All the leaves are brown…

Except for a few red leaves clinging to their chilly branches, most of the leaves are brown now, and most are on the ground.  This year, however, the fall seemed to last, and we were blessed with the sight of the brilliant leaves for longer than usual.  It made me think about how the leaves are most beautiful before they fall off the trees, at least to me.  I love the green of spring…it is my favorite season, but the fall colors are simply unrivaled.  Its the same with people.  The sweet babies are loved and adored…and miraculous, but the older person who has lived their life, shared their experiences, and is leaving a legacy is unrivaled in beauty.  Of course their are the people who don’t learn from life, and can be represented by the eaten away leaf on the tree.  But, for those that let God beautify them each day, through storms and sunny days, their life grows more beautiful until the end when they are swept up to Heaven with Him.

 

Albert Einstein said, ‘There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is.’”

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Martyrs

As we approach Easter weekend…Good Friday, remembering our Savior being beaten and killed for our sins, Resurrection Sunday…knowing He still lives and He has overcome, I thought reviewing this strong courage and faith seemed appropriate.

The strength, courage and faith of these 21 men could only be given by Christ.  They encompass what we all hope we would do in that situation.  They faced the fear, the pain, the anguish not with timidity, but with singing and praising the Lord.  And moments after, they joined their Savior in eternal perfection of Heaven.

Maybe the most amazing part of this story is that there was one man taken with the group of Christians who was not a Christian.  He, however, chose their same fate after seeing their faith.  He saw their faith and knew their God (our God, the only God) is real.  He gave his life to Christ moments before joining Christ in His Kingdom.

When we go into this weekend, we praise the Lord for giving us earthly examples of incredible faith.  We also praise Him for being the only One through Whom we can be saved.  He paid the ultimate price…pain, suffering, death on the cross, taking every sin of all of ours onto Himself.  There has never been greater pain, and He took it for us to offer us a way to Heaven.  He is the ONLY way.  Not anything good we do, but knowing we are not good enough and giving our lives, ourselves, to Him.

Remember His sacrifice this weekend, remember His love, remember His daily grace and mercy.  And talk to Him…thank Him…give yourself up to Him.

10.16.14

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 14:6

Mary, the mother of Jesus, is amazing.  She is amazing because of God.  God gave her the strength to live a life full of indescribable joy and indescribable heartache.  None of us can comprehend the courage she needed.  No one can comprehend being the parent of God.  However, Mary is not God, she is not Jesus, you cannot get to Heaven by praying to Mary.  Jesus Himself tells us that He is the only way.  THE ONLY WAY.  Please know that while Mary should be honored, she should not be an idol and she cannot be a replacement for Jesus.  He is the WAY…follow HIM and He will make your paths straight.  

10.15.14

I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed— I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “that I am God.

Isaiah 43:11-12

I have been reading “Prodigal God” and it is very good at drilling home that we all need a Savior.  The man on death row is no more a sinner than the man who has hate in his heart.  The woman who “works at night” is no more a sinner than the woman who lied.  Many of us know this, but how often do we truly believe it?  Do you know that you are as much a sinner as the people you judge?  Do you know, really know, that nothing you do will get you into Heaven?  Do you know that the person on this earth that you despise is a child of God?  We need to put our judgments away, we need to repent of our own sins, we need to pray for EVERY soul on this earth to change for Him.  And more than anything else, we need to trust Him, our Savior, our Lord, the Creator.  Our lives will be filled with joys and trials, but our life is the tiniest blip compared to eternity.  And He is waiting for us, all we have to do is knock.  

Perfection

I am glad I am not perfect.  I am glad I am so far from being perfect that I have no place to judge others.  Of course we all do at times, wrongfully.  But…I am glad that is not my authority.  (note: Christian accountability and malicious/flippant  judging are very different things)  I am thankful that God can see past even the ugliest of sins and see how He can use that for His glory, in many cases taking the sin away and creating a whole new person from the trials.

Right now there are some people in my life that are choosing very different paths than the ones in which they started.  I have Christian and non-Christian friends trying to take control of situations that need to be given to God.  Someone asked me yesterday why I want them to be in Heaven.  My heart breaks over each situation.   I pray that God changes their hearts quickly.  I am a sinner, too.  Perhaps their sins are more noticeable than mine because they are on display right now.  That makes them no worse than mine.  So while I pray dramatic changes in their lives, I also pray dramatic ones in mine.  Though I will never be perfect on this side of Heaven, I pray that I (and everyone) will grow closer to Jesus, and His will, everyday.

Praise God who gave His only Son.  Praise Jesus that His perfection reigns and that He took our place on the cross, so that when God looks on our lives He only sees the perfection of His Son.

