Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Flavor of the Month - Chocolate Almond Biscotti with Nutella Glaze

Bake at 350

I'm so happy to be able to participate in Bake at 350’s Flavor of the Month for December. The theme for this month is one of my favorite food groups: cookies. I decided to make something that’s not too sweet, given that I’ve gorged myself on Christmas cookies for the last few weeks.

I just love a good biscotti, and these are delicious. Not too hard and crunchy like you’d get at the grocery store, but still a little chewy and moist. Be sure to stop over at Bake at 350 and check out Bridget’s recipe for delicious and beautiful gingerbread cookies and all the other blogs’ yummy cookie recipes.

Chocolate Almond Biscotti with Nutella Glaze

1 cup chopped almonds
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) margarine or butter, softened
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
all-purpose flour
Nutella Glaze

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Put almonds on a cookie sheet and bake until lightly browned, about 4-5 minutes. Let cool.

2. In a large bowl, combine sugar, cocoa, margarine, baking powder, almond and vanilla extracts, baking soda, salt, eggs and 1 cup of flour.

3. With a large wooden spoon, stir in almonds and ¼ cup flour.

4. Grease a cookie sheet. Divide dough in half. On a lightly floured surface with floured hands, shape each half of dough into an 8 in. x 2 ½ in. loaf. Place both loaves, about 3 inches apart, on cookie sheet. Bake 35 to 40 minutes until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean.

5. Remove cookie sheet from oven; allow loaves to cool 10 minutes for easier slicing. With serrated knife, cut loaves crosswise into ½-inch thick slices. Arrange slices, cut side down, on same cookie sheet, making sure they do not touch. Return to oven and bake cookies 5 minutes longer. Remove cookies to wire racks to cool.

Now, you can leave the biscotti as it is, or add the Nutella Glaze. So much for less sugar.

Nutella Glaze

In a small bowl, whisk together ¼ cup Nutella, ¼ cup powdered sugar and 3 tablespoons boiling water until smooth. Lay biscotti on a parchment- or foil-lined cookie sheet and drizzle glaze over cookies with fork or dip 1 end of each cookie in glaze. Dry at room temperature for at least 1 hour. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Yeah, right. They wouldn’t (and didn't!) last half that long in my house.  And if you really want the full Nutella-biscotti flavor sensation, open a jar of Nutella and full on dunk those biscotti.  Enjoy my friends.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

His Indelible Love

I walked into a room in our house where the t.v. had been left on and playing on that channel was one of those shows about tattoo artists and I got sucked into watching it pretty fast. Not my usual thing, but it was interesting.

A man came into the tattoo parlor with some pictures and a story behind the tattoo he wanted inked over his heart. It seems when he was very young, he and his dad were flying in a small plane and as a strong wind kicked up, the plane’s tail went up and the nose went down, threatening both of their lives.

His dad’s instinct was to save his son. He used his own body as a shield between the life of his child and the ground they screamed toward below. His dad made the ultimate sacrifice with his very life.

The man had brought in a newspaper clipping with a picture of the plane crash and a picture of his dad holding him when he was a baby. His request was to have a collage of sorts with the picture of the two of them and the date that his dad saved his life permanently memorialized over his heart as a reminder of his dad and the gift of life he had given to him that day.

More than once the man remarked that he was indeed special to have received that kind of gift. Only a precious few have faced death and have been loved enough by someone that they willingly gave their life for their loved one’s. The joy on his face at being loved that much by his father was palpable.

How could the analogy have been made any more plain?

Jesus Christ came to give His own life to act as a shield between our souls and hell. He placed Himself in harm’s way, giving His very life to pay for our sins so that we wouldn’t have to face punishment for them ourselves.

If we’ve put our faith in Jesus Christ, not only have we been given a second chance in this life, but we’ve been given the gift of eternal life.

How incredibly special is that?

Just think of the magnitude of God’s love for you - that He sent His only Son to die for you. And what’s more, God kept loving you until you were brought to the place of repentance and faith in Him and you became His child.

If we daily remember how privileged we are to be loved so much that Jesus Christ willingly gave His very life for us, then we, too, will beam with joy at the very precious gift we’ve been given.

Now I’m not saying we should have that sentiment indelibly inked onto our bodies, but we can have the joyful remembrance that His love will always be written on our hearts.

“No one has greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Littlest King

In the near center of the Old Testament, highlighted for all to see, are prophetic words made plain regarding the coming Savior of the world. Some 740 years before His glory would illuminate a simple stable and the darkness that covered our lands, Isaiah’s words shined a light on the character of the One to come, the One given to save us from our sins.

