Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Godly Stewardship, Part 1

"Abundant Living" is a very popular topic among today's Christian churches. It has been my personal observation that many churches whose primary focus is"Abundant Living" are seeing steady growth within their congregations. And why wouldn't they? A comfortable lifestyle is part of the American dream. Comfort and lack of hardship is a prime motivator in why so many Americans diligently work long hours thus, making America the most productive per capita workforce in the world. Most of us have a strong work ethic that has been passed down from generation to generation. Today, the fruit of this multi-generational labor is seen by the rest of the world in our national wealth. Although our nation is currently facing some economic challenges, the average American continues to enjoy an abundant lifestyle that is incomprehensible to 85% of the world's population.

As a Christian, I ask, "Are American citizens REALLY striving to maintain comfort and absence of financial hardship or have we been blinded by materialism?" From the view out my window, I see the later. I see a generation that has never known true hardship. I see a generation who has turned away from Godly contentment to the idolization of materialism. It is a fact that we, humans, were all created worship the Living God. When we turn our backs and refuse to worship Him, we will worship something because God created us to worship. If we study human history, and observe humans throughout the world today, we will see that every single living man, woman and child has and does worship something or someone. Some worship the true Living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, while others worship other gods and idols, some worship world leaders, media icons, philosophies, ancestors, sciences, careers, materialism, the list is infinite. It seems as if we are genetically pre-disposed to worship. Being an American, who lives and works in America, it is easy for me to observe that materialism has become the false god of our nation.

What does abundant living and materialism have to do with stewardship? Actually, quite a bit. II Corinthians 5:17 says, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." II Corinthians 6:16-18 says, " And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." The Word of God tells us that in Christ the old man has passed away and becomes new. It tells us that we are the temple of the Lord and we are to separate ourselves from the idolaters of this fallen world and in doing so, we become His sons and daughters.

I find it unfortunate that many of today's abundant living churches are not teaching Biblical truth. Instead they are feeding the idol of materialism. I've watched several televised "abundant living" sermons (from very large prominent churches) that contain absolutely no Biblical substance. They were nothing more than motivational speeches about positive thinking and acquiring excessive material belongings. I've heard things like, "Do you want a bigger house? Do you want to wear finer clothes? Do you want private school for your children? Do you want a luxury automobile? As a child of the Most High Living God, you deserve it. God's people should be the wealthiest people on earth. If we don't have the best, the rest of the world will not want our God. By planting a financial seed, the windows of heaven will open and your bank account will grow ... blah, blah, blah." Matthew 6:31-34, says, "Therefore take not thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the Gentiles seek: for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness: and all these things shall be added unto you." According to the Bible, God KNOWS our needs and if we SEEK Him and His righteousness, He will PROVIDE for our needs.

Why are Christians seeking the things of this world? Moreover, how could, in good conscience, some church leaders promote the acquisition of worldly goods over a closer relationship with God? America is a society blinded by the idol of materialism. Christians have allowed the, " ... we live under grace not under law ..." line of thinking to infiltrate today's Christian church. This way of thinking has allowed too much room for weeds of sin to rampantly grow. Today's average Christan regularly covets his neighbors possessions and projects a false image of his finances, time and relationships. The scientific reality is that grace does not, will not, and can not abolish God's LAWS. If God's laws are abolished and excused away by grace, our universe will cease to exist.

I'm sure some of you are thinking, "Wow! That's a stretch, how'd she get there?" I'll explain. When God created the universe(s) and planet Earth he put certain scientific LAWS into place. These include, but are not limited to, the Law of Gravity, Laws of Thermodynamics, Laws of Motion, Law of Sowing and Reaping with Principal of Increase, etc. If any one of the God created scientific laws were abolished, absolutely EVERYTHING God created would cease to exist. A God ordained Law is absolutely unchangeable. In removing or changing any Law implemented by God, everything we know to be reality and truth vanishes. New Testament grace does not and can not abolish Old Testament Law. Contrary to what many of today's Christian churches teach, Jesus Christ did not abolish the Law, He fulfilled the Law. We must realize that when God created this world and it's supporting Laws, both physical and spiritual, He created it for a sinless people. Because of Adam's fall resulting in our inherited sin, it is not possible for us to observe and fulfill the requirements of God's spiritual Laws. Because of this impossibility, He sent Jesus Christ as an atonement for our sins. Our reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ does not give us a "free pass" to continue in sin. Instead, it provides us with an avenue for repentance of our sins. Thus, Jesus' fulfillment of the Old Testament Law.

