The Lesson from Little Debbie–Taste and See Sunday

little debbie cakes

Oh Little Debbie! She and her little cakes and treats are so tantalizing, so tempting, so creamy, chocolatey, and chewy. But alas, they aren’t necessarily the best food choice I could ever make.

Although they look good, they taste good and the price is right, they still aren’t necessarily a great nutritional choice. But do I let that stop me from picking up a box from time to time? No, of course, not. Because, well, because a girl needs some chocolate every now and then, right? And did I let that stop me from buying them for our preschool snack this week? No, of course not, because those little brownie hearts fit so well with our theme!

As I placed the boxes of brownies in our classrooms, the Holy Spirit reminded me of some truths about our hearts.

We tend to say, “Trust your heart.”

The Bible says, “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart.”

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We say, “Don’t be afraid to give your heart away.”

Yet Scripture says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

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And we say, “Follow your heart wherever it leads.”

But God says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

heart is deceitful

There are battles that wage within my heart. They may wage in yours as well. Battles between my flesh and my Spirit. Battles in which the enemy speaks to me in words that sound sweet, sound right, sound justified, yet are not. It’s in these battles that my flesh cries out above my Spirit, and unless I take the utmost care to stifle the cry of the flesh, I will follow my heart to places it has no business going. Sometimes that is just to a box of chocolatey fudgy brownies, but other times it is to jealousy, unforgiveness, criticism, laziness, or more

In these times of battle, I am learning to not only take Scripture to heart, but to take it to my heart, so that in all of my days my heart will bring honor to the One I gave it to. In these times of battle, I gain greater glimpses of my love for Him, and His for me.

Taste and See . . . the Lord is good!

Preserving a Legacy–Taste and See Sunday

jerky 2

My husband is a deer hunter. He would be a hunter of other things if time allowed, but during this season of our lives, deer is about all he has time for. In each year that he has hunted, the Lord has blessed him with success. Buck or doe, it doesn’t really matter, each year the Lord provides food for our freezer for another year.

We have always been thankful for that provision and enjoy passing on the blessings to others. Recently one of our favorite ways to do that is by making and sharing jerky. The boys and I got Tim a dehydrator a couple of years ago, and then one of them followed that up with a jerky gun! Since then my dear and I have been having a blast with our deer.

The thing about jerky is basically you are preserving it. After soaking it in a salt bath of marinade, we begin the dehydration process. When the jerky is done, it’s time to share, and so in essence we are preserving the venison, but we are also preserving a memory, a habit, and a legacy.

Giving and sharing–generosity–are things Tim and I want to be remembered for. We want to leave that legacy to our children and the children we minister to. We want to give back for all we have been given and we want others to know the generous God we serve, in part, by our decisions to live generously.

I have to be honest, it’s not something that has come naturally to me, but it is an area I have enjoyed growing in. We used to make jerky to take down to Ozark Christian College to share with our sons and their friends. Now that the boys have graduated, we find ourselves still making a batch or two before we head down that way. In fact, we recently made a new batch because we knew we would be seeing some of our favorite college students very soon.

Of course there are a lot greater ways to pass on a legacy of giving that sharing your venison. But on the other hand, when we begin to share in the small things we learn to share the bigger things. It’s when we learn that all we have comes from God that we begin to understand that He means for us to use what He has given us, big and small, to help meet the needs of others.

What kind of legacy are you leaving? What kind of legacy do you want to leave? As we head into the holy-days and another new year, why not take some time to consider the legacy you want to preserve and share. Ask God to show you how He might have you make a mark in big or small ways to help someone else know Him.

In the meantime, let me share with you the recipe we use to preserve our harvest and our legacy of sharing with those around us.

Farris Family Jerky Recipe
5 lbs meat trimmed into thin strips (beef, venison, steak, burger. . . )

Combine:
1 1/2 t. black pepper
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/4 t. onion powder
1 t. seasoned salt
1 t. nutmeg
1 t. ginger
5 t. crushed red pepper (you might want to use less of this for a less spicy jerky)
10 t. liquid smoke
1 10 oz bottle soy sauce
5 TB Worcestershire sauce
10 TB Teriyaki sauce

Marinate your meat of choice in the fridge for 24 hours then layer in a dehydrator. Our dehydrator takes about 6-7 hours. You can also use an oven set for about 200F. Part of knowing if it is done is that there should be no pink in the meat. An internal temp of 160F is good, but it’s hard to check. Part of knowing when it’s done is preference as to how chewy you like your jerky. So at around 6 hours start to check it frequently.