Who is this Savior that was foretold centuries before His birth? Who is this babe, sent from heaven, Whom we celebrate on Christmas day? Was He only a harmless baby, perpetually remaining in our minds that iconic figure wrapped in swaddling clothes?

Or was He God’s own Son, given to us to walk where we walk, to live among us, to example to us true love and servitude to the Father? Was He the great I AM, come down from the Father to live, and then die for the remission of our sins? Was He the King of kings Whose reign on the supreme throne will never cease?

Will we only admire His likeness in nativity scenes during Christmastime, or will we worship Him as Lord, in spirit and in truth, all the days of our lives?

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given;
He would come to us not in the pretension of a king, but in the humble form of a babe;

And the government will be upon His shoulder.
All authority and power will be His. And indeed He purchased His kingdom by bearing upon his shoulders the instrument by which His life was given for ours;

And His name will be called Wonderful,
He is a miracle given for the redemption of all mankind;

Our all-knowing Advisor Who willingly gives wisdom to whomever asks it of Him;

Mighty God,
He is not only human, but He is God incarnate;

Everlasting Father,
He is our Abba-Daddy Who will forever keep us in His care;

Prince of Peace.
He is the Ruler of our souls, able to impart His peace no matter the circumstances that swirl around us;

Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end,
His eternal kingdom, unlike any other, will protect its inhabitants that they may live in harmony forever;

Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever.
This Child Who would be born in the line of David will take His rightful place on the throne and will reign forever;

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
Our God’s great passions for His people, for you and for me, will cause all things to come together to bring about His will, and nothing on earth or under the earth will thwart His perfect plan from coming to its ultimate and grand fruition.

(Isaiah 9:6-7) Italics mine.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday Foodie - Chocolate Peppermint Pretzels

This recipe is one of my most favorite at Christmastime. I could eat my weight in them, and I almost have. They take just a bit of practice, but oh...they are so worth it.

Hoping you’re having a joyful Christmas holiday!

Chocolate Peppermint Pretzels

1 cup powdered sugar
½ cup margarine or butter, softened
½ cup shortening
1 egg
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
2 ½ cups flour
½ cup cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
Chocolate Glaze
¼ cup crushed peppermint candy
(Seal the candy in a freezer bag and smash them with a rolling pin.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix together powdered sugar, margarine or butter, shortening, egg and vanilla.

Stir in flour, cocoa and salt.

To make the cookie: take about a tablespoon of dough and knead it in your hands a couple of times to make it smooth. Roll the dough into 9-inch ropes on a very lightly floured board (like the back of a cutting board). Don’t let them get too thin or they can break when it’s time to dip them in the chocolate glaze.

Take each end and criss-cross them to the other side to form a pretzel-like shape.

Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet, about an inch apart, at 375 degrees for 9 minutes. Let cool, and make the Chocolate Glaze.

Jesus is watching over my cookies while Mary and Joseph watch over Him.

Chocolate Glaze

2 1-oz. squares of unsweetened baking chocolate
2 tablespoons margarine or butter
2 cups powdered sugar

Heat unsweetened chocolate and margarine or butter over low heat or in the microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute increments at a time, just until melted. Remove from heat. Beat in the powdered sugar and 3 to 4 tablespoons water until smooth and of chocolate sauce-like consistently. I make mind a little on the thin side. It’s much easier to dip the cookies that way.

Dip the tops of the cookies in the glaze, a few at a time. Once you have a few cookies dipped, sprinkle with the crushed peppermint candy while the glaze is still wet so the candy will stick.

Let the glaze dry, if you can wait that long, and enjoy.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Are you finding that perfect gift?

We go to amazing lengths to find just the right gifts for our children, our spouses, our parents, and that friend who you really, really want to buy something for, but have no idea what, don’t we?

We scour the ads in the Sunday papers and compare prices. We hunt online, clickity-clicking away till our eyes are bloodshot. We spend hours shopping and braving the crowds and exhaustion, while living on nothing but chips and a 44 oz. thirstbuster on the go. If we remember we throw in a banana to keep our legs from seizing up on us.

And finally, maybe a couple of days before Christmas, we think we’ve found the perfect gifts. We carefully wrap them with the most appropriate paper for each recipient. We thoughtfully word a pretty Christmas card or label a tag and attach it. We put them under the tree or mail them (hopefully on time, and that may mean standing in a long line at the post office).

All that’s done, hopefully, with a heart of love. Sometimes out of obligation, but the amount of work is the same.

I wonder if we spend that much energy seeking the perfect gifts that come from our Heavenly Father?

James tells us in James 1:7 that, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”

The interesting thing I found is, the two words “gift” are two different Greek words.

“Good gift” is talking about the act of giving. God gives us what will benefit us, and never out of obligation.

