a thought provoking statement!

If I lost my job, my home, my husband, and my family and was forced to live on the street, would my heart remain rooted firmly enough in my faith to respond with praise and worship?

It’s a scary thought to contemplate because there’s always a possibility our faith isn’t up to the test. 

I think as we grow in our relationship with God we draw close to Him and learn to trust Him.  We learn about His character and understand that even when we face life’s tough stuff, He continues to walk with us.

Even in times of loss and suffering, when we’re close to God, we understand He will somehow take the hardships we experience and turn them into something positive. 
Job isn’t alone in his ability to praise God in times of hardship.  Jeremiah mourns over the devastation of Jerusalem and the exile of her people but he still trusts and looks to God to make things right...

“The faithful love of the Lord never ends!  His mercies never cease.  Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.  I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my inheritance; therefore I will hope in Him!’  Lamentations 3:22-24

Paul trusted God implicitly...

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.”  Romans 8:28

How are you doing in your relationship with God?  Does it need work or are you firm in your faith, like Job.  Do you trust God regardless of what life may bring?  Please share your thoughts by clicking on “comments” below.

“I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave.  The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away.  Praise the name of the Lord!”  In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God.”  Job 1:21-22 (NLT)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Not The Gold Medal Sprint!

I’ve commented on the similarities between running and doing life in a couple of archived posts.  (“Taking Life One Sidewalk Block At A Time” and “Philippians 3:13-14 – Perseverance – Persistence – Endurance”)  In “Philippians 3:13-14 – Perseverance – Persistence – Endurance”, I mentioned my personal goal to run 30 minutes continuously by the end of this summer.

I set the goal in May but reality found me struggling to maintain ten sets of a ratio that included running for two minutes, and walking for one minute.  If I was gasping like a diver with an empty air tank at this 20 minute ratio how would I ever get to 30 minutes of continuous running?

Deciding more research was required I started to read John Stanton’s book on running from the Running Room.  Here’s what I discovered...

Running requires you to pace yourself.  Stanton teaches you to run at a pace that allows you to talk comfortably.  TALK; heck I couldn’t even maintain basic priorities like breathing!

I discovered forcing yourself to slow down is quite challenging.  It takes practice and constant correction, but that’s exactly what you have to do if your goal is endurance.  In order to maintain a reasonable heart rate and add minutes to my running time each week I had to slow the pace. 

My mind and body tend to be at odds with this and generally have an ongoing argument sounding something like this...

MIND:   “Slow down, you’re going too fast.   You can’t maintain this pace.  We’re not setting any speed records.  The goal’s endurance and distance, not an Olympic gold sprinting medal.”

BODY:  “Must go faster, want to go faster, not going fast enough.  Somebody’s catching up and passing...must...go...FASTER!  Crap...can’t breathe!”

MIND:  “Told you so!”

I’ve finally settled down to a good pace, but periodically I still find my heart rate climbing out of the “talk comfortably” zone.  When this happened earlier in the week I found myself comparing this to periods of life when we’re waiting on God.

We think we know what needs to happen in our lives.  We rush forward and make our plans without consulting God.  Waiting on God can be as hard as trying to slow down the running pace.  It’s frustrating.  Our bodies twitch with an overwhelming desire to take action, but God asks us to wait for His direction and His timing.

Since I’ve slowed down I’m seeing weekly progression towards my goal.  I’m able to maintain four cycles of run eight minutes:walk one minute.  My running time within each cycle increases by one minute each week. 

Like the gradual running progression, we will only receive the very best God has in store for us when we slow down the pace and wait for His guidance and direction instead of pushing ahead on our schedule.

Think about’re in this relationship with God for the long haul.  So slow down, wait, and listen for Him to speak to you.  Let Him steer you in the right direction at the right time, and the results will far exceed anything you could dream up for yourself. 

It may not happen overnight but if you pace yourself, and wait on God you’ll see this period of waiting in the rearview mirror and be able to appreciate the steps towards fulfilling His dreams for you.

Are you in a time of waiting?  Experiencing frustration?  Share your thoughts by clicking on “comments” below.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Galatians 6:9 - No "Microwave Leadership"

“So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good.  At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit.  Galatians 6:9 (The Message)

Do you ever wonder what it’s all about; what good comes from the work you do for your church or community?  Does it help anyone?  Would anyone care if you stopped?

When we don’t see immediate results from the work we do it’s easy to get frustrated.  We live in an “instant gratification” world.  We want results now...not five minutes from now, and certainly not months or years from now.

Remember how amazed you were the first time you baked a potato in the microwave in FOUR minutes, instead of in the oven for an hour?

OK I know some of you are thinking, “You mean there was a world before microwaves?”, and I’m showing my age by telling you, “Yes!  Yes there was, and I remember it vividly!”

The fact is, today the microwave is taken for granted.  You have two hands, two feet, one nose, two eyes...and a microwave. 

Now, I find myself impatiently counting the seconds while I nuke my instant oatmeal for two minutes, all the while thinking, “What’s this “instant” crap?  It takes TWO minutes for crying out loud!”

If you’re in a leadership role and you’re getting frustrated because you’re not seeing immediate results you’re not alone.  I’ll be honest with you...sometimes I wonder why I write or do public speaking...does it has an impact on people’s lives, or am I just wasting my time?

