Thursday, February 27, 2014

Intentionally Focused, Day 25

Graphic from Baptist Bible Hour
Can you stand another post about the "Intentionally Focused" Bible study I've been doing?  I hope so, because there will surely be a few more to come.  I have been getting SO much out of this study from Good Morning Girls.  The study I want to share today is from last week, which had its emphasis on our friendships.  For this one from last Friday, I SOAPed Proverbs 27:17.

S [Scripture]= "Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend."  (Proverbs 27:17)

O [Observation]= This verse is part of a section of Proverbs titled by Scofield "Warnings and Instructions".  This section includes chapters 25 through 29 of Proverbs -- and these are "proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah, king of Judah, copied out" (Proverbs 25:1).  It's interesting to note what Proverbs these men apparently selected to copy out.

The verse states that iron sharpens iron.  I recall my days of working in a restaurant kitchen and observing the chef as he sharpened knives with a steel.  It was a somewhat noisy, abrasive process.  Just as iron sharpens iron, so a man is to sharpen the countenance of his friends.  I think of how the steel strikes the knife -- there has to be very close contact between the two.  Abrasion is very much part of the sharpening -- sometimes sparks will even fly.  Yet it must be done or the knife will lose its edge -- and thus, its usefulness.

A [Application]= Am I sharpening the countenance of my friends?  I think if I'm honest with myself, I'll have to admit that there are some friends I've refrained from attempting to sharpen because they wouldn't take it well.  I've had other friends disagree with what I was sharing -- and so that sharpening was ineffective because the "knife" decided it was okay the way it was.  I've also found that in teaching ladies (many of whom are also my personal friends), there've been times when I've brought up subjects that they'd rather not deal with.  Yet these are areas of life and choices that each of us must face.  I need to prayerfully keep on with trying to help sharpen my friends, and leave their response and the outcomes with God.

And I also need to be willing for my friends to sharpen me.  I've found that even the abrasive, difficult people in my life can teach me much as I consider how the the Lord would have me to interact with them.  As He points out sin and wrong attitudes in my dealings with others, I am sharpened spiritually and become more useful for His service.

P [Prayer]=  "Lord, I thank You for Your Word -- and today, I thank You in particular for the practicality of the book of Proverbs.  I thank You for the effective word picture and object lesson of iron sharpening iron.
I pray that You will help me as I seek to sharpen my friends spiritually.  Some of them may be resistant to change or don't think they need to change, so I ask for You to do the necessary work in their hearts.
And I pray, too, that You will help me to be always willing to be sharpened by others.  Thank You for showing me how this process works, and for the abrasive people You are using to show me my own need to grow and change.  I praise You that You care about the details of our lives, and I thank You for all You will do in this area.  In Jesus' name, Amen."

So that was my study for last Friday.  A challenging one!  I hope it has encouraged someone today!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Peanut Butter Oat Bars

Photo by Taste of Home
This weekend I was looking through an older Taste of Home magazine and came upon this recipe: Peanut Butter Oat Bars.  My first impulse was to think, "Oh, those are just like Oh Henry Bars" -- a recipe my girls often made to sell during their pre-teen and teen years.  The Oh Henry Bars were delicious, but I haven't made them in years because the oat base usually stuck to the bottom of the pan no matter how much it was greased.  For those who have never tasted them, the Oh Henry Bars had a chewy oat base and then a top layer of peanut butter and chocolate chips melted together.  They didn't taste exactly like the candy bars of the same name, but were very good.

But this recipe, the Peanut Butter Oat Bars, is a little different.  There is peanut butter included in the oat base, an ingredient  I thought might make it less apt to stick to the pan.  And the topping consists of peanut butter along with milk chocolate chips and butterscotch chips (no semisweet) all melted together.  It sounded really good and I had all the ingredients called for, so I decided to give it a try for Sunday's potluck.

