Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Rhubarb Cake

It's officially summer and that means rhubarb season.  What better way to kick off the Canada Day long weekend than with a snack of yummy, moist, rhubarb coffee cake!

1/2 cup butter1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 cups finely chopped rhubarb.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray.

Cream butter and sugar, beat in eggs.  Stir in sour cream and vanilla.  Add flour and baking soda and fold into batter.  Stir in rhubarb.  Scrape into a 9 x 13 pan and spread evenly over the bottom.

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tbsp. flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. butter

Mix all ingredients together until crumbly, sprinkle overtop of batter in pan. 

Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 to 40 minutes.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Firm In Faith

Many people struggle with their faith.  Personally, I waffle between faith and doubt, and somewhere in between.  There’s generally a correlation between the strength of my faith and the time I spend with God each day. 
A lot of people doubt God’s existence and ridicule personal faith.  Some believe in God when they’re in trouble, but put their faith on the back burner when things are going well.  Others live a double life – believing in God and following Jesus, but denying their faith when questioned by friends or family. 

Why don’t we share our faith?  I think it’s mostly out of fear.  Fear of what people will think – what if they think I’m a “Jesus Freak”, and fear of how they'll react.

Talking about your faith journey typically involves sharing very personal events in your life.  Your faith may have grown from a time of great pain, or great shame and sin.

 When you put your personal story out there you risk rejection, ridicule, and judgment.  Sharing your faith scary. 

The Jewish people in Jesus' time were no different than we are when it comes to talking about Jesus.

“Many people did believe in Him (Jesus), however, including some of the Jewish leaders.  But they wouldn’t admit it for fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue.  For they loved human praise more than the praise of God.”  John 12:42-43

Belief doesn’t guarantee sharing faith.  In the case of the Jewish leaders, sharing their faith and stating Jesus was the Messiah meant expulsion from the synagogue. 

Imagine being kicked out of your church family.  That’s what it meant to admit you believed Jesus was the Son of God.

It takes great courage and character to not compromise your belief when challenged by friends, family, or loved ones. 

Knowing what could be at stake…the relationship, your job, and in some countries, your life…and standing firm, may be one of the most difficult challenges Christians face. 

And yet there are people around the world whose faith is challenged every day and who remain true to it regardless of the consequences.

I have huge admiration for people who stand strong.  I think of one friend in particular, an amazing woman who I respect and admire, who made a decision to not compromise her faith in spite of the consequences to a relationship in her life. 
I wonder if I'd have the same character if faced with a similar difficult decision.

We can learn about standing firm by reading God's message to Jeremiah…

“…If you speak good words rather than worthless ones, you will be my spokesman.  You must influence them; do not let them influence you!...”  Jeremiah 16:19

In other words stand firm on your faith, be true to your message, and don’t compromise your belief to please others.

“They will fight against you like an attacking army, but I will make you as secure as a fortified wall of bronze.  They will not conquer you, for I am with you to protect and rescue you…”  Jeremiah 16:20

Good advice.  God will strengthen you, encourage you, and stand firm with you when you honour Jesus.

What difficult decisions have you made in your faith journey?  How did you stand firm?

Share your thoughts by clicking on “comments” below.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Strength In Numbers

I want to dedicate this post to the many women I had the privilege of spending time with over the last four days. 

My “Calgary Crew” who all took the day off to come and spend it in Banff with me, the “Southwood” group who gathered at Kingsfold for a women’s retreat on the weekend, and the management group in the office who took the time to gather for dinner at the Melting Pot after an eight hour management meeting on Monday. 

You all know who you are and you’re all unique and beautiful.  Thank you for playing an important part in my life.

Strength In Numbers

Some people wish they could re-live their childhood, their teenage years, or their early twenties.  There isn’t enough money in the world to entice me to repeat those years!!

I had a great family life, but outside of it I was painfully shy, a typical introvert who didn’t have a lot of social savvy.  My sister and I were very close and I had one or two good friends, but otherwise was a social pariah. 

I had nervous ticks, made odd grunting and squeaking noises, and would periodically “punch” myself in the stomach for no apparent reason.  To this day I don’t know what these habits stemmed from, but am happy to report that, for the most part, they’ve disappeared as I got older.

I was teased and bullied in school and still carry scars on my hands as a result of a struggle to resist being thrown in the change room shower by a group of girls in junior high school.

As protection from their verbal assaults I wrapped myself in a cloak of imaginary superiority, telling myself over and over I didn’t care what other girls thought of me.  I didn’t need their friendship. 

The protective cloak grew with me into adulthood.  Because the worst of the bullying originated from the female gender, as I got older I naturally assumed no other women were interested in talking to me.