With all that stated, GRACE does not excuse the coveting of thy neighbor's possessions and barring a false witness. Grace does not make it permissible for Christians to emulate the unsaved world. The Bible specifically states that Christians are to be separate, different, peculiar, renewed. We are not to seek worldly goods and possessions, we are to seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness so that these things can be provided for us. Luke 16: 10-13 says, "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's who shall give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." Stewardship is not the acquisition of goods and resources, it is the responsible management of the goods and resources God has provided us with. The key to Christians obtaining an abundant life is not the acquisition of possessions. The key to an abundant life is superior stewardship of God's provisions.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Waste Not Want Not

When I was a girl, my grandmother was always saying, "Waste not, want not". I am one of those people who took the words of past generations to heart. I am known for taking scraps of just about everything you can think of and and finding new use of them. If I'm not creating something new out of leftovers, I'm usually saving the leftovers because, "I might need them someday" or "Maybe I could use this for ... ".
Most recently, I made this crib sized granny square Afghan out of some scrap yarn. I wish the lighting for the photo was better so you could see how the black makes the other colors "pop". "Scrap-a-ghans", as I like to call them, are one of my favorite projects. Not only can I use up my leftover yarn but they are easy to make. After finishing a project, I simply make granny squares out of the leftovers and store them in my crochet basket. When I have enough granny squares for a crib sized or full size Afghan, I stitch them together, and crochet a ruffle around the edges. In no time at all I have a scrap-a-ghan!
I am not sure who this little crib sized scrap-a-ghan will go to but, I'm sure the Lord will bring a little one across my path soon.
(Note: This scrapaghan was recently donated to our church craft bazaar. The money raised will be used by the Women's Ministries.)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Riddle Box WINNER!!

Thank you for the great answers. I am so very excited to announce that my sweet dear son, AB, was the first to respond with the correct answer!

Yes, once given, your WORD must be kept.

(Can you hear the applause?)
Thank you all for playing the Riddle Box game.
Until next time ...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Can God Use You?

When I first accepted Jesus Christ as my Saviour, I avoided getting too close to other Christians. I would sneak into church late, sit on the back pew and leave before the alter call. I was terrified that if anyone found out about my sinful past they would have my salvation revoked - not that anyone could really do that, but being new to Christ I had all sorts of silly thoughts and fears. Although I was born again, I couldn't see how God would ever be able to use me for his Glory. Fortunately, I hung in there, got some good Bible based preaching and eventually came out of my shell. I accepted the invitation from my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and joined the fellowship of God's family.

This evening I attended a Women's Ministry meeting at our local church. One of the ladies shared the following with us. I wish someone had shared it with me all those years ago when I was a brand spanking new baby Christian with an ugly sinful past.

We don't have to be perfect for God to use us. Anytime we have doubts we need to remember:

Noah got drunk
Abraham was too old
Isaac was a daydreamer
Jacob was a liar
Leah was ugly
Joseph was abused
Moses stuttered
Gideon was afraid
Samson had long hair and was a womanizer
Jeremiah and Timothy were too young
David committed adultery and murder
Elijah was suicidal
Jonah ran from God
Naomi was a widow
Job went bankrupt
Peter denied Christ
The Disciples fell asleep while praying
Martha worried about everything
The Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once
Zaccheus was too small
Paul was too religious
Timothy had an ulcer
Lazarus was dead!

And ... God used them all to start a REVOLUTION!

God can use you. Remember, you aren't the message - you are the messenger.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tuna Casserole

Growing up, I never cared much for my mother's tuna casserole. So, when I found this recipe on the back of a sour cream container at least two decades ago, I decided to give it a try. It has been the only tuna casserole recipe I've ever liked. Because it is an economical meal, my children have grown up eating it. Over the years it became one of AB's comfort foods, thus, his recent hankering for it. Well, AB, here's my tuna casserole recipe - Enjoy!
Tuna Casserole

1 16oz. package whole wheat egg noodles (original recipe called for regular, not ww egg noodles)
1 12 oz. can solid white Albacore tuna, flaked (can substitute regular tuna)
3/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese, divided (can substitute any other kind of cheese)
4 oz. sour cream
1 c. milk
1 tbsp. dried parsley OR 2 tbsp. fresh minced parsley
salt & pepper to taste
2 tbsp. butter, melted
1 c. bread crumbs

Cook noodles according to package directions; drain & rinse. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl combine noodles, tuna, 1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, sour cream, milk, parsley, salt and pepper. Mix well. Pour into a greased 9"x11" casserole. In a small bowl combine bread crumbs and 1/4 c. Parmesan cheese. Add melted butter and mix well. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture over casserole. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes until heated through and top is golden.