One thing I did, just to be on the safe side, was to line the pan with parchment paper and then spray the paper with baking spray.  It worked well and the bars came out of the pan easily and could be transferred to a cutting board to cut into squares.  I cut them very small (smaller than in the photo)  because they are quite rich.  A few of them did come home from the potluck with us, but Mr. T is enjoying them greatly.  I would definitely make this recipe again as it is a quick, easy wheat-free dessert that serves quite a few people.  But I'll keep on using the parchment paper!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Roasted Chicken with Rosemary

Photo by Taste of Home
Winter (and this has seemed like a very long winter) always seems to put me in the mood for trying new recipes.  I tried two new recipes this weekend and hope to blog about the second one tomorrow. 

Our local market had roasting chickens for a good price this week, so I bought one.  I was looking for a way to roast it along with vegetables.  I looked at a few recipes on line and didn't see anything that appealed to me, but then I happened to be glancing through an old (1994) Country Woman magazine and noticed a recipe for Roasted Chicken with Rosemary which was a winner in that month's recipe contest featuring poultry. The photo showed a roasted chicken atop carrots, potatoes and onions.

I looked the recipe over and found that it was pretty much just what I'd been looking for.  I wanted to keep this kid-friendly, so I decreased the rosemary by quite a bit.  I was using fresh rosemary that I had frozen, so I just crumbled some of it up.  I also thought I would use half the amount of butter, but it really seemed dry partway through cooking (and I had so many veggies in the pan that it was hard to reach the broth to baste anything as the recipe directed) so I ended up adding more butter.  I think next time I might use half butter and half chicken broth.  One change that I made was to use cubed butternut squash rather than carrots.

The chicken turned out extremely tender and so flavorful.  I will definitely cook a roasting chicken this way again.  It did take a bit longer than specified, and even then the vegetables were a little bit too firm.  I think the mistake I made was not in using a covered roasting pan.  (I don't own one.)  I just used a 13x9 pan with a rack, and covered it with heavy-duty foil.  Next time, I will use a large covered Dutch oven that I have; that will probably work better.

All in all, we were very pleased with this recipe and considered it a keeper!  Maybe your family would enjoy it, too.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Intentionally Focused, Day 24

Photo from Baptist Bible Hour
I'm continuing on with the "Intentionally Focused" Bible study from Good Morning Girls, and am continuing to find it a blessing.  It's hard to believe that this eight-week study is over halfway finished!

This week, the emphasis has been on our friendships.  Each of the verses this week has spoken to me about how I am interacting with my friends.  I thought I would share my study from Thursday, which was from Ephesians 4:29, 31-32.  (Interestingly, I studied these same verses for my Sunday School lesson this week!  Think God is trying to tell me something?)

S [Scripture]= "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers...
"Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 
"And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." (Ephesians 4:29, 31-32)

O [Observation]: In verse 29, Paul gives some clear guidelines concerning our speech:
1) We're not to let any corrupt communication proceed from our mouth;
2) Instead, we're to have speech that is A) good for the use of edifying [building up], and B) that ministers grace to our hearers.

Verse 31 tells us the sorts of behavior we need to "put away" from our dealings with others: bitterness, wrath, clamor, anger, evil speaking, and malice.  What an ugly list!

Then verse 32 tells us how we are to behave toward others instead: we're to be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving -- even as God, for Christ's sake, has forgiven us.

A [Application]: The application to my life is pretty straightforward, but just because it's clear and obvious doesn't mean it's easy to do.  I do okay not having corrupt speech as such, but I know that not everything I say is edifying; not everything ministers grace to my listeners.  So these are goals to aim at. 

In general, I can do fairly well not exhibiting bitterness, wrath, clamor, etc. in my dealings with others, but being consistently kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving is more of a challenge.  What a motivation to keep before me -- remembering that God -- for the sake of what Christ did on my behalf -- has forgiven me.