“Perfect gift” is talking about a complete bestowment. God gives us gifts of completeness, in other words, spiritual growth that leads to maturity. Yes, that includes trials.

And God gives us gifts that allow us to be useful in the kingdom of God.

Do we seek after these gifts with as much fervor? Do we ask the Lord to give us power to use our gifts to bless others? I pray we do.

Our Father, our provider, loves us so much that He will give us everything we need for a good life so that we are able to grow up in Him, never lacking a thing. And He is not a fickle God. He never changes, but His goodness and light are as bright as always and ever shall be. We can have confidence in Him and in the gifts He has and will provide for us.

They will sometimes be wrapped in a pretty package that fills us with delight and smiles. And sometimes they’ll be wrapped in pain or sorrow instead of a happy bow, but they are always wrapped in His goodness and faithfulness and love. And they will always fill us with joy if we seek to know the perfect gift within.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Foodie - Chocolate Mint Snow-Top Cookies

So many Christmas cookies, so little time. Today's cookie is a really easy and delicious recipe. It calls for mint-flavored chocolate chips. I couldn't find those exactly, but I did find a bag of Nestle mixed mint chips and dark chocolate chips in the Christmas baking section of the grocery store. You could just use regular semi-sweet chocolate chips, though, if you can’t find the mint.

Next week: get ready to roll!

I hope you’re enjoying your holidays and remembering what’s most important: sweets.

Ha! Just kidding, of course.  It's the celebration of the birth of our precious Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Chocolate Mint Snow-Top Cookies

1 ½ cups flour
1 ½ t baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 10-oz package mint flavored semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
confectioner’s sugar

1. Combine flour, baking powder and salt, set aside. Melt 1 cup of the chocolate chips. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add melted chocolate chips and vanilla, beat in eggs.

2. Add flour mixture and remaining ½ cup chips. Wrap dough in plastic wrap; freeze until firm, about 20 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Shape dough into 1-inch balls; coat with confectioner’s sugar. (You might want to make a batch of the cookie balls, then roll them all in the confectioner’s sugar all at once to keep from getting a lot of the sugar in the cookie dough.)

4. Place on ungreased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake 10-12 minutes.

Makes about 36 cookies.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Love Came Down At Christmas

Hi friends,
Still looking for some Christmas gifts?  Well, look no more!  Halas & Phos online Christian store has lots of great Christian apparel and gifts and you don't even have to trudge through the crowds or the snow!

They've also just put out their December newsletter which has wonderful words of hope for all of us during the Christmas season, and all year long.   You can read their archived newsletters here, and sign up to receive them by email here.  Included is always a devotion, and the great sales that are available and any product news. 
Also, check out their December press release, Don't just wear your Christian Apparel - LIVE IT!

“Love came down at Christmas.”

These words have made their way to the forefront of my mind more than a few times in the last couple of weeks

The eternal God, the great I Am, Who had no beginning and has no end, Who is all-sufficient unto Himself, Who created all things great and small, sent to us His only Son, Whom He loves with an inconceivable love, in the form of a tiny, soft, cuddly baby boy.

Love was encased in a manger that morning.

As his mother and step-father stared breathlessly into the face of their brand new, precious little gift as all parents do, they were privileged to look into eyes swimming with love. They held love, wrapped in a blanket, and waited for him to demonstrate to them, and to all of us, the true meaning of love.

(Read the rest on the Halas and Phos devotional page here.)

Blessings to you!

Monday, December 7, 2009

In What Is Your Hope?

As much as the holidays are meant to be a time of rejoicing, there are many who find themselves feeling hopeless at this time of year. When we think of Christmas, we think of getting together with family and buying lots of presents. But many are instead grieving the loss of a family member, or maybe there’s no family at all with which to celebrate. Many are struggling to find a job again and don’t know where they’re going to find the money to buy gifts.

Instead of being a time of rejoicing, Christmastime can actually magnify those problems. It can be easy to focus on what we don’t have and let ourselves feel empty. But if you have Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are not empty.

Your portion is the Lord.

“‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, therefore I hope in Him!” (Lam 3:24)

From all the things you could have in the world, you have the choicest allotment. Your portion is not paltry, it is not less than, it is not weak.

When our portion is the Lord, and when we delight in our portion, we are most blessed.

He is a perfect Father and a loving friend Who never leaves us.  He has removed our transgressions and has prepared a home for us with Him.  He has indwelt us with His Holy Spirit to lead us, to minister to us, to counsel us and to mature us in Him.  He is a God Who cares about every detail of our lives and hears us when we pray.  So pray boldly!

And the hope that we have in Him is not an empty hope, it is an expectant and patient waiting, knowing that our Lord has the power to do as He wills in our lives and knowing that He loves us with an everlasting love.

