Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sheltering Sweetness

God never made a promise too good to be true.  
~Dwight Moody

I'm moving to Switzerland!  Do you know that Swiss eat twenty-four pounds of chocolate a year?  (Over twice as much as the eleven pounds average we Americans consume)  I've found a few people who don't like chocolate, but I seriously question their sanity.  I also have a friend who cannot eat chocolate because of a severe allergy to it -- I feel sorry for her.

God's Word is likened to food:

Milk:  Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation (1 Peter 2:2).

Honey:  The laws of the Lord are true...they are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb (Psalm 19:9-10).

Bread: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).

Meat: But strong meat belongs to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil (Hebrews 5:14).

Like the milk and graham crackers I eat before bed, the honey in my granola, hot rolls straight from the oven or a juicy steak from the grill, the Word of God nourishes my soul.  

When I read of:  
  • The story of creation, how God created the giraffe with the long neck, the bunny with the twitchy nose and the elephant with its long trunk, I rejoice in God's creativity -- knowing He also placed creativity in me. The spiritual milk of the Word allows me to dip into its uniqueness daily.
  • The widow making her last cake for Elisha, resulting in a continual supply of flour and oil, I rejoice in God's provision -- knowing He will provide for me, too. The honey of the Word sweetens life for me.
  • The punishment of Achan and his family for hiding the spoils of war in his tent, I rejoice in God's discipline -- knowing when I stray He will discipline me. The meat of good and evil keeps me  from believing the lies of Satan.
  • The Sermon on the Mount, complete with the beatitudes, I rejoice in God's instructions to me -- knowing His guidance will help me go deeper in my walk with God.  The bread of God's teachings makes me hunger for more.
But where's the chocolate?  Sure milk, honey, meat and bread are enjoyable. But sometimes after a meal I just need a little something else.  Something decadent.  Something chocolate!  My mother makes a chocolate cheese cake with a raspberry sauce.  My daughter, Melanie, makes peanut butter cookies studded with semi-sweet chocolate chips. As I write this, Emily is making chocolate macaroons.  We stayed with a friend in Virginia a couple nights ago, and I found a bag of Russell Stover's sugar-free chocolates on my bed.  Just writing about chocolate makes me crave it!  

Likewise when I'm reading God's Word I crave a bit of chocolate.  I crave the promises. 2 Peter 1:4 tells us, He has given us his very great and precious promises.  See, God knew we need some chocolate -- chocolate promises. Someone once said, "I don't drown my problems; I suffocate them with chocolate." I like to drown mine in the promises of God.

God's promises are sprinkled throughout the Bible.  
  • The promise of comfort:  God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1).
  • The promise of courage:  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak (Isaiah 40:29).
  • The promise of faithfulness: Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands (Deuteronomy 7:9).
  • The promise of guidance: I will instruct you and teach you in
  •  the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you (Psalm 32:8).
  • The promise of joy: But I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy (John 16:22).
  • The promise of answered prayer:  Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear (Isa.65:24).
  • The promise of salvation: If we confess our sins, He is Faithful and Just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John  1:9).
  • The promise of God's presence: And surely I am with you always to the  very end of the age (Matt. 28:20).

How I wish I could list all the promises in the Bible. It's like carefully picking a chocolate out of a box. I go for the chocolate covered cherries first then something with coconut or caramel. When I pick a chocolate out of God's Word I go for the promise I need for the moment.  
  • When I am facing a difficult decision I choose: To the man who please Him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness (Eccl.2:26).  
  • When life seems a bit frustrating I reach in and select: Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee; He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved  (Psalm 55:22).  
  • When the weight of unsaved loved ones is heavy on my heart I find: The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness, but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
I'm so thankful for the promises of God -- given out of a heart of love. I don't want to be remiss in eating the milk, honey, bread and meat of His words, but I also want my dessert -- the chocolate of God's promises. 

If you are feeling faint from lack of nourishment, feed on the Word of God. Pray the promise of Isaiah 35: Father, I haven't been faithful to your word. You promised that in my spiritual drought waters will break forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. That my scorched land will become a pool, and (my) thirsty ground springs of water. Amen. This promise is like taking a bite of Swiss Chocolate!