Taste and See. . . .the Lord who provides is good.

I Don’t Like Spam–A Thankful Thursday Post

spam

Sorry, it’s nothing personal. I just don’t like Spam. Actually, I don’t like very many products where meats are combined and compressed to make another kind of meat product. Y’know things like turkey rolls, chicken nuggets, weird sausages (although I do like a good hot dog every now and then–yes, I know “good hotdog” is an oxymoron.)

But today’s Thankful Thursday post isn’t about the meat with the uni-name. It’s really about that stuff that comes through your email. Don’t like it at all, not at all.

spam 2

However, since this is a thankful post and not a “rant about things you don’t like post,”  let me just say that I do like spam filters–ALOT. This thought came to me today while I was cleaning out my emails, after getting a little bit behind in the email cleaning out department.

spam filter

 

I like them because a because they help keep me accountable. A spam filter greatly reduces my willingness to give into a temptation. I still use yahoo for a great deal of my email, and my little spam folder fills up at an alarmingly quick rate of speed. When it does, I simply pop that spam in the trash, much like I would a can of Spam–there’s no need to open in up, no need to try it out, no need to give it a taste. I already know it’s not something I like, need or want. In fact, no offense to the good folks who make Spam, but I already know it’s not good for me.

So I just get rid of it. (Don’t hate me, it’s not like I buy it and throw it away. I don’t buy it. It’s just an example.)

It’s pretty much a Biblical principle.

Romans 6:11 reminds me I am dead to sin. In order to be dead to sin, I need to be alive in Christ and so my Spirit must be fed and my flesh starved out. Feeding my flesh on Spam is feeding the wrong thing for sure, for sure.

Or how about. . .

Matthew 18 where we are reminded that if our eye causes us to sin to gouge it out, or if our hand causes us to sin to chop it off. Well, it’s a much easier road to hoe to just not look at the spam.

Need a partner. . . .I already have a partner, thank you, and I intend to be faithful to him.

Enhancements. . . .maybe in the areas of giving, prayer, study, grace

Making millions. . . .I think I’ll keep storing up treasures in heaven

Drugs. . . No thanks, I’ve got Jesus, and chocolate

Whatever they are sellin’, I’m not buyin’.

And so that I’m not even tempted to shop, I choose not to stop by the store on my way home.

And when I remember that heading home isn’t just about the place I live with my husband, but the place my father is preparing for me, it makes the choice a whole lot easier.

So while I don’t like spam in any variety, I am thankful this Thursday for a God who continually gives us ways to avoid giving into temptation so that we will be ready when it’s time to go home–to a place with no spam of any kind!

 

 

 

Who Knew? Blue Jello and Bible Stories–Tiny Tot Tuesday

Naaman Jello

Seriously. Who knew?

Okay, maybe you did. But. . . on the other hand, maybe you didn’t. And, so, now you do. Or you will. Soon anyway.

I’m a food lover. Sure, I’m a little picky about some things, like, say, onions, for example. But, all in all, I’m a fan of food–especially as a teaching tool.

Holding fast to the concept that we all learn differently, it’s not only fun, but smart, to use meals or snacks to teach whenever we can. Using all a child’s senses to help them learn. Well, it just makes sense!

One of the favorites of our tiny tots is blue jello. The kids absolutely love it. Plus, it’s very rare someone is allergic to it, and you can use it with soooo many different Bible stories. (I wonder if Bill Cosby knew that?)

For example:

Naaman–Just add a Teddy Graham or Keebler elf and you are good to get dippin (7 times of course). We just did this one Sunday.

Jesus or Peter Walking on the Water–Same idea as above.

Creation–God made the water. Want clouds?? Add some whipped cream to the top.

Disciples Fishing–Add gummy fish to the jello for a big catch!

Israelites Crossing the Red Sea–No, we don’t use red jello for this, but you could for a lesson on the plagues!

Let your imagination go crazy and have some fun–at home, with family devotions or in your class or small group at church. It’s a wonderful privilege to be able to use simple, creative, colorful, and inexpensive things to help our tiny tots see the Bible come to life.

Who knew??

Hey Cupcake–Taste and See Sunday

cupcake4a

Ok, I’ll admit it. I’m becoming a cupcake addict.

