Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Sheltering Aroma

“Christ shield me this day: Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every person who thinks of me, Christ in the eye that sees me, Christ in the ear that hears me” (from “The Breastplate of St. Patrick”).


I love anything scented -- Yankee Vineyard candles, Ralph Lauren perfume, Mrs. Meyer's Lemon Verbena cleaner, Baby Magic.  This week my house smelled like fall -- a fragrant mixture of apples, cinnamon and cloves.  I had apple butter simmering in the crock pot.  The aroma filled my home and made me smile.

Paul said, "For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing" (2 Corinthians 2:15).

I had a father once tell me that he didn't like me to hold his son because he smelled like a girl afterwards. Hmmm.  I want the aroma of Christ to so fill every pore of my being that everyone nearby smells like Him.   And long after I leave their presence, the bouquet of Christ -- His sinless life, His willing death, and His living joy -- will linger to draw hearts and make them hungry to know Him.

So often the stench of gossip wrapped in concern, the foul odor of discontent,  the reek of self-importance, the lingering stink of a judgmental attitude, or the deadly fumes of sarcasm permeate the air -- how many times do others leave my presence, holding the nose of their hearts?  It's a daily choice.  I want to leave the scent of holiness, of purity, and mercy and grace -- to leave behind the joy of a blessing, to offer ready forgiveness, to embrace the sinner, even if I am repulsed by the sin, and fill my heart so full of the love of Christ that it seeps through every pore of my soul.

What aroma are you leaving behind? It's impossible to shelter without the aroma of Christ. This song is my prayer -- "Let your sweet aroma fill my life."



Lily of the Valley, let your sweet aroma fill my life.
Rose of Sharon, show me how to grow in beauty in God's sight.
Fairest of ten thousand, make me a reflection of your light.
Daystar shine down on me; let your love shine through me in the night.

Lead me, Lord, I'll follow anywhere you open up the door.
Let your word speak to me; show me what I've never seen before.
Lord, I want to be your witness; You can take what's wrong and make it right.
Daystar shine down on me; let your love shine through me in the night.

* * * * *

Easy and Aromatic Apple Butter

2 large jars applesauce -- one sweetened and one no-sugar-added.
2 cups apple cider

Cook in a crockpot for 12 hours or until spreading consistency. 

You may add 2 cups of sugar or honey, but I didn't want the extra sugar and we also like a bit of tartness to it. 

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Thankfulness 101

Gratitude takes three forms: a feeling in the heart, an expression in words, and a giving in return.
~ John Wanamaker ~

Connie was attending college in my sister’s hometown. When spring break came and Connie was unable to fly home to Montana to visit her family, Ray and Melodie quickly stepped in and opened their home for the week. Melodie is a hostess queen, and this week found her at her best. She designed each meal with the precision of a surgeon planning a delicate surgery. Along with cooking and baking, she used all her creative ideas for setting a beautiful table. Fresh flowers tucked in the napkin rings added elegance to one meal. Tiny flickering candles in salt dishes at every place setting seasoned another dining experience. Sparkling iced tea with mint leaves, cloth napkins folded like swans, and tiny hearts cut out of butter pats were only a few additional beautiful “blessings” she provided that week.


My namesake aka Pam
After the first couple meals, Ray noticed an obvious trend. Connie never said thank you—not for the beautifully set tables or for the delicious food. Determined to remind her that thanks were in order, Ray began an exaggerated plan of attack. “Thank you, Melodie, this is the best baked corn you’ve ever made.” “The table is beautiful, Melodie. I feel like we’re dining at the White House tonight.” On and on he praised without a single word of thanks from Connie. What DID happen was that two-year-old Pammy began lisping, “Tank-oo, mommy, thith ith good food!” and “I wike the pettie table.”

The Bible tells many wonderful stories of people who showed their gratitude by saying a simple “thank you.” David showed gratitude to his friend Jonathan’s memory by treating his son with kindness. Abigail showed gratitude to David in spite of her dysfunctional home life. Ruth thanked Boaz for allowing her to gather grain in his fields. And we all know how that turned out—she was rewarded with a
                                                                       husband!

Giving thanks—what makes it so difficult for some and easy for others? Thanksgiving is a learned virtue. Without using words, my mother trained me to show thankfulness. Handing out appreciation seemed as natural to her as breathing—wrapping up cinnamon rolls for a teacher who spent extra time to teach me a concept, penning a thank-you note to someone who had given an effective presentation, or using her china at an “everyday” meal for an “I’m grateful for you” statement. She may not have sat me down for a lesson on thanksgiving, but her expressions of thankfulness to others as a daily discipline taught me invaluable lessons.

G. B. Stern said, “Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.” You may feel thankful, but unshared thankfulness is useless to others.

Here are some easy ways to get started “speaking” your thanks.

Under Granddad's name is Philippians 1:3
I thank my God every time I remember you.
1.  According to an old Chinese proverb, “When you eat bamboo shoots, remember who planted them.” The same goes for, “When you eat a great steak, remember who grilled it.” Scribble a note of thanks on a napkin and send it to the chef via your server.

1.  You may or may not agree with the current war, but remember the soldiers who risk their lives daily to preserve our peace and freedom. Operation Gratitude is a volunteer, non-profit organization that wishes to show our soldiers gratitude. Through letter-writing and care packages you can show your appreciation and gratitude to the men and women of the U.S. Military. There are so many ways available to give: financial, knitting and crocheting scarfs, recycling cell phones and ink cartridges, etc.