No matter what’s going on today, put your hope in God. Not in that next interview, not in that next paycheck, not in your family or friends. Those things can disappoint us.

But set your eyes on your portion – Jesus Christ. His power and His love are limitless and in Him, so is our hope. Bring all your worries and cares and concerns to Him and wait, with hope, in His sovereign will.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with Whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” (James 1:17)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

We Are His Artistry

Would a painter apply color without a vision?

Would a composer group notes without clairaudience?

Would a culinarian bake without a measured purpose?

Would an architect erect a structure without a blueprint?

Would a gardener plant a garden without first designing its purpose?

How much more would the Creator of all things give you life with a divine dream, breath with a purposeful plan, soul and spirit with an amazing ambition?

Only He holds the key, only He has seen the vision and only He has the power to accomplish what He has purposed...if we will only put our faith in Him.

His vision?

"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

For whom He foreknew, He also predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son, for Him to be the First-born among many brothers.

But whom He predestinated, these He also called; and whom He called, those He also justified. And whom He justified, these He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:28-31)

Monday, November 23, 2009

It's not called Turkeygiving.

I’ve always found it interesting that Thanksgiving comes just before Christmas. Before the busyness of the Christmas season, before the giving and receiving of gifts, before gathering in celebration with family and friends, before the warm remembrance of the humble birth of our Savior, our minds and hearts are moved toward giving thanks.

But as I visit the stores in the month before Thanksgiving, I see that it really is the forgotten holiday. Thanksgiving decorations are sparse, if at all. All I see from November 1st, and sometimes even before that, are glittered ornaments, Christmas trees, giant, fancy wreaths, and oh, I did see one nativity scene at Target.

But for Thanksgiving, there’s practically nothing. No framed copies of the Declaration of Independence, no cornucopias, no pilgrim salt and pepper shakers, no turkey-shaped candles. Okay, that last one might get a little weird looking as it burns down.

I guess there’s no profit in being thankful, or so the world believes. Sad, isn’t it? That the people who live in the freest country in the world have largely forgotten to give thanks for it?

Have we forgotten that Thanksgiving is about observing another birth: the birth of our nation, borne of the strength and courage and faith of men who had a vision to provide a nation unto God where people are free to worship and serve Him according to God’s will, rather than being mandated by a government of men?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m as thankful for my turkey and stuffing and gravy and the sweet potatoes with the little browned marshmallows on top as much as anyone else. But I do hope that we remember the bigger picture – that we live in a country where we have so much in abundance that we take for granted many things that in other countries are considered luxuries.

And yet Thanksgiving seems to be a mere quick stop over between Halloween and Christmas.   A time only to stuff our faces and take a nap.  When the food that is served has become so important that some people get bent out of shape if a certain "Thanksgiving" food isn't served.  It is about being thankful and we can be just as thankful having spaghetti and meatballs or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich as we can a full turkey dinner.  Sometimes even more so. 

I hope and pray we slow down this Thanksgiving and take a look around and really notice what, and who, and Whom we’ve been blessed with, and give thanks to God for all of it. I hope we cultivate hearts of thanks during this time and carry those thankful hearts into the Christmas season. And I hope we keep a sober pace as we move into Christmas and truly celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior.

Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
Know that the Lord, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.

Psalm 100

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Foodie - Whipped Cream

Ahhh!  This is my last Friday Foodie before the Thanksgiving celebration. I always laugh (okay, a slightly sarcastic laugh) at the amount of slaving that goes on in my kitchen for days on end - preparing, shopping, cutting, freezing, brining, peeling, boiling, roasting and baking - to host a proper Thanksgiving feast, only to have everyone sit down to dinner and within minutes everyone is already mopping up the last bit of gravy and has commenced to moaning about being so stuffed they’ll never eat again….until they remember the pumpkin pie. Which brings me to, in a round about way, today’s foodie.

It seems that everyone has their favorite recipes for the day, but I’d like to share one recipe that you may not have, and it’s only 3 ingredients.  It's smooth and creamy, light and airy, real honest-to-goodness whipped cream. So easy and truly makes the pumpkin pie. Or any pie. And if you like, sprinkle the dollops with a little cinnamon or nutmeg.

Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Prechill a high-sided bowl and beaters for an electric mixer. Pour all the ingredients in the bowl and whip just until it holds soft peaks. Use immediately, or store covered in the refrigerator. Make it the same day you’re going to use it, though, so it doesn’t break down and start to get watery. This will make approximately 2 cups whipped cream. Double or triple the recipe’s ingredients if needed.  Extra for eating right off a spoon is nice, too. 