And like all addictive behaviors, I can’t explain how it’s happening. Seriously, I want to try them all (well, not the mocha ones). I Google “cupcake stores” when I travel, and for some crazy reason I am willing to pay $3 or more for one little cupcake, when I would never dream of shelling out that kind of money for a whole box of Hostess cupcakes (back in the day when you could still buy them). Last week, I spent two days reminding the fam that “we had to go to the cupcake store” before we left Spokane. Cupcakes were on my mind ALL THE TIME!

I’ve been posting pictures of them. Telling my friends about them. Sharing them with others. I’ve found a good thing, and I’m not afraid to tell someone!

So, pardon the pun, I’ve been chewing on this whole cupcake thing for awhile, and what I’m thinking right now is this: I will pay the price and I will seek out the store because it’s worth it to me. I love the way these little guys look. I love the way they taste. (Maple bacon, need I say more?) I love how the frosting is somehow creamy and fluffy all at once. I love the sugar. I love that they are portion controlled. I love how each one is unique, even when they are the same.

cupcake3a
My maple bacon cupcake from Love @ First Bite in Spokane Valley, WA. (Well, what’s left of it anyway!) If you are ever in the Valley be sure to check them out!

Yet. . .
They are basically worthless. They feed my flesh, not my spirit, and even then, not in any particularly healthy sort of way. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think it’s wrong to occasionally indulge in a tasty treat, and as much as I am currently infatuated with cupcakes, I know something worth way more of my time, attention and money.

And that something is someone–Jesus. The Kingdom of Heaven, like a pearl of great price is worth everything I have. He’s worthy to be on my mind, in my heart and to be shared with those around me. Do I care if someone laughs at me because I’m cupcake crazy? No! Do I mind spending a few extra bucks for something special? No? Do I mind spending those few extra bucks on someone else so they can know the joy of the cupcake? Of course not. Am I willing to go out of my way to . . . ?

You get the picture. It’s incredible what we will do for something that means nothing, but how little we will do for something that means everything.

Hey Cupcake! It’s time we seek out the One who is sweetest; start spending our time with Him; and share Him with a friend whenever we can. Taste and See that the Lord is good.

cupcake
Love at First Bite Cupcakes

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Cupcakes from Small Cakes in Joplin, MO

www.Hypersmash.com

Root Beer and Kettle Korn–Taste and See Sunday

root beer2

It’s a Sunday. It’s re-enactment weekend. It’s not raining. These three things in and of themselves can make me pretty happy, but to have all three together in one . . . marvelous!

In the town where we live we are fortunate to host a yearly Civil War Re-enactment. People who live here know without a doubt it will rain that weekend so we are careful what we plan. But a little rain doesn’t stop us from getting out and getting together at Rand Park to watch the re-enactors, catch up with old friends and get some great food to eat.

Two of our family’s absolute favorites are kettle korn and Dr J Fogworth’s root beer. It’s quite a big deal. I don’t have a big kettle korn story today, but I do have a few thoughts on root beer.

You see, we purchase our beverage in an old fashioned looking glass bottle, and then save it from year to year so you can bring it back and buy your refills at a discounted price.

And each April weekend, people come out of nowhere carrying their empty bottles in to be filled. Yup! I was there today filling not one, not two, but three bottles. I’ll be hauling them down to Joplin, MO, in a few days so that son #2 can enjoy what may be his last opportunity for some Dr J’s before he moves out west. (Sorry son #1, I can’t send Dr J’s to Russia!)

So here’s the thing:
Today I couldn’t help but think how our lives are a bit like those root beer bottles, meant to be emptied and refilled year after year (or day after day). I love how God fills us up just to pour us out into someone else’s life. We are to be in the business of pouring out, while He is in the business of filling up.

When we do that, really do that–pour our lives into others in big and small ways, it’s a cool and refreshing thing. It makes us thankful, it makes those around us thankful, and it, I believe, honors God and makes Him smile.

Today while I was out filling my bottles, next to me in line was a boy who needed $6 to buy a new bottle. He only had five. I was spending $9, and only had a ten. Exactly, pouring out. Although my offering to the boy was small, it was huge to him. I’m still smiling as I think of how he and his buddies couldn’t believe this “lady” was doing this for him. A dollar is a pretty small thing to some people, but it was a really big thing to him. He told me thank you at least three times (I’d love to meet his mama–good job mom!) and even later as I was leaving the park, I saw him again with his bottle of root beer and another, “Hey! Thanks again, thanks!”

Pouring out made me thankful. Pouring out made him thankful and pouring out honored God, and I believe we were all smiling today.

Taste and See–the Lord is Good!