P [Prayer]=  "Lord, I do thank You for the clear instruction in Your Word that makes it plain how we should live our lives.  I thank You for the ways in which You have helped me to grow and change, and for pointing out to me areas which still need much work.
"I know that I have a long way to go with my speech, Lord.  I pray that You will help me to consistently -- not just some of the time -- work at being sure my speech builds others up and is a ministry of grace to them.
"I pray too that I can be consistently kind and tenderhearted toward others.  Often I find that I can be forgiving, but kindness and tenderheartedness do not come as easily for me.
"Please forgive me for the times when I fail in these areas, and help me to consistently act and react as You'd have me to.  This can't be done in my own strength, so I pray You well help Your strength to be made perfect in my weakness, every day.  In Jesus' name, Amen."

I hope that some of you are enjoying these occasional recaps of what I've learned from the "Intentionally Focused" study.  I know it may not be for everyone, but I hope that some are being blessed as they read.  Are any of my readers doing this study on their own or with a group?  I'd be interested in hearing about what you're doing!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A fantastic salad recipe!

Photo by Lemon Tree Dwelling
Recently I happened across a salad recipe that looked so interesting -- and the picture looked so beautiful -- that I simply had to try it.  The salad -- called Loaded Sweet Potato Tot Salad -- contained so many of my favorite ingredients -- sweet potatoes, dried cranberries, and avocados. 

I decided to make the salad for our weekly potluck lunch at church.  I wanted to make this as a side salad, so I left out the chicken.   I also left out the green onions because I didn't have any, and I simplified the dressing  a bit by just adding a mashed avocado to half a bottle of purchased ranch dressing.  Other than that, I doubled the recipe.  It made a large bowl full and every bit was eaten at the potluck.

For greens, I used a combination of baby spinach and Fresh Express Sweet & Crunchy blend, which is a mixture of red and green baby leaf lettuce and is just delicious.  One of my favorites.  For the sweet potato tots, I used Alexia Sweet Potato Puffs.  This was my first try at using sweet potato tots -- in fact, I had never heard of them before trying this recipe -- but it won't be the last.

In fact, they are on my shopping list again this week.  I'm making this salad again for this Sunday's potluck!  It was that delicious.  Thanks to Lemon Tree Dwelling for this fabulous recipe.  Your family and friends might enjoy it, too.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Intentionally Focused, Day 19

Graphic from Baptist Bible Hour
I'm continuing to get a lot out of the "Intentionally Focused" Bible study from Good Morning Girls.  This week the focus was on marriage, but the application of the various scriptures went far beyond that.  Today I'd like to share my study from this past Thursday.  The particular verse that is used applies to all women.

S [Scripture]= "The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things."  (Titus 2:3)

O [Observation]= My Daily Devotional Bible notes, "Paul advised Titus to encourage older, more mature Christians to help newer Christians grow.  Because positive role models can be a great help to others, older Christians should be willing to teach the younger ones, and younger Christians must be willing to learn from older, more mature believers."

The verse lists some of the responsibilities of older women -- some things they are and are not to do:
* They are not to be given to much wine.
* They are not to be false accusers.
* They are to be in behavior as is becoming to holiness.
* They are to be teachers of good things. 

If we were to look down at Titus 3:5 (which was part of the reading for this day's study), we would see why the older women are to live up to the above description: so that the Word of God will not be blasphemed.

Verse 4 (also part of the reading), details some of the good things the older women are to teach and also tells us who they are to teach.  They're to teach the younger women the following good things:
* to be sober-minded
* to love their husbands
* to love their children
* to be discreet
* to be chaste
* to be keepers at home
* to be good
* to be obedient to their own husbands.

And, obviously, the older women cannot effectively teach these things unless they have made them a part of their own lives.

A [Application]:  In many ways I'm living out this verse.  I'm teaching women and I do have a huge burden to see other women grow spiritually.  I regularly exhort older believers to teach and mentor younger ones, and I emphasize the reason for this -- that the Word of God be not blasphemed.  I am challenged, though, as I look at the things I'm to teach -- am I mature enough myself in each area to be effectively teaching others?  And the exhortation to "be in behavior as becometh holiness" covers a lot of ground.  Can I honestly say that my behavior always measures up to that standard?  I think if I'm honest, I'll admit that in many ways it does not.  I still have a lot of growing to do.