Christmas

The days surrounding Christmas had ups and downs this year, but one thing that NEVER changes is that Christ came down all those years ago to be born here on earth, leaving His perfect Kingdom, so that He could save our lives.  That is THE meaning of Christmas.  That is the unchanging good news.  That is why despite sadness we have joy!

Joshua’s birthday celebration:

Christmas Brunch, before eating commenced:

Some yummy recipes this year included banana cream cheese stuffed baked french toast, blueberry white chocolate coffeecake, scones, quiche and about a million other things.  😉

Here are a couple desserts after they were dug into…red velvet cheesecake and butterfinger bars:

The butterfinger bars were very good…a little difficult to cut and the recipe is surely for a small pan (I used a 9×13 and had to double and it was still a stretch!)

The red velvet cheesecake I couldn’t try, because of the red dye, so I am not sure how it turned out, but it looked good!  😉

BUTTERFINGER COOKIE DOUGH CHEESECAKE BARS

YIELD: Makes one 8×8 pan

Ingredients:

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE LAYER

  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ¾ cup flour plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips + 1/2 cup for top
  • 5 Butterfinger bars, king size

CHEESECAKE LAYER

  • 8oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

PREPARATION:

Create a sling by lining the pan with foil so that there is a one inch overhang on each side. Cover foil with bake spray. Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

TO MAKE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE LAYER

Melt butter and let cool to warm. Add in brown sugar and mix to combine. Add in egg and vanilla extract and mix to combine.  Add in flour and fold to combine. Add in 1 cup of mini chocolate chips and fold to combine. Pour mixture into pan; set aside.

TO MAKE CHEESECAKE

Add all ingredients in a bowl and beat until blended. Set aside.

ASSEMBLY

  1. Press 3/4 of cookie mixture into pan. Place Butterfinger bars side-by-side on top of cookie dough. Pour cheesecake mixture on top. Crumble remaining cookie dough sprinkle on top of cheesecake layer along with remaining 1/2 cup of chocolate chips all over top.
  2. Transfer pan to oven and bake for about 30-40 minutes at 375 degrees F. Remove from oven set on wire rack to cool.

 

RED VELVET CHEESECAKE

Yield: 12 to 14 servings

Prep Time: 1 hr + cooling and chill times

Cook Time: 1 hr, 15 min

CHEESECAKE:
Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated white sugar
pinch of salt
2 large eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

RED VELVET CAKE:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups vegetable or canola oil
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup (two 1-ounce bottles) red food coloring
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons white vinegar

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted lightly to remove any lumps
Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1. Prepare the cheesecake layer: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick spray and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper.  In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to mix the cream cheese- blend until it is nice and smooth and creamy. Mix in sugar and salt and blend for 2 minutes, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed. Add eggs, one at a time, blending after each addition. Finally, mix in sour cream, whipping cream and vanilla. Mix until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake the cheesecake for 45 minutes. It should be set to the touch and not jiggly. Remove the cheesecake  and let it cool on a wire rack for at least an hour. When it has cooled, place the pan into the freezer and let the cheesecake freeze completely. This can be done in several hours- or overnight.

2. Prepare the cake layers: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round metal baking pans (or spray with nonstick baking spray with flour). In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Add eggs, oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla and vinegar to the flour mixture. Using an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat for 1 minute, until blended. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl with a rubber spatula. Beat on high speed for 2 minutes. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pans, dividing equally. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Let cool in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pans, then invert cakes onto a rack to cool completely.

3. Prepare the frosting: In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat powdered sugar, cream cheese, butter and vanilla until it is smooth and creamy (do not overbeat).

4. Assemble the cake: Place one cake layer into the center of a cake plate or platter. Remove the cheesecake from the freezer, take off the sides of the pan, and slide a knife under the parchment to remove the cheesecake from the pan. Peel off the parchment. Measure your cheesecake layer against the cake layers. If the cheesecake layer turns out to be a slightly larger round than your cake, move it to a cutting board and gently shave off some of the exterior of the cheesecake to get it to the same size as your cake layers. Place the cheesecake layer on top of the first cake layer. Place the 2nd cake layer on top of the cheesecake.

5. Frost and decorate the cake

Spiritual Warfare

I love Christmas!  Obviously first and foremost I love Christmas because of what it is.  Christmas is nothing less than the birth of my Lord and Savior.  Without His perfect and precious birth, we would be nothing.  Without His life begun, He could not have laid down His life for my sins and there would be no hope in this world.  We are nothing, there is nothing, there would be nothing to have faith in or hope for…without Him we would all be sentenced to eternal death.  Not only did He do all of that for me and you, but He has showered me with blessings of life, love, family, food, shelter…and on and on.   I also love Christmas because, as you all know by now, I adore being with family and friends.  I enjoy gathering around sharing food and fun memories while making new memories.  It is a special time filled with traditions.

