And Sow It Goes–Taste and See Sunday

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Popcorn. It’s a pretty incredible food. I mean this little hard kernel becomes a big fluffy snack. It’s totally incredible how big it gets, and so fast, too. So are some of the thoughts and thinkings of one of the elementary classes at church anyway.

Today we used popcorn to help us understand a parable. Parables, we shared are “earthly stories with heavenly meanings.” Our parable today was about the sower from Matthew 13. The popcorn was a great addition to the lesson. After all, few things liven up a class of elementary students like a microwave full of corn popping!!

Thanks to the folks at 252basics, we took their original premise of comparing popcorn to the things that happened to the seed planted in different types of soil. We helped kids make the connection to their own lives, ultimately recognizing that we need to take care that the “soil” of our hearts is ready for the word of God when it gets planted in us.

We want to grow like popcorn. We want to “pop” with the passion of God. Just like popcorn pops because of the water inside of it, we, too, are filled with the living water of Jesus. It’s this living water which changes us into something completely different than when we were at first.

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As the kids spent time drawing out the different parts of the parable, we, of course, snacked on a bit of popcorn taking note of the fact that as we are changed and begin to grow, we need two share what we’ve been given just like we shared our popcorn.

And sow it goes. . . .We sow God’s truth into the lives of the children He brings our way, praying for good soil in their hearts and He grows them into believers who in turn sow the truth into someone else’s life.

There is work to be done, and seed to be sown. So c’mon, let’s get poppin!

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Taste and See. . . .The Lord is good!

Hey Cupcake–Taste and See Sunday

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

Donut This Look Fun–Taste and See Sunday

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Last week our church hosted a week of revival meetings. Some people think of it as a bit old fashioned to still have them. I’m not so sure. We could call it a conference or a seminar week, but the fact remains that no matter how you promote it, or what you call it we had the privilege of meeting together on 4 consecutive nights for some teaching, encouragement, presentation of the gospel and edification of the body of Christ–and we did this from ages 0-99. (Well, I’m not sure if anyone there was 99, but they could have been!) And it was great!!!

As a team, we did a lot of tasting and seeing that the Lord was good through evening and lunch meals together, a ladies’ luncheon and a men’s prayer breakfast, but it’s what we did in our preschool classes that has me excited today!

During the week, while our adults studied Philippians, and our elementary students centered in on lessons on prayer, our preschoolers were taught the Easter story. Each night they heard a different part of Jesus’ story in the order of its actual occurrence, and each night we had a super fun snack to connect to their teaching.

Jesus rode in on a donkey on Sunday night, and so we had sugar cookies baked by one of our awesome volunteers Diana. They were in the shape of donkeys!!! The kids loved them and had fun walking them across the table like Jesus riding into town (before chomping their heads off, of course!)

On Monday night, we learned about the last supper with biscuits (that we could break and share with each other) and grape juice (white, of course, to be careful of the carpets!)

Jef Puffed marshmallow eggs
Then on Tuesday night we shared those big Kraft marshmallow eggs that look an awful lot like giant (or tiny, depending on your perspective) tombstones as we talked about how the stone was rolled in front of Jesus’s tomb.

And we finished up on Wednesday night with the empty tomb snack you see above, prepared Gwen, another one of our awesome volunteers! She found the idea on, what else, Pinterest, but it was the perfect finish to our Easter lessons. As the kids put their snack together, they could retell the story of how Jesus did not stay in the tomb, but that He came out and He is alive!!!

I can’t help but love how we can use the goodness of all things God has created to remind us to “Taste and See” how good He is, and to help both kids and adults alike recognize and rejoice in the joy of Jesus!!

The Lettuce People–Taste and See Sunday

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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!

Leftovers–Taste and See Sunday

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There’s a lesson in leftovers. In our home there are two ways to serve leftovers. One is like today, planned. Knowing that we have some things left over from the week’s previous meals, we select the best of our favorites from what has already been served, and we feast. After all, we don’t want to be wasteful and although it may not be the best, it’s good enough! Today was chili bratwurst dogs!

The other is way we serve leftovers is a little more unplanned. Those are the days where things get away from me. The great meal I planned to bless my dear husband with gets shoved aside for an extra meeting, lunch with a friend, or unexpected phone calls. So I dig and scrounge through the fridge and cabinets in order to find something to throw together and call supper. It’s probably not the freshest or the best, it’s just what it is–good enough.

My husband is a pretty understanding guy, and I have never once heard him complain about either method of serving leftovers. (Although he calls them “scraps”) But it doesn’t take long for me to be on the lookout for how often those kinds of days are occurring. Because I have learned that when I am regularly serving Tim the “scrounge around food” leftovers, I may also be serving him time leftovers, listening leftovers, and love leftovers. What that means to me is that things are out of balance and I’m not giving the man I love what he is worthy of.

But it’s more than just what I serve my husband, because Tim isn’t the only one who can wind up getting what’s left over from me.

If I’m not careful I can wind up doing what Francis Chan calls, “Serving leftovers to a holy God.” I need to be aware of my priorities, my time, my choices, my offerings and ultimately my heart in order to keep the main things the main things and to be sure that God retains his 1st place status, and that I am offering Him all that He is worthy of and not just “good enough”.

In Malachi God calls those who offer these inadequate offerings cheats. Cheats! And He asks where the respect is in the offerings brought to Him.

“When you bring injured, lame or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the Lord. “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the Lord Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.” Malachi 1:13-14

We can be guilty of the same thing, excusing our behavior as an accident or backsliding or opportunity or a busy schedule or we might not even realize we are doing it. But if we are indeed offering God what is leftover, it’s imperative that we recognize, repent, and reprioritize so that God can restore us and resume 1st place again. When God is truly 1st place, the things we offer Him will be worthy of the God He is because of our love for Him.

So today is again, for me, one of those days when I take stock of what I’ve been offering God to make sure that He is getting the best all the time, and not just what is leftover. It is clear that what is “good enough” for Jehovah God is always what is best.