P [Prayer]= "Lord, I thank You so much for the practicality of Your Word and for how You use it in our lives to help us grow and change.  I thank You for how this passage has spoken to my heart, as I realize once again that I still have a long way to go in my spiritual growth.  I thank You too that, over time, You've shown me a score of areas in which I need to make changes -- and that You've clearly shown me that things can and must change.  I pray You will help me as I confront these issues day by day to grow stronger in avoiding sin and in doing what is right.  I praise You that Your strength is made perfect in my weakness, and I thank You for all You will do.  In Jesus' name, Amen."

What a blessing this study has been to me so far!  If you'd like to get in on this, it's not at all too late to do the study on your own as I'm doing.  Just go to Good Morning Girls and sign up for their emails.  When the first one arrives, go to the bottom of the email and you will find links to download the "Intentionally Focused" reading plan and study guide.  I'm sure you would find it a blessing too.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A yummy chocolate dip for fruit

Photo by Taste of Home
With yesterday being Valentine's Day, I wanted to plan a special supper for my hubby and also needed to keep it kid-friendly since two of our granddaughters were here.  I decided to make lasagna, focaccia bread, and salad.  Our supermarket had some decent-looking strawberries on sale, so I picked up a box with the idea of serving them with a chocolate dip for a Valentine dessert.

I'd never made a chocolate dip before, though I have made other dips for fruit -- and once, a chocolate chip cheese ball to serve with chocolate graham crackers.  So I did a quick search.  Taste of Home recipes never let me down, and this is the one I found: Yummy Chocolate Dip.  It only uses three ingredients, all of which I had on hand: chocolate chips, whipped topping, and vanilla.  It also calls for cinnamon, but I left that out because I didn't think it would be all that great with strawberries.  Apples, maybe.

So my 10-year-old granddaughter and I made up the dip and we had it for dessert with the strawberries.  It was indeed yummy!  The only thing I would advise is NOT making it ahead and refrigerating it, which we did.  It made it too firm and we had to sort of spread it on the berries.  It was still delicious, just not really a dip consistency.  I would advise making it at most a half hour before serving.  We thought it would also be great with bananas, pineapple, apples, and maybe even oranges or clementines.  We had some dip left over, so we'll probably find out!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Snow day

This lovely photo is from Baptist Bible Hour.
Yes, just as it has been doing almost everywhere the past couple of days (or so it seems), the snow is falling here in northern New England, too.  It's falling heavily and we may get as much as a foot when all is said and done sometime tomorrow.  As I watch the snow fall thick and fast, it seems as if we may get even more.

My thoughts turn to the Bible and what it says about snow in the books of Job and Psalms.  I know snow is mentioned in a number of other Bible books, but these verses came to my mind and I thought I would share them:

"Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?  or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail ... ?
"Out of whose womb came the ice?  and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it?
"The waters are hid as with a stone, and the face of the deep is frozen." (Job 38:22, 29-30)

And here is the answer as to where the snow, frost, and ice come from:

"God thundereth marvelously with His voice; great things doeth He, which we cannot comprehend.
"For He saith to the snow, Be thou on the earth; likewise to the small rain, and to the great rain of His strength ...
"Out of the south cometh the whirlwind, and cold out of the north.
"By the breath of God frost is given: and the breadth of the waters is straitened." (Job 37:5-6, 9-10)

"He sendeth forth His commandment upon earth; His word runneth very swiftly.
"He giveth snow like wool: He scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes.
"He casteth forth His ice like morsels: who can stand before His cold?"  (Psalm 147:15-17)

Beautiful ... just like the snow itself.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

No time to blog today!

From a vintage New Hampshire Troubadour magazine
Oh, my, is life ever busy!  As I've mentioned, my word for 2014 is BALANCE ~ and I am really being tested in that area!  There is so much to juggle and this week I seem, for whatever reason, to be focusing on housework.  It's there, it needs to be done -- and have you noticed how the higher, brighter February sunshine reveals dust and cobwebs like never before? -- so I've been doing a lot of it.  Then there's Sunday School prep, eldercare responsibilities, some handcrafted Christmas gifts I need to finish up, laundry, and much, much  more -- not to mention this year's summer devotional books that I need to get started on writing.  I do apologize for my infrequent posting, and will be back as quickly as I can!