This evening, only OG, EJ and myself would be eating supper at home. Therefore, I divided the recipe into two casseroles. The one on the above left was for tonight's supper, the one on the above right was put into the freezer before cooking. I will thaw and bake it for a later meal OR if a mom from our church family becomes ill, I'll add a side vegetable & salad and deliver it to her family. (Note: AB, since you and KM are a family of two, you can divide the recipe in half if you don't want to take up freezer space with an additional casserole. I love you, Mom.)

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Riddle Box

What is given but also must be kept?
(Please post replies in the comment section, thank you.)

Grown Children & Home Cooking

Today, AB phoned to wish me a happy birthday (such a sweet boy) and check to see if I received the gifts, two books, he sent my way. I've received one, Amish Society by John A. Hostetler, but still waiting on the mailman for the other.

During the course of our conversation, I inquired as to whether he's peeked into the blog lately - as it's a good way for those who live far away to keep up with things around here. His response was, "No". So, I began telling him about the updates I've posted since his last peek. Well, I, of course, went over our two week planned supper menu. Even though his favorite, spaghetti, isn't on the list, he still began drooling. (AB says mom's cooking is the best part of visiting home.) He got really excited about the tuna casserole and commented, "I haven't had tuna casserole in YEARS". So, tomorrow evening when I cook the tuna casserole, I'll post the recipe with a photo, or maybe two, so he can prepare it anytime he gets a hankering for it (hankering is southern for a craving).
In the above photo, he's preparing hamburgers and hot dogs for the cookout we had while visiting grandpa's cabin last summer. I am proud to say that he's turned out to be quite the cook. I really miss him and his lovely wife, KM. I wish they lived closer to us. I anxiously await Christmas time for their visit home.


It's been a few weeks since I've shared our planned supper menus with you. Remember, I generally plan out two weeks at a time, which reduces trips to the grocer and saves time. (Please note: I also plan out breakfasts, dinners and kitchen prep.)
Earlier this week, a dear friend of mine was commenting on how one of her future step-daughters is a very picky eater. This has caused me to contemplate ways on how one could break a child of such a habit (besides sending them to my home for a month - they'd just go without until they decided to eat). I really can't cast a negative judgement, not only does the Bible warn against such, but EJ is also a picky eater - no onions, no mushrooms, and no cooked peas (he likes them raw from the garden, but not cooked). However, I have found ways to get him to eat these items regularly. At only 6 years old withholding dessert still works pretty well, but allowing him to "help" me cook works best. It doesn't matter what I cook, if EJ gets to "cook" with me, he'll eat every morsel placed on his plate including onions, mushrooms AND cooked peas. So, If you or anyone you know has a "picky" eater, try getting them involved in the cooking process. So far, it's been working in our home. Well, here's our planned supper menu for the next two weeks ...
Ham w/ Raisin Sauce, Scalloped Potatoes, Green Beans (will freeze leftover ham in slices and cubes for future meals & use meaty ham bone for next week's pinto beans)
Tuna Casserole, Dilly Cucumber Salad
Fried Rice, Egg rolls (will cook up extra rice & freeze for next week's chicken & rice casserole)
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Tomato Soup, Raw Veggies (will slice & prepare extra veggies for Sunday's chef salads)
Pancakes, Scrambled Eggs, Fruited Carrot Salad
Chef Salads, Quick Bread (Note: I keep meals on Sunday as simple as possible - it's my Sabbath and day of rest)
Pinto Beans, Rice, Cornbread (will cook up a lg. pot of beans and freeze remainder for later meals of Mexican beans and chili)
Empanada Grande, Salad (will cook extra taco meat for Friday's quesadillas)
Spinach Salads, Leftover Cornbread
Quesadillas, Guacamole
Chicken & Rice Casserole, Salad (will prepare extra lettuce & veggies for Sunday's chef salads)
Chef Salads, Quick Bread
What's your meal plan for the next week or two?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Samson - JP's New Puppy