People perceived me at being stand offish.  In reality I believed other people would think I was stupid, and striking up a conversation with someone I didn’t know was the worst possible nightmare.  Other than one or two close friends in my twenties and early thirties I led a fairly isolated life.

Why am I sharing this?  To remind everyone of the importance of being in community with other women.  We all need someone around us to share our laughter and tears.

 Jesus recognized the importance of friends.  He surrounded Himself with the twelve disciples. 

In Mark 6, when Jesus sends his disciples out to teach, he sends them out two by two, not individually.

Paul recognized the need for community and frequently brought other disciples with him when he travelled.

About nine years ago God started to work on me and through His patient love has healed my insecurities.  As part of the healing process He introduced me to the beauty of true friendship with a group of wonderful women who have stood by me through job changes, surgeries, and moving to a different city. 

They’ve never walked away from me even when I shared things from my past that I was convinced would drive them away.  They know all my innermost secrets and insecurities, and love me in spite of them.

God also brought a group of women into my life through the church.  These are amazing women who have blessed my life significantly, and who continue to do so even though I’m no longer a member of that church.

He continues to introduce incredible women into my life through opportunities at work and church retreats.
You might be struggling today to reach out in friendship to women in your life.  I get it.  When you’re filled with insecurity it’s hard to reach out.  But think about this quote from Beth Moore’s book “So Long Insecurity, You’ve Been a Bad Friend To Us”…

"The enemy of your soul will never have to worry about what kind of damage you could do the kingdom of darkness, if he can get you to buy the lie that you are incompetent, weak, and inadequate."  Page 172

It’s so true!  When we reach out and form bonds of friendship we become stronger as a group than if we isolate ourselves in the darkness.

After living a life relatively devoid of friendship for many years, I encourage you to reach out as best you can to embrace friendship. 

Ask God to give you courage to invite that woman you’ve seen in church for coffee next week.  What about the girl that sits next to you on the bus every morning or the new woman who started to work in your office?    

Friendship is an amazing gift and it's too precious to miss.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Consciously Blind

“I once was lost but now am found.  Was blind but now I see.”  Words from the hymn, “Amazing Grace”.
What is the writer of this hymn referring to when he talks about being blind?

Here are some definitions of the word "blind" from ...
  • Unable to see; lacking the sense of sight, sightless
  • Unwilling or unable to perceive or understand
  • Not characterized or determined by reason or control
  • Not having or based on reason or intelligence
According to this, blindness isn’t just a condition of the visually impaired.  It can also be a voluntary condition of one who chooses, either consciously or subconsciously, not to understand or believe something.

How many Christians choose spiritual blindness on a daily basis?  We know God exists, yet we go through each day far too busy to take the time to notice His work all around us.

Here’s an example from the Bible of what we might see if we choose to see the world as God does.

“…The king of Aram became very upset…He called his officers together and demanded, ‘Which of you is the traitor?  Who has been informing the king of Israel of my plans?’ 
‘It’s not us, my lord the king,’ one of the officers replied.  ‘Elisha, the prophet in Israel, tells the king of Israel even the words you speak in the privacy of your bedroom!’  ‘Go and find out where he is,’ the king commanded, ‘So I can send troops to seize him.’  And the report came back:  ‘Elisha is at Dothan.’ 
So one night the king of Aram sent a great army with many chariots and horses to surround the city.  When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere.  ‘Oh sir, what will we do now?’ the young man cried to Elisha. 
‘Don’t be afraid!’ Elisha told him.  ‘For there are more on our side than on theirs!’  Then Elisha prayed, ‘O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!’  The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire….”  2 Kings 6:11-17

Elisa’s servant was blind to God’s army.  Why?  His focus was on his perception of the circumstances.  Fear paralyzed him, preventing him from seeing God’s divine intervention.

Are you blind to what God is doing in your world?  Have you allowed cynicism, fear, or a pessimistic outlook to blind you to God’s intervention in your circumstances?  Is spiritual blindness robbing you of joy?

Like Elisha’s servant we need to look past our circumstances to God’s glory and power.  We need to ask God to remove our spiritual blindness, clear our vision, and show us exactly what He’s capable of doing in our lives.  When you do you’ll experience the power of God in ways you never thought possible.

What difficult circumstances are blinding you today?  How can you re-focus on God?

Heavenly Father, I don’t want to walk around in spiritual blindness any longer.  Clear my vision so I can see You clearly.  Reveal Your presence, teach me how much You love me, and re-assure me of Your continuous presence.  Save me from cynicism and help me to see You at work all around me.  In Jesus name I pray…Amen.