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,” Matthew 25:35

kettle korn2 Maybe next year I’ll have a good kettle korn story!

Fish Tales–Taste and See Sunday

fish dish

Martha Stewart says she has these 16 seafood dishes your kids will love to eat. Hmmm. Really? Check out the link and let me know if these fishy foods look like things your picky eaters will be happy to sink their hooks into. http://www.marthastewart.com/339169/kid-friendly-fish-and-shellfish-recipes/@center/344318/fish-and-shellfish-recipes

No offense, Martha, maybe you’re right. I’m not much of a fish lover myself. But whether it’s one of these recipes or you just trust the Gorton’s fisherman, you might take some time this week to put your WWJD on and follow His example of serving your family followers. When you do, take the opportunity to share this famous fish tale featuring Jesus, Peter and the boys.

John 21 tells of another time Jesus appeared to His disciples after His resurrection. Peter was hanging out with the guys when he declared, “I’m going fishing.” And they replied, “We’ll go with you.” So they all went out and got in the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

There is a lot of speculation that could be made about these short couple of verses. Like, were they just going out because they didn’t really have anything to do? Were they restless since Jesus had risen and they weren’t with Him 24-7? Were they falling back into the old patterns they were comfortable with? I don’t know, and the Bible doesn’t tell me.

But I do know that early the next morning Jesus was standing out on the shore. They couldn’t tell it was Him. And He called out to them asking about their catch. Finding out they were coming up empty netted, He told them to let their nets down on the other side. Strangely, perhaps without thinking, they did what they were told and when they did their net was filled with more fish than they could haul.

Immediately, my man Peter declares, “It’s the Lord!” and jumps out of the boat– How can you not love a guy with that kind of passion and excitement??–The others follow in the boat, towing the net of fish–153 in all–I’d remember, too, if I’d caught my fish that way!

When they got to shore, they found the fixins for the first filet-o-fish sandwich prepared by Jesus Himself.

They have breakfast together and immediately afterwards Jesus spends some time talking with Peter about his love and his calling. Beyond fishing for men, Peter is now challenged to feed the sheep, and take the challenge He does, by preaching that first Pentecost sermon, baptizing the crowd and leading churches as the power of God exploded throughout their world.

As you take time to share a meal with your kids, take time to challenge them as to their calling. Talk about what God has called all of us to do: Go into the world, make disciples, baptizing and teaching; feeding His sheep, loving His people, speaking the truth with love and boldness.

I love the last verses of the book of John and I try to share them often.

“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them was written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” John 21:25

I love that no matter how much we learn about God or how much we share about Him, we haven’t even touched the tip of the (fishing) pole of when it comes to things God has done.

I love even more that as we begin to live out the truth of who He is, and as we continue to live out our calling to fish for men, we will have fish tales of our own to tell.

The Lettuce People–Taste and See Sunday

lettuce heads2

How do you know God likes salad? Because He put so much “let us” in the Bible!

Since posting the picture of my lettuce head creations on Facebook recently, I’ve had several people ask me just what in the world I was doing with those little lettuce people. I don’t know! Seriously, where I came up with this one, I’m not sure. I just know that I wanted something to help a group of young college women I was sharing with this weekend remember the “let us’s” of Hebrews 10. So those five beautiful lettuce heads were just a silly and simple reminder of the five powerful instructions given to us in this call to persevere.

“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.
Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but
Let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:19-25

Beyond these important words, we talked about understanding our hope, our calling and our identity. Things I think I’m going to save for later blogs because they are a dish in their own rights, and these words are so powerful in the context of which they are written.

Verses 16-17 remind us of why need need to live out the let us’s.

“This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” Then he adds, “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more. And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.”

When we realize, recognize and remember what has been done for us, it should be unfathomable that we could want to live any other way than for Him. However, when we choose not to live out the “Let us’s,” opting for something seemingly tastier, but not nearly as good for us, we quickly fail to realize, recognize and remember those precious things.

When we loosen our grip and stop holding on unswervingly to our hope, when we choose to simply spur one another rather then spurring one another on, when we give up meeting together, and we fail to encourage, we are in danger. God knew it, and He loves us enough to warn and remind us what we need to do to guard what has been given to us.

The next few verses remind us of something completely different–what happens when we choose not to live as “let us” people. Something I’d rather not taste and see, but are definately worthy of a “Mama Mia.” (That will be Monday’s post!)

So break out the lettuce heads, and “let us” begin living out the words God has served up for us.