Here she is, a new addition. (Yes, we all know that Samson is most commonly a boy's name, but for those who know JP, well ...)
Isn't she a cutie?
Everyone adores her.
(EJ wanted to name her Blackeyed Pea - pretty clever for a little guy of 6, don't ya think? - But, alas, she is JP's dog so, JP's name of Samson sticks.)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Collector's Cocoa Cake with Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting

Dad loved his birthday supper, especially the Collector's Cocoa Cake with Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting. I found the original cake recipe (since I can't leave a recipe as is, I've made a few changes since then) on a can of cocoa more than 20 years ago and it has become my signature chocolate cake. The butter cream frosting has been adapted from my mother's Betty Crocker's Cookbook - the one she received as a wedding gift more than 40 years ago. This is, by far, the most requested dessert in our home.

Collector's Cocoa Cake

3/4 c. butter, softened
1 3/4 c. sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. white flour
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
3/4 c. cocoa
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/3 c. water
1/2 c. whole wheat flour

Prepare 2 8in. round cake pans (greased, floured and lined with waxed paper) and pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; mix well. In another bowl combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Mix into butter mixture. Add water. Beat with a mixer for 3 minutes. Pour batter into 2 8in. round prepared cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until edges begin to pull away from sides of pans and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes on wire racks. Invert cakes on wire racks to remove from pan. Gently peel off waxed paper. Leave in an area free of drafts until completely cool. Frost with:

Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting

2/3 c. butter, softened
2/3 c. cocoa
4 c. confectioners sugar
3 tsp. vanilla
about 4 tbsp. milk

Mix butter and cocoa. Stir in powdered sugar. Beat in vanilla and milk until smooth and of spreading consistency.

Vareniky, Fried Cabbage & Cornbread

Here's a photo of the vareniky, fried cabbage and cornbread we had for Dad's birthday supper. (I'll post a photo and recipe of the chocolate cake later). I found the original recipe for vareniky in my cookbook, More-With-Less by Doris Janzen Longacre. The recipe was submitted by Mrs. Susan Duerksen and Mrs. Ruby J. Wiebe of Hillsboro, Kansas. It is a cottage cheese and onion filled dumpling with cream sauce. MMMMM, good! It goes GREAT with fried cabbage; and who can eat fried cabbage without cornbread? - Not me! (please see my Fried Green Tomatoes post for my cornbread recipe). Vareniky

1 lb. dry curd cottage cheese (may also substitute ricotta cheese)
1 1/2 tbsp. onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
3 egg yolks
Mix well until cottage cheese is in fine curds. Set aside.

Combine in a separate bowl:
3 egg whites
1 c. milk
2 tsp. salt
3 c. flour
Mix together, adding flour as necessary until dough is stiff enough to roll out. Divide into fourths.

Turn 1/4 of dough out onto floured board and roll out very thin, about 1/8 inch. Cut into squares or circles about 5in. in diameter. (I use an old 1lb. coffee can). Repeat until you have a bunch of circles or squares (about 35-40) and all dough is used.
Place one rounded tablespoon of cottage cheese mixture on each circle. Fold over to form a half-moon. Pinch edges together well. Place on a slightly greased baking sheet placing greased waxed paper between layers. Meanwhile bring a large pan of water to boil.
Drop several vareniky into the boiling water. Cook 3-5 minutes. Vareniky will be done when they float to the top. Remove with a slotted spoon to drain. Keep warm. Repeat until all vareniky is cooked. Serve with the following cream sauce:

2 tbsp. butter

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 c. cream

salt and pepper to taste

left over filling, if any

Saute onion in butter until tender. Add cream, salt & pepper and left over filling, if any. Heat slowly, but do not boil. If sauce is too thin, stir in a little thickening (1tbsp. cornstarch mixed with 3 tbsp. water).

Variation: After trying the original recipe, please feel free to fill your vareniky dumplings with whatever your taste buds may be screaming for. (a cooked crab meat and pepper jack cheese mixture or maybe a cooked ground sausage mixture - the possibilities are only limited by your imagination).

Fried Cabbage

1 small head cabbage, coarsely chopped

1 large onion, coarsely diced

6 slices thick cut bacon, diced

1 tbsp. sugar

salt & pepper to taste

2 tbsp. olive oil

In a large cast iron skillet, saute onion, bacon, and sugar in olive oil until onions are almost ready to caramelize. Turn heat up to high, add cabbage, salt and pepper. "Stir fry" the cabbage, onion & bacon mixture until onions are caramelized, cabbage is wilted and edges begin to brown.