3.  When praising others, let’s not forget the importance of praising God. Mary is our example in showing gratitude to Him.
“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant" (Luke 1:46-48).

Saint Teresa of Avila said, “In all things discern the providence and wisdom of God, and in all things give Him thanks.”

Wonderful things transpire when we show gratitude to God. When Jehoshaphat heard that the people of Moab, Ammon, and a great multitude of others were coming to battle against Judah, he used praise as his weapon. Singers went before the army and praised him in the beauty of holiness. “Praise the Lord,” they sang. “Praise the Lord for His mercy endures forever.” What happened? Judah’s enemies killed each other!

Have you heard the proverb, “Little pitchers have big ears?” The listening ability of your children is off the charts—they understand far more than you give them credit for. You may be guilty of holding conversations that you wish they had not overheard. But when you hand out thanks—whether to the receptionist at the pediatric care center or to the woman who slices your lunch meat at the local deli—your children are listening and learning. Here are a few ways you can include them and help them grow into a grateful way of life:

1. Begin a Family Gratitude Journal or Online Blog

Charles E. Jefferson said, “Gratitude is born in the hearts of those who take time to count up past mercies.” Robert A. Emmons and Michael E. McCullough conducted three studies and found that the participants who kept a gratitude journal had greater emotional energy and subjective well being. Keeping a journal is simple. Choose a time, once a week, after dinner as “Gratitude Time.” A simple notebook will do. Allow the children to print “thank you” in colored markers all over the cover. Or go to www.dictionary.com and translate “thank you” into different languages to print on the cover. Record your family’s gratitude list in the notebook. Once a month go back and read through the lists.

2. Start Your Day with a Praise Verse

The Psalms are full of praises to God. Read one to your family at breakfast. You’ll be amazed how starting the day with thankfulness will bring joy and peace all day long. It’s hard to grumble over top of, “I love you, O Lord, my strength" (Psalm 18:1/NAB).  Write the day’s praise verse on an index card to carry with you throughout the day, or place it in a prominent place where you can see it as you perform the day’s duties.

3. Use “Gratitude Baskets” for Each Member of the Family

Hang a basket on the door of each family member’s bedroom. These baskets are to hold “thank you jots” of family gratitude. Did your son take time to play a game with his younger sister? Take time to jot a quick thank you and place it in his basket. Did your daughter bring you a bouquet of fallen leaves?  Put a “thank you jot” in her basket—even if someone has to help her read it. Don’t forget to hang a basket for Mom and Dad—your children will soon be filling it with thanks—and you’ll be training a new generation of grateful adults-to-be.

How will you keep your heart thankful in this ungrateful world? William Ward said, "God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say thank you?" A heart dries up without thankfulness soon becomes hard with selfishness. There is a remedy to a hard heart. Verbalize one thankful gift each day. Soon your heart will begin to swell like a hard sponge put in water.

Don't be afraid of using too much thankfulness -- the sponge of your heart holds plenty.  And if it runs over?  That's okay, too.  A heart running over with thanksgiving spills into the hearts of others -- Thankfulness begets thankfulness.

* * * * *

Saying Thanks with a Pumpkin Roll

Last night as I was drifting off to sleep, God showed me a friend I needed to thank. Carisa is so unselfish in her giving.  And she does it in a totally unassuming way.  I've often sat under her sheltering tree. Within seconds, I knew how I might be able to bless Carisa.  While I cook in a rather haphazard kind of way (dumping and adding pinches), Carisa cooks recipes she has improved upon until perfect -- a rather intimidating factor contributing to why her food always tastes better than mine. A
pumpkin roll is one thing she doesn't make, but her family loves, so it was an easy choice.

When God was speaking to me, I actually responded out loud to Him to keep myself accountable -- and to help me remember. I often forget what I'm thinking as I drift off to sleep.  I've written brilliant books in my mind but in the morning don't even recall the topic.  God made sure I wouldn't forget.  I dreamed about Carisa last night and it wasn't good.  While backing out of a parking space, I couldn't get my foot on the brake.  As I struggled, I backed over one of their brand new pups.  Carisa was standing by the door sobbing.  I went into her house, only to find her grandmother lying on the couch, sobbing.  It was so horrible; no wonder I woke up shaking.  I was so afraid I would re-dream it that I struggled to stay awake the remainder of the night. Sure wish I could figure out a better way to retain my midnight thoughts!


Pumpkin Roll Recipe
This recipe looks a lot harder than it actually is.  Don't be afraid to try it.  

Cake:

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup pumpkin

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease and flour a 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan. Sprinkle towel with 1/4 cup powdered sugar.
2.  Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in small bowl. Beat eggs and sugar in large mixer bowl until thick. Beat in pumpkin. Stir in flour mixture. Spread evenly into prepared pan.   
3.  Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched. Immediately loosen and turn cake onto prepared towel.  Roll up cake and towel together, starting with narrow end. Cool on wire rack.
Filling:

6 ounces creamed cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
4 tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla
1.  Beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter and vanilla extract in small mixer bowl until smooth. 
2.  Carefully unroll cake; remove towel. Spread cream cheese mixture over cake. Reroll cake.  

Icing:

1/4 cup brown sugar
4 tbsp butter
Powdered sugar to make icing consistency. 
Chopped pecans

1.  Combine sugar and brown sugar.  Slowly heat to boiling. Cool.
2.  Add powdered sugar and beat until smooth.
3.  Pour over roll and sprinkle with pecans.
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