Taste and See–The Lord, He is Good Indeed!

The Lesson of the Broken Glass Jello

I am on this journey back through all the things I’ve learned in children’s ministry and today while making jello for our Thanksgiving mini feast, I was reminded of one of THE BEST THINGS God has ever taught me. Now this is not just a kidmin thing. This is a life thing. Here’s it is, or as we say in children’s church, “Open your hand and get ready cuz I’m going to give you something you need to hold on to!”

God is simply in everything. Yeah. That’s it. Hope you aren’t too underwhelmed. But that is a powerfully simple truth. God’s presence, His evidence, His Spirit is at work all around us reminding us of who He is and all He has called us to. So in your ministry or in your parenting or in your teaching or in your day to day life, be looking for God in everything, and then share it. A couple of weeks ago it was body parts in a jar. This week it’s jello.

Yeah, jello:

But not just any ordinary jellow. This is Broken Glass Jello. It’s a fun and simple recipe where you take multiple colors of jello, cut them into squares and then mix them together in a pan and cover them with some more plain jello mixed with sweetened condensed milk. Throw it in the fridge, let it do it’s jello-y thing and when it comes out it is BE-YU-TI-FUL! It looks like pieces of broken colored glass! And the thing is, there’s a BE-YU-TI-FUL lesson in there as well. Each one of us is a bit broken, yet beautiful, in our own way. But when put together in the body of Christ, held together by the bond of His Spirit, well then we become something really beautiful. Kids will eat it up–the jello and the object lesson.

Sometimes in teaching you just need to chuck the curriculum for a few minutes, days, weeks, or years–yeah I said that. And let God be your curriculum. (When I start marketing curriculum someday I may deny I said this!) We serve a super creative God who has promised to remind us of everything we have been taught. So never forget to just open your eyes and take a good look around you to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” Rely on God more than a book. Don’t be afraid to step out of the box. Don’t forget to remember the joy in discovering and sharing the awesomeness of God found in your own day to day adventures with him.

And yes, you can have the recipe. I found it from “The Food Librarian.” You can check it out here. http://www.foodlibrarian.com/2009/03/broken-glass-jello

Hannah Bars

Hannah Bars. Just the name of the delicious little treats gets our family smiling. Through the past several years we have shared the recipe with many folks (although I think they are most popular with our sons college friends) and everyone agrees–these things are “the bomb.” Yeah, I said it. “The bomb!” (I’m getting older, I can say stuff like that!)

We first discovered the bars about 8 years ago when our younger son had a little interest in a girl from a neighboring town. Around Christmas time, Hannah (that’s her name) made a platter of Christmas treats upon which were sitting the now infamous bars. With a delicious yellow cake bottom, chewy marshmallow filling and chocolately smooth, rice krispie crunchy topping, they are three great things in one handy package. We had literally never had anything like them. When we asked Hannah what they were called she told us she had no idea. Her family had just always made them, but they didn’t really have a name. They became from that day forth, “Hannah Bars.”

While Hannah and my son no longer date, they are great friends, and obviously, the relationship with the cookie bar is ongoing as well. They are often requested at our house when friends come over and just recently at our Ozark Christian College Student Annual Rib and Fruit Fest (a crazy litle meal we now share with some of our favorite college students) they were considered a necessary part of the celebration. Tonight the wife of one of Rib Fest friends messaged me to tell me she was trying her hand at her first panful. It’s part of their charm, you just can’t keep something so good to yourself. They are meant to be shared, and passed on to others. Of course, as good as they are, it seems that telling their story is often as good as the treat itself.

When I think of “our” Hannah bars, of course I think of Hannah, who is much like the treats she helped us discover. This delightful young woman is a great combination of some of my favorite things. She is compassionate, kind, and comforting, yet she also has a little “snap, crackle, pop” to her. . .AND she is passionate about sharing her baked goods and. . . Jesus! So as I share with you today the story of Hannah Bars, and a little bit about the young woman who brings their inspiration, I think about Jesus. For He is the ultimate in “all things good” and the most important thing I could ever share. And I love how He can move my heart and my hunger from a bar cookie to Him in just an instant. For He is the One who satisfies and He is the One I need to share like a good recipe from a dear friend.

Speaking of which. . . .
Want to see a picture? I’ll go back and add one as soon as I can keep them from being eaten long enough to get one taken!
Want the recipe?? Leave a post and I’ll be happy to share the goodness with you. The goodness of Jesus and Hannah Bars.