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Mixed Nut Bars

Photo by Taste of Home
As I mentioned on my Christmas blog, I've been looking through some old December issues of Country Woman magazine.  I do this every year and nearly always find something I've overlooked or forgotten about in the way of recipes, crafts, or decorating ideas.  This time it was a bar cookie recipe -- Mixed Nut Bars.

I've made these delicious, easy bars many times in the past.  If you happened to receive a can of mixed nuts for Christmas (or even cashews, peanuts, or whatever) you might like to try this recipe.  When using mixed nuts, I always cut up the Brazil nuts into smaller pieces for these bars.  I think it looks nicer, plus the bars are easier to cut and eat.

Hope your family enjoys this recipe if you try it!

Friday, February 07, 2014

Intentionally Focused, Day 15

This is what it looked like up here on Wednesday!  Graphic from Baptist Bible Hour
This morning I finished the third five-day week of the Intentionally Focused Bible study from Good Morning Girls, and must say I am continuing to find the study so encouraging and helpful.  I love the idea of getting back in focus at the beginning of a new year.

As I've mentioned, I'm doing this study very simply on my own, following their reading plan and using the SOAP method of meditating on the specified verses.  I do read the Intentionally Focused emails from Good Morning Girls, but usually not until after I've done my own study for that day.  I enjoy seeing what I can get out of the Scripture on my own first.

This week's study has focused on our minds.  Today's verse, which I am going to share with you, was Colossians 3:2.  The reading was verses one through three, but we were to SOAP verse 2.  Here goes:

S [Scripture]= "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth."  (Colossians 3:2)

O [Observation]= As believers in Christ, we are living on this earth, traveling on a pilgrimage to our real home, which is heaven.  Positionally, it's as if we're already there (verse 1) and so, we need to find heavenly things of great importance.  We need to set our affection on things above, in heaven, and not on things on this earth -- although certainly God gives us many wonderful things while we are here.  A cross-reference to this verse is Matthew 6:19-21 --

"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and thieves break through and steal,
"But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and thieves break through and steal,
"For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."

William MacDonald commented that "The Christian should not be earth-bound in his outlook.  He should view things not as they appear to the natural eye but in reference to their importance to God and eternity ... We are still on earth but we should be cultivating heavenly ways."

A [Application]= I'm a citizen of heaven, just passing through this world on my way to my real home.  God has given me much to do in my brief sojourn here, yet He doesn't want me to set much store by the things of earth.  He wants me to set my affection on things above, where Jesus is.  But He doesn't want me to be "so heavenly minded that I'm of no earthly good", as a preacher of old used to say.  Instead, He wants me to do my daily work as unto Him -- to be as of much earthly good as possible to others, because I'm heavenly-minded, seeking to view things in the light of eternity.

P [Prayer]= Lord, I thank you for the clarity of the instruction we find in Your Word.  I thank You that You so clearly teach and show us how we ought to think and live.  I pray that You would help me every day to conduct myself as a citizen of heaven.  Help me to view things from an eternal perspective and to set my affections on things above.  Help me to hold the things of earth very loosely, remembering that they aren't important at all in the light of eternity.  Help me to be a good testimony and an encouragement to others as I walk this earthly pilgrimage.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

Remember, if you are interested in doing this study on your own, it's not too late to start.  All you have to do is sign up for the emails from Good Morning Girls -- and there is a link to download the reading plan at the bottom of each email.  You can work at your own pace and I'm sure you would find the study a blessing.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

A yummy gluten-free dessert

Photo by The Baking Beauties
 This past weekend I was looking for a gluten-free dessert that would feed quite a few people and would be quick and easy to make.  I decided to try this gluten free cookie pizza from The Baking Beauties .  Basically, it's a giant chocolate chip oatmeal cookie baked in a pizza pan, then topped with a cream cheese frosting and sprinkled with goodies like toasted coconut and almonds before drizzling with melted chocolate.  Mr. T baked the cookie part on Saturday night and then I added the frosting and toppings the next morning.  We didn't have any M&Ms so I left them off, and the dessert was still absolutely delicious.