So tell me, what are some of your favorite Thanksgiving foods?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Walking with Jesus, Not the World

One of my earliest memories is of going with my mother and sister to visit my mother’s friend at her house. All of us kids were relegated to playing in the basement while the two adults stayed upstairs to read tarot cards for one another. So what’s the big deal? It’s just a game, right? I also remember there being a Ouija board in the house. So what’s the big deal? It’s just a toy, right?

I won’t go into all that went on in our house as we grew up, but suffice it to say, God’s enemy did not see those things as mere toys, and because there were minds open to the spiritually dark world, there was spiritually dark activity in our house. As well as I know the peace and presence of God now, I knew the feeling of evil forces then. I have felt the overwhelming fear that comes with the presence of a demon and I know just how real it is.

I’m grateful that not everyone has had first-hand knowledge of such things, even more so those of you who have grown up in a home with parents who loved the Lord. The reality of the power of satan may be as real to you as living on the moon. But we are told throughout God’s Word that demons are as real as you and me. And not only that but we are warned in 1 Peter 5:8 to, “Be sensible and vigilant, because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking someone he may devour;”

And again, Ephesians 6:12 warns believers that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the world's rulers, of the darkness of this age, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

This is our battle and yet do we remember that in our day to day lives? This battle exists because there are two sides - for good and for evil, that are vying for how we walk, or don’t walk, in Christ and for our witness in Him.

Jesus tells us in John 10:10 that, “The thief does not come except to steal and to kill and to destroy.” The world is the enemies’ playground. He will use anything or anyone that is appealing to us to keep luring us into the things of the world that will then prevent us from living our lives uncompromisingly for the Lord.

So what are the enemies’ ways? He is a liar and a deceiver. As he did with Eve in the garden, he will whisper in our ears that this thing isn’t that bad, is it? And the enemy has no problem mixing in a little of the truth with the lie to make it more palatable to us. He will take his time, gradually introducing temptations and half-truths. And if we aren’t carefully discerning, we’ll take those compromises one by one until our conscience is seared and one day we look up and see that we have wandered far from the truth.

Isaiah 5:20 says, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil; who put darkness for light and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”

We may view some things that the world is offering up as no big deal, as mere entertainment, but does the enemy?  Does God?  With all the media outlets available to us right now, we are being absolutely bombarded with the world’s perspective and those things that God calls evil are being portrayed as good, and what God calls good is being slandered as evil. And the worst part? Even many who have called themselves Christians are living no differently than the unsaved in the world do. We have forgotten to be spiritually discerning. We have forgotten to walk in the Spirit. And because of that, many in the body of Christ are falling away – not from their salvation, but from living lives that glorify God. Many are eating, drinking and being merry, and forgetting that tomorrow they will die and stand before God.

And though we won’t be judged for our sins if we have received the forgiveness for them through the blood of Christ, we will face the bema seat of Christ – the judgment seat, for reward or loss according to what we have done in Christ. “For we must all appear before the judgment (bema) seat of Christ, so that each one may receive the things done through the body, according to that which he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)

Yes, God is infinitely more powerful than his adversary, but it is up to us who we give that power to in our lives. We have two choices: to continue to live and look like the world, or to live for the Lord.

“Therefore girding up the loins of your mind, being sober, perfectly hope for the grace being brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ, as obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance, but according to the Holy One who has called you, you also become holy in all conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’” 1 Peter 1:13-16

Jesus lived in the world but He was not of it. He didn’t allow the corruption in the world to change Him, but instead He changed the hearts and lives of those in the world. He was set apart for the work of His Father.

Now that we are in Christ, we are called to come out of the world to be a holy (set apart) people for the glory of God. Why? Because the ways of the world are not God’s ways, they are the enemies’ ways and they will hinder any spiritual growth and victory that we could experience in Jesus. James warned us, “Do you not know that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever desires to be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (James 4:4)

“But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” (Jude 1:17-20)

This world is full of people who mock the things of Christ and it may seem easier to blend in with the world, looking and sounding like them as Peter did while Jesus was being tried, than to be the object of their mockery.

But we are called to be a light in the darkness, illuminating Jesus Christ for the lost. Now is the time to put away the things of the world. Now is the time to redeem the days and live for Christ, doing all He has called us to do to run the race and not only to run, but to finish in victory.

Rather than living our lives as the unsaved do, without giving any thought to what we do or say or where we go, let us set aside those things that would stumble us or our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us give sober thought to those things that we allow into our lives, to their origins, to their creator, to their consequences. Let us be spiritually discerning instead of eating up whatever the world offers us.

I’m not at all speaking of legalism, but I am speaking of returning to our first love, Jesus Christ. Christ died for us because of love; we received Him because of love; are we now living for Him because of love?