The enemy does not love Christmas.  In fact, He knows that we are saved because of the birth of Jesus Christ.  I think that is why there is so much pain at Christmas sometimes.  He attacks people at their weakest at a time when they are praising the One who saved them.  He attacks and tries to turn their vulnerability into a reason to distrust God.  This is when we need God the most!  He will not let us falter, He will not let us down, He does walk through every joy and every sorrow with us.

Hanging the ornaments on our Christmas tree each year is bittersweet.  There are ornaments that were meant for Joshua.  There are ornaments from people that are no longer here…that died too young.  There are bitter memories along with sweet ones.  My parents just attended a funeral of a great man who was attacked by cancer.  His family knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is celebrating Christmas with his Savior this year, but each Christmas will have a scar as they remember the husband, father, brother and friend that they lost.  My friend just was served divorce papers this week, a friend who has done nothing but try to save her marriage as her spouse has thrown it away.  Another friend is facing her third Christmas without her husband at home.  Life is tough and it seems to get harder at the times when we think we should be untouchable. Satan may attack, he may even win a few battles, but we know that the Lord is the ultimate victor.  We know the end and He has already won.  Don’t lose hope, don’t lose faith, put your trust in the One who is with you each step of the way.  Celebrate Christmas and have joy in the Lord!

The Laughable Nonsense of Kirstie Alley

When people use their religion to defend repulsive behavior, killing or hurting others, I would hope it would make others quickly question that religion.

Kirstie Alley and other outspoken scientologists may not be as ruthless as terrorists who bomb families in the “name of religion,” but they certainly are not doing their religion any favors.

I saw on my MSN homepage that Kirstie Alley is attacking Leah Remini for actually having an opinion about a religion in which she was once associated.  I do not know either person, but in terms of faith will very briefly discuss them.  Leah Remini belonged to the Church of Scientology and has recently left.  She does not have anything good to say about it.  Neither do I, but she has actually been part of the group.  I would say it is fair for her to express her opinions.  Kirstie Alley who remains a scientologist cannot be friends with anyone who disagrees with her religion as she was quoted saying, “she’s a bigot. If someone was really out there [saying negative things about your religion], would they be your friend? They wouldn’t be mine. It’s not selective, I just won’t have people in my life that are that.”

It confuses me.  As a Christian, my faith is attacked continuously.  Not always directly and certainly not directly in a way that my life is at stake, but the Christian faith is definitely attacked by a large group of people.  Do I like it?  Of course not.  Was it predicted in the Bible?  Yes.  Am I supposed to shun people who do not share my faith?  NO NO NO!  If you truly believe in your religion, you want others to be part of that religion.  As a Christian, I truly believe the Bible.  I believe that people need to have a personal relationship with their Lord and Savior to spend eternity in Heaven.  I believe that so strongly that I do not want ANYONE to go to hell.  NOT ONE.  So whether or not you attack my religion, I will still pray for you.  I will still be friends with you.  I will not drop you because you leave my church.  I would think every religion would feel this way.  What good is anyone doing by being cruel “in the name of religion”?  It baffles my mind!

11.23.13

Matthew 7:21-23 ESV

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Romans 8:1 ESV

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

John 3:16-17 ESV

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

 

The other day I was with a group of people.   The group was a mix of Christians and non – Christians.  One of the Christians in the group is quite outspoken and opinionated.  This person likes to have attention and  isn’t too concerned if anyone is offended.  Another  person in the group quietly takes it all in, as in many other areas of life, but then is quick to make little snide comments about certain situations or people.  They are unheard by most and I am sure there are a number of thoughts for every comment that comes out.  Neither is better than the other.  They are both sinning, one quietly and one outspokenly.  And guess what?  So am I by judging them instead of looking at myself instead of them.

Christians sin.  We are no better than anyone else in the world.  But we love and believe in a Lord and Savior who forgives us; who died for us knowing every horrible thing we would do in our lives.

There are some Christians who come across as judgmental and hopefully their intentions are good.  If you are a Christian and believe in heaven and hell, the last thing you want is for anyone to live in hell for eternity.  So sometimes we try to “help” others come to Christ in a misguided way.  We aren’t perfect.  We love all people, whether or not they sin, because we know we are sinners.  We know we are lost without Christ.  We know we are saved and going to Heaven and just want as many people to come with us as possible.