Every leader gets frustrated or disillusioned at some point, and I believe it’s worse today because we DO expect everything to happen overnight.  That’s simply not the way ministry or leadership works.

Paul knew this when he wrote these lines to the Galatians...

“So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good.  At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit.”  Galatians 6:9 (The Message)

Are you frustrated with your ministry?  Are you feeling ineffective as a leader?  Check in with God to determine if you’re on the right path.  If you are, take heart from Paul’s encouraging words. 

Stay in it for the long haul; don’t give in to “microwave leadership”.   You ARE making a difference!

Please share your thoughts about leadership by clicking on “comments” below.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Integrity Check - Can I Get An App For That?

Two weeks ago there was an unexpected shift and slumping of the South Saskatchewan riverbank in Saskatoon.  It seemed to happen suddenly on Thursday, June 21, and was evidenced by major damage in a privately owned yard bordering on the river, the appearance of a massive crack in a back lane, and the major shifting of power lines. 

Officials attribute this sudden slump to a number of factors including natural erosion, soil type, and a high water table caused by heavy rainfall over the past few years. 

While the physical evidence of this shifting appeared overnight, in reality the problem was a long time in the making.   The river is constantly flowing, shifting, and making subtle changes.  Water levels rise and fall and currents change based on rain fall and run off.

Like the Saskatchewan River our lives constantly change.  We make adjustments based on life events, and our choices, if they’re the wrong ones, cause the fabric of our lives to erode. 

Sometimes we take the “get rich quick” scheme at work even though we know it compromises our integrity.  Sometimes we give in to the temptation and instant gratification an illicit internet affair offers.  And sometimes we reach for yet another drink to numb the pain because life seems too hard to face without it.

You may not fully realize the effect poor choices have on your reputation and character.  Initially there doesn’t appear to be any consequence.  Don’t kid yourself though, the signs are there...a niggling conscience, a cautionary word from a co-worker, a passing comment from a friend... but they’re small and easy to ignore. 

Suddenly, seemingly out of the blue, a sink hole big enough to swallow a Smart Car in a single gulp appears in your life.  You’re left looking for a foothold in a swamp of muck, wondering how life eroded so quickly.

In our memory verse for the week David calls for God to do an integrity check on his life.  Wouldn’t it be great if there was an app for that?    Think about it...

You download it from the Apple App Store, point your iPhone or iPod at your head and heart, then stand back while it does a two minute infrared scan of what’s going on inside.  The algorithm in the app quickly analyzes the data and displays the summary of the scan, itemizing impure thought patterns and potentially damaging ways of thinking.

It then connects you to a personalized Youtube sight that provides you with a customized two minute video giving you entertaining hints on how to change your thought patterns and avoid the potential sink holes you’re headed for in life.

Well I don’t think Apple has designed that app yet, but God has.  You can ask God to perform an integrity scan on your heart any time simply by praying the two verses from Psalm 139...

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”  Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT)

Have you asked God to perform an integrity check recently?  Maybe it’s time to start.  Please share your thoughts by clicking on “comments” below.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Psalm 139:23-24 - Search Required

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.  Psalm 139:23-24

During my travels last month I found myself sitting in the Calgary airport around lunch time.  The enticing aroma of Subway’s freshly baked buns was too tempting for my grumbling stomach to ignore.

As I stood in line I noticed the security tags each employee wore.  One woman in particular snagged my attention.  She wore the usual ID but attached to it was a red label stating, “Search Required”.

I couldn’t help wondering what set her apart from the other Subway employees.  The restaurant was inside security so everyone had to clear the scanners, but for some reason this wasn’t enough for this particular woman.

I considered the possibilities...
1.       Maybe she had access to more areas inside security than the other employees and this required a more intense search process.
2.       Maybe she was the perpetual target of the “random pat down” search I seem to get hit with at airports.  The one involving the in depth luggage search, computer swab, and body scan/pat down.
3.       Maybe she had a medical condition like a metal plate in her head, pins in her knees, or a pacemaker and couldn't go through the metal detectors.

All of these possibilities (and a few other random thoughts) ran through my head while I stood there.  I didn’t actually have the courage to ask her about it so my curiosity remains unsatisfied.

It did, however, lead to me to think about David’s request to God.  In Psalm 139, David marvels over how incredible God is.  He understands God is always with him, God sees everything, knows everything, and God’s presence is everywhere.

Upon realizing how amazing God is, David desperately desires to be in right relationship with Him.  In verses 23 and 24 David asks God to examine his thoughts and motives and to reveal anything that is impure and unpleasing in God’s sight.

Like David we need to put out the “Search Required” sign in our lives.  Sometimes we need a word from God (or a smack upside the head) to get us back on track.  Sometimes we make bad choices and find ourselves treading water in an ocean of sin and we need God to throw us a life preserver and drag us out.

“Search required” at the airport ensures the safety and security of air travelers.  Asking God to search our hearts is a security check on our lives.  It helps us stay in right relationship with God and allows us to become more like Christ each day.

Have you put out the “Search Required” sign lately?  Share your thoughts by clicking on “Comments” below.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.  Psalm 139:23-24