There is so much to do before the whisper of our days is gone. Each day is given to us only once. How will we spend them?

God has given each of us in Christ gifts to use to build up the body and glorify God. Are we being good stewards of those gifts, or have we set them aside, along with our treasures in heaven, for the temporary junk of this life? None of us knows if we will have tomorrow to pick up our gifts again to bring glory to our Master. Perhaps we’ve tried to mix the ungodly things of the world with the truth of God.

If you look up today and find that things of the world have littered your way, or that you’ve wandered from the Lord altogether, be of good cheer.  You are only one prayer of repentance away.

Don’t forget the greatest purpose to which you were called: “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 12:30-31)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Gifting at Christmastime

Hello, bloggy friends.  With the holidays upon us, I'd like to share with you a couple of ways that you can help some precious children enjoy their Christmas a little bit more by blessing them with some basic items and toys that they would not otherwise have the ability to receive.

The first is Operation Christmas Child which is sponsered by Samaritan's Purse.  You can fill a shoebox with the needed items such as school supplies and hygiene items along with small toys and a personal note and then take it to a drop off location in your area.  You can find the instructions here.  The week to drop of your shoebox of smiles is November 16th - November 23rd.  So get a-crackin'!

The other organization I'd like to recommend to you is Compassion International.  Even if you don't normally sponsor a child through them, you can still contribute to their Christmas Gift Program.  100% of your donation will be pooled with all the monies collected and representatives will buy gifts for all the children in the child sponsorship program.  I couldn't find a deadline to give for this on their website, but they are obviously always in need of donations. 

Both of these organizations are based on giving in the name of Jesus Christ and are a wonderful way to not only share the joy of Jesus through giving, but it's also a great way to get our children and grandchildren involved in the joys of giving - and to remind us of those same joys.  

Let the giving begin!

God bless,

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Foodie - Turkey Brine

So I have two Friday Foodies before Thanksgiving and that’s not nearly enough time to share with you all my favorite Thanksgiving recipes. There’s my favorite Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, the dressing with dried cranberries, the buttery baked sweet potatoes with lightly browned marshmallows, of course, the green beans with toasted pecans, and then there’s the turkey. So since I can’t fit all that in in two weeks, I’ll give you two recipes that you may not have, the first being the secret to the juiciest, most flavorful turkey you’ve ever had: brine.

This is so easy and it makes a huge difference in the flavor the turkey. You can make it a couple of days before and have it ready, or even make it way ahead of time like I did and freeze it, and then thaw it out a couple of days before Thanksgiving.

Oh, I wish you could smell that. 

Turkey Brine

1 gallon water
3 tablespoons ground cloves
3 tablespoons ground ginger
7 tablespoons cracked black peppercorns
12 bay leaves
1 pound kosher salt
12 ounces honey
12 ounces maple syrup

1. In a large stockpot, bring the water, cloves, ginger, peppercorns, bay leaves and salt to a boil. Lower to a simmer and stir in the honey and maple syrup until well blended. Turn off heat and let cool to room temperature.

2. At this point you can freeze it, refrigerate it for a couple of days, or use it immediately.

3. Rinse off your turkey, inside and out, with cold water. (Don’t forget to remove those giblets.) Get a container that is large enough to fit your turkey and place it inside, and pour the cooled brine over it. If you need to, add water until the turkey is covered. You might need to place something on top as a weight, like a bowl, to keep the turkey immersed. We’ve used a bucket as the container before, but it has to be able to fit inside your fridge. Now what we do is use a cooler, fill it with super cold water, put the turkey in, and cover it with ice. That way we don’t have to use precious refrigerator space.

4. Marinate for 4 hours to overnight. Remove the turkey and rinse it very thoroughly, inside and out, and roast as usual.

If you’d rather skip the spices, honey and syrup, but still want to soak the turkey in a brine, you can simply cover the turkey with water and pour 2 cups of kosher salt or 1 ½ cups table salt over the turkey, rubbing the salt into the bird, leave to marinate, and rinse the turkey thoroughly before roasting.  You will love it. 

Let me know how it goes!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Monday, November 9, 2009

Fluke - the Dream

I had an odd dream the other day (yes, day). The kind you wake up from just knowing it had to mean something.

I lived in a tiny, mud shack in a village sometime a long time ago, perhaps in biblical times. I was going to meet a friend of mine and for some reason I had to climb out a window in order to get there – wherever there was. I peered out the window, which was no more than a square cut out of the middle of a wall, looking for wild animals that would be on the prowl. Gingerly climbing through the opening, I ran past the lions, not wanting to end up being someone’s lunch. That was easy enough.