Monday, August 11, 2008

And The Winner Is ...

Who me? An award? Thank you, thank you, thank you to my friend Nicole over at Heart4MyHome, . I never even dreamed I would be selected by anyone for an award, this is amazing! Again, thank you Nicole, you are so very kind. Now, so this award can continue to pass on through blog land, I'd like to recognize the following:

Tami @ Joyful Noise, ,for the beautiful photos & absolute peace that flows over me whenever I have a chance to stop by her blog for a visit.

Olivia @ Heart of a Southerner, ,for the wonderful history lessons she posts on her site. This young home school graduate is a history buff and has a knack for searching out the truths in history, even if they are facts we all don't necessarily like or agree with, and sharing them with the rest of the world. Keep up the good work Olivia.

Kay @ The Rustic Cottage, ,for her generosity. She frequently gives away bars of home crafted soap. Thank you Kay for always looking for ways to bless others.

Marcia @ E-Homebody, ,for her thought provoking essays. I just love reading material that gets my mind to thinking.

Nicole @ Heart4MyHome, ,(yes, I know she's the one who selected me but I just can't help sending another award back out to her) for all her friendship, prayers and encouragement. For many years I could not understand how it was possible to have a friend one had never met face to face. But that was before I became friends with Nicole. Even though we only know each other through cyber world, I've somehow connected with her and genuinely consider her one of my friends. Nicole, thank you for all the support you've so generously given to me during the past year.


1. Select five (5) other recipients for this award. You may select them for creativity, design, content or contributions to the blogging community & they can be in any language.

2. Name each nominee and link to his/her blog.

3. Show the award and include the name and link to his/her blog of whomever presented you with this award.

4. Link to the Arte y Pico blog so everyone knows the origin of this award.

5. Post these rules.

Congratulations to you all! You guys have been such an inspiration to me.

One Race, The Human Race

My dad, most commonly known as Big Jim, has recently traveled more than 2,000 miles from his home in NW Montana on his motorcycle to visit with us. He's been here for a couple weeks and, as always, we have enjoyed our time with him. Most of our activities during his visit have simply revolved around our everyday life. We all, including Dad, find it a joy to just have him be a part of everyday living. There have been a couple highlights during Dad's visit that have included JP's new puppy, Samson, a major league baseball game, the first one Dad's ever attended, and his birthday, he's turning 63 today - Happy Birthday Dad! We will celebrate this evening with a special dinner of Vareniky, Fried Cabbage, Cornbread and Chocolate Cake - mmm good. (don't worry, I'll post the recipes soon).
My dad has lived a very colorful and interesting life. He has had the opportunity to travel to several different places around the world and meet many different people from many different cultures. Although there are differences in our skin colors, religions, customs, national traditions, and socio-economic classes, he's found we all have one thing in common - we are all human. Anytime the topic of human differences comes up, whether it be racial, religious, or economic, Dad has frequently commented on how we are all part of, "one race, the human race". Although many strives have been made in the attempt to erase the invisible boundaries that separate us from one another, Dad thinks we can, and should do more. About two years ago, Dad began thinking of ways to make a public statement in furthering the abolition of discrimination. His desire is not only to abolish all forms of discrimination here in the U.S., but also worldwide.
Americans usually associate discrimination with racial prejudices. However, in reality, we've all suffered discrimination in some way or form during our lives. Some endure racial discrimination while others endure religious, cultural, or socio-economic discriminations. Dad's goal is to bring the humanity back into humanity by helping us all recognize that although we may be different in many ways, we are all really the same - we are all humans. We all desire love, acceptance, peace, opportunity, hope, and compassion and understanding for those who are less fortunate (not always referring to a socio-economic situation).
In 2006, Dad decided to begin pursuing the production of a tee-shirt logo promoting the abolition of discrimination. A few months ago he successfully copyrighted his saying, "One Race, The Human Race". He is now promoting from a grass-roots level his anti-discrimination campaign with his tee-shirt design, "One Race, The Human Race". His tee-shirts come in a variety of colors and sizes. They are $17 for adults and $14 for children. If you'd like one, just give Big Jim a call at 406-280-0168. (or you can just leave contact information here on my blog & we'll get one out to you).