* * * * *

Chocolate Macaroons

There's nothing better than a good friend, 
except a good friend with chocolate. 
 ~Linda Grayson 

I have a friend who graciously shared some items we needed for the 2011 senior reception.  Emily wanted to make her a thank-you.  Carisa is an excellent kitchen queen -- and we are always willing participants in the tasting department whether it is fresh jams, melt-in-your-mouth caramels, beautifully decorated cakes or hearty soups.  So when I saw this book (pictured below) 70% off at Cracker Barrel it was calling her name.  Emily made the Chocolate Macaroons to gift with it.  

You'll love this book!
4 oz bittersweet chocolate
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups ground almonds
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 egg whites

  • Preheat oven to 360 degrees
  • Melt chocolate
  • Stir in remaining ingredients and beat for 2 minutes
  • Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper
  • Place tablespoons of mixture 3" apart
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes
  • Cool on wire rack
  • Decorate by piping white chocolate on cookies

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sheltering through Planting

We do not “create” (our child's) character; rather, we teach and model to them what character is. Our training is cultivation, preparing an honest and good heart, so the seeds of God’s truth, when they fall there, will take root and grow, producing Christ-like character. ~Clay Clarkson

RB's parents always had a large garden.  One year, the man who was preparing the garden for planting had  turnip seeds in his shirt pocket.  Every time he would lean over, a few seeds would fall out.  They  grew a huge crop of turnips that year -- much to RB's dismay.  His mother "hid" them in everything -- changing even the texture and taste of their mashed potatoes.

God's Word tells us, "If they plant to satisfy their sinful selves, their sinful selves will bring them ruin.  But if they plant to please the Spirit, they will receive eternal life from the Spirit" (Galatians 6:8).

Ruth Graham, daughter of Billy Graham, has a new book coming out in August:   I'm eager to purchase it for Melanie.  Step Into the Bible: 100 Family Devotions to Help Grow Your Child's Faith.  This is an updated version of an earlier edition.
100 Bible Stories Retold For Family Devotions In just ten minutes a day, your family can journey through an engaging Bible story and discover the richness of a faith-filled life! Based on a collection of biblical stories used by four generations of the Graham family, this updated edition of Ruth Graham's devotional is fresh and colorful, perfect for children ages eight and under. You and your family will be encouraged as you step into the Bible together. 100 ten-minute Bible readings for manageable family devotions of Full-color photography and artwork.  Open-ended questions that inspire imagination and exploration. Short, accessible memory verses that help build spiritual character and knowledge.
It's especially important that parents sow good character traits in their children while they are young.  Our Ethan was in first grade this year.  One morning Melanie got him up a few minutes late.  Hurrying him through his breakfast, she urged him to get in the van.  "But I didn't have my devotions," Ethan said, distraught over the thought of going to school without them.

That warmed this Mawmaw's heart.  The seeds Shawn and Melanie are planting in their children will cause them to grow into strong, sturdy Christians.  When we sow Biblical principles of quick obedience, cheerfulness, honesty and kindness, that is what will flower in their lives.

Home Life Ministries has an interactive list of character traits.  Each trait is clickable and takes you to materials to teach the trait to your child through story, definition and activities.

Another recourse that I would like to suggest is Family Life Today's While They Are Sleeping: 12 Character Traits to Pray for the Children You Love.
While They Are Sleeping leads you as you lift your kids to God around twelve vital character traits:
  • Five days of prayer and Scripture for each trait
  • Guided personal prompts for your individual child's needs
  • Related ideas for connecting with your child
  • "Live it Out" application suggestions for your family
With over 100,000 distributed globally, While They Are Sleeping has equipped parents around the world to connect with the One who loves their children most—requesting His transformative power. Because He can change them, completing the good work He's begun, some of your kids' greatest life change may begin while they're sound asleep.
Oh, planting is fun.  It's a responsibility, too.  The best way we can teach Biblical character traits to our children is to live them out before them.  If we model generosity, our children will learn to be generous.  When we are diligent about our duties, our children will learn diligence.  What seeds do we have in our pockets?  You can be sure, whatever we are planting, that's what we will sow.  Plant to please the Spirit -- then you will receive eternal life.

* * * * *

Auntie Em wanted a fun project for the kids.  She will be living in Indianapolis and working in a daycare for the summer and knew her time with her favorite "little people" would be scarce.  She found kits at Michaels ($1.99) for decorating flowerpots.  They had so much fun painting their papers, planting the flowers and making a plant poke for each one.

Can you think of a young child who would enjoy this project?  I think it would be fun to help a child make one, then take the flowers to an elderly woman who is missing all the flowers  she used to plant.

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