I met my friend and by the looks of her costume - a long robe and head covering, it confirmed that we were indeed not in Kansas, Toto. We ran together and quickly climbed a ladder to the top of another mud shack, still fearing for our lives as lions and other large animals roamed about. She reached the top before I did, and was quickly covered in tiny, black bugs.

She lay at the top, murmuring something about the fact that even though we escaped the obvious danger of the larger animals, we hadn’t realized that these small bugs, that I somehow knew were called flukes, were just as dangerous. She died as she lay there, and as I stood there still perched on the ladder, I woke up.

Flukes. How did I know these things were called flukes? I’ve never even heard of a fluke.

So I got on the internet and looked it up and here’s what I learned:

1. a fluke is the part of an anchor that catches in the ground, especially the flat triangular piece at the end of each arm;

2. it is either half of the triangular tail of a whale;

3. it is a type of flatfish;

4. it is a trematode, which is a type of flatworm parasite that has suckers or hooks for attaching to host tissue;

5. it is a barbed head, as on an arrow or a harpoon;

6. it means a stroke of good luck.

So what does all that mean as far as my dream goes? While the black bugs that killed my nap-generated friend weren’t any of the things mentioned in the definition of fluke, they were small and benign-looking, yet had the ability to burrow their way into their victim.

The lions we were careful of; the little black bugs we had hardly noticed until it was too late.

Do we, as Christians, do the same thing? Do we look out for the “lions” that would harm us – the "big," obvious sins we should stay away from: murder, stealing…and then forget to watch out for the “little” sins that can take us over before we even realize it – unforgiveness, an attitude? If left unchecked and undealt with, those nasty, little parasites can burrow themselves into a spirit and begin killing it from the inside.

Let’s keep away from the lions, but let’s also remember to pick off the bugs before they have a chance to sink their hooks in.

Only You by The David Crowder Band

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Persecuted Church in China

Sunday, November 8, is this year's designated day for the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP).  Please remember to pray on that day for our persecuted, imprisoned and tortured brothers and sisters in Christ who are bravely and boldly standing for Christ throughout the world.  May we never take our freedoms for granted, and may we also pray for the Church in our own United States, that we will never fall under the category of a persecuted church, and if we do, may we be willing to stand strong in our faith in the One, True God, our Faithful Father and Lord Jesus Christ. 

The Body of Christ located in the People's Republic of China is possibly the most widely persecuted among nations.  More Christians are in prison or under detention in China than in any other country.  Churches have had to find refuge literally underground in order to continue to gather together in Jesus' Name.  The following are a few short stories of what Christians in China are enduring simply to continue in their faith.  Their steadfastness and even joy in the Lord in the face of such suffering makes me weep. 

Personal Prayer Request
As reported on The Voice of the Martyrs, on October 20th, Chen Le, who is a high school student in China was expelled from school for the sole reason that he would not renounce his faith in Christ.  His expulsion notice read as follows:

Chen Le, a 2nd grader from Class 8 of Senior High School, was found by Bazhou Public Security Agency and other related agencies to have engaged in Christian gatherings. His school was notified that it should educate the student and persuade him to mend his ways. However, efforts from the class advisor and some leaders from the school in educating him have all failed and this student persists in his belief that he should not renounce his Christian belief. He can’t promise that he will not believe in Christianity or attend Christian activities. He also claims that if the school wants him to write a statement of self-criticism and self-introspection of examining his error of attending religious activities as a high school student, he would rather not attend this school. Given the above situation, this school advises him to transfer to other related schools.

Chen Le signed a document admitting his faith in Jesus Christ, even though the expulsion means that he'll be barred from college entrance exams.  Please pray for Chen Le and for his family, and for our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout China.


In the darkness
I will cling
to my Master's robe

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Promised Land - Breaking Down Personal Strongholds

Series on The Promised Land

1. Send Out a Spy

As we saw last time, the first step to defeating the enemy of God’s people, as Moses had done, and then Joshua once he succeeded him, is by first sending out spies to determine how well they are fortified in the land.

Our personal enemies lie deep within our hearts and only one Man can go there. Only one Man has the vision to spy out that land, and He is the Holy Spirit. In fact, the Holy Spirit has always known your heart and is waiting for the appropriate moments to reveal to you the enemies that lurk within.

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart..” (Jeremiah 17:9-10a)

What are the enemies that can stand between a believer and his or her ability to enter into a promised land - a land where the believer is free to fully love God and be loved by Him; a land where nothing keeps the believer from following Him and serving Him in whatever way God calls him; a land that is free from the bondage of sin; a land that is flowing with the fruits of the Spirit that abound from your thriving and intimate walk with Him?