This was the hit of the church potluck dessert table.  Not even crumbs were left.  We will definitely be making this cookie pizza again!

Saturday, February 01, 2014

February Goals

Photo from Baptist Bible Hour
A new month!  January went by so quickly, even though it is 31 long days of cold, snow and ice.  I certainly didn't accomplish all that I hoped to in January, but now I have a fresh start with this new month.  Here are my
* Read through the February  portion of the One-Year Devotional Bible.
*  Read 4 chapters in The Power of a Godly Grandparent
* Memorize at least 4 Bible verses and review some older ones.
* Add 4 pages to my "What Do I Know About My God?" Scripture notebook
* Continue with "Intentionally Focused" Bible study
* Keep up with my Sunday School study -- The Heart of a Woman Who Prays
* Exercise at least 20 times.
* Get to bed by 9:45 pm each night.
* Limit sugar.
* Drink enough water each day.
* Keep up with Kelly's missions in homemaking zones of the week.
* Plan an overnight getaway with my husband
* Post in both of my blogs as often as possible
* Check out airline tickets for trip to NV
* Reduce grocery bill by $5 per week (just a place to start!)
* Spend several hours updating my A-store.
* Do research for setting up an Etsy shop (I've already joined Etsy)
* Make at least a dozen items for sale at craft fairs.
* Write at least 4 encouraging notes to friends and family.
* Clean church and set up for potluck meal
* Finish some UFO Christmas gift craft projects
* Decorate for Valentine's Day
* Make gift tags from last year's Christmas cards.
* Start several handcrafted birthday gifts for March and April birthdays.



And here is how January went:
* Read through the January portion of the One-Year Devotional Bible -- DONE!
*  Read 4 chapters in The Power of a Godly Grandparent -- DONE!
* Memorize at least 4 Bible verses and review some older ones -- DONE!
* Add 4 pages to my "What Do I Know About My God?" Scripture notebook -- DONE!
* Begin "Intentionally Focused" Bible study -- DONE!
* Keep up with my Sunday School study -- The Heart of a Woman Who Prays -- DONE!
* Exercise at least 20 times -- I only managed 10 times.  But that was a HUGE improvement over what I had been doing.
* Get to bed by 9:45 pm each night -- not done; I did try, but life was very busy this month
* Limit sugar -- DONE! I managed to eat sugar pretty much only on Sundays
* Drink enough water each day -- not done
* Keep up with Kelly's missions in homemaking zones of the week -- not done, although I did make a good try at it and accomplished quite a bit
* Plan an overnight getaway with my husband -- not done yet
* Post in both of my blogs as often as possible -- DONE!  Although I would like to do more...
* Check out airline tickets for trip to NV in spring -- not done; hopefully this weekend
* Reduce grocery bill by $5 per week (just a place to start!) -- not done
* Spend several hours updating my A-store -- not done, but I did add several items to my "Journey of Faith" shop
* Do research for setting up an Etsy shop (I've already joined Etsy) -- not done
* Make at least a dozen items for sale at craft fairs -- not done
* Write at least 4 encouraging notes to friends and family -- DONE!
* Clean church and set up for potluck meal -- DONE!
* Finish some UFO Christmas gift craft projects -- not done, though I'm working on them
* Design and make some winter banners -- not done, and now it's time for Valentine's
* Make gift tags from last year's Christmas cards -- not done
* Start several handcrafted birthday gifts for March and April birthdays -- not done

JANUARY'S HEALTHY HABIT:  Get to bed earlier -- didn't do so well with this, but I'll work on it again later in the year.

Needless to say, although February is a short month, I'm hoping it'll be a more productive one.