There are many enemies that we contend with in these weak vessels of ours. These are but a few:

“For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption by which we cry, Abba, Father!” (Romans 8:15)

“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5)

“But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.” (Colossians 3:8)

So what are the enemies of your heart? Has God revealed them to you? If you listen closely, He will tell you. God has been revealing my enemies to me. I’ve had a glimpse of them before, but I am getting closer to my Promised Land, and the Lord daily comes to me with increasingly detailed reports regarding my enemies. My enemies have lurked in this land almost all my life, and their strongholds have become very fortified over the years.

But they’ve seen that my Spy has revealed their existence, so their assaults have increased to try to entice me to attack them in the flesh – and I’ve tried that, and lost many battles. But the war is not over.

2. Choose to Retreat or Move Forward

Just as the Israelites believed that the enemy was too great for them to defeat, my carnal mind and my flesh see no way to drive these enemies out. But one Man says we can. Now, I have two choices: 1. I can follow the loud voices that say, “No, I can’t drive out those enemies, they are too strong and too fortified for me." And at this point, I can grumble, like the Israelites did, that it would be better if I had stayed in Egypt, otherwise known as the world apart from God; or 2. I can follow the one, still, small Voice, who says, “Yes, We are able to overcome it” and move forward.  Because I know the blessing is not in Egypt, but it is in walking with Christ, I’m going to follow that Voice and move forward in faith. Will you?

3. Enlist Troops

Once the enemies have been identified, the next step to waging war against them is to enlist troops. Troops in the army of God consist of our faithful brothers and sisters in Christ. God has formed us to be one body for many purposes, and one of those is so that we can support one another as we fight the enemy. Ask other believers to pray for you as you enter in to this very difficult process of bringing down your strongholds.

4. Cut Off the Enemy 

The next step to fighting the enemy is to cut off their supplies of food and weapons. One way that armies would do this is by constructing a wall around the city to be seiged.

The first city that was destroyed by the Israelites in their quest of taking the Promised Land was the city of Jericho. Do you remember the way they built a wall around the city of Jericho before they attacked it? It wasn’t a physical wall, but they surrounded the city with trumpet blasts both announcing their intent to battle and their resolution to victory, along with the Ark of the Covenant – the presence of God.

We will only see victory in the pulling down of our strongholds when we are walking with the Lord and being obedient to Him. The order to march around the city of Jericho once each day for six days while blasting on trumpets and then to march around seven times on the seventh day and then giving a loud shout must have seemed strange warfare indeed, both to the Israelites and to their enemies. God may also ask us to do something that to our reasoning minds may seem strange or even impossible.

For example, if your stronghold is fear, you can feed the fear by running from whatever God wants you to do that you’re afraid to, or you can cut off its food source by praying through the fear and asking God for the strength to follow through. If we’re obedient to what He calls us to do, He will be with us and the victory will be ours.

5. Wage War in the Power of God

Walk with the Lord through the process of breaking down your strongholds through prayer and reading His Word. Those strongholds have been built with lies and we need the truth in God’s Word to refute them.

Another suggestion I’d like to make is to fast for period of time.

“And He (Jesus) entering into a house, His disciples asked Him privately, ‘Why could we not cast him out?’ And He said to them, ‘This kind can come out by nothing except by prayer and fasting.’” (Mark 9:28-29)

Now, I realize that in these verses (which is just one scriptural reference to fasting among many) Jesus is talking about prayer and fasting in order to cast out a demon, and I am in no way suggesting that strongholds are demons, nor can a believer and follower of Jesus Christ be indwelt by a demon. Although I do believe satan loves it when we allow our strongholds to remain firmly in place. What I am saying is that there are times in our Christian walks when we are facing difficult decisions or impossible situations, such as the breaking down of strongholds, when we need to get alone with God and be still before Him. The type of fast and length of time is between you and the Lord. But when we use that time to focus our priorities and attentions on the Lord for the purpose of hearing from Him and allowing Him to do the work necessary in our hearts, we can become one in purpose with Him and His Spirit will be strengthened in our lives. 

If you are struggling with a stronghold and need someone to pray for you, please do not hesitate to email me by clicking on my little postcard over in the sidebar. I would consider it an honor.

God bless.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Flavor-of-the-Month - Pumpkin Pancakes with Warm Cider Syrup

Bake at 350

It’s fall! And this year Arizona is actually acting like it - for the time being at least. And so, with much appropriateness, Bridget from Bake at 350 has chosen pumpkin as the theme for this month’s Flavor-of-the-Month. Nothing says Thanksgiving is right around the corner like the spicy aroma and flavor of pumpkin.

So I decided to whip up something I’ve wanted to for a long time: Pumpkin Pancakes with Warm Cider Syrup. These are as light and fluffy as all get out. Tip: since the syrup needs to stand for 25-30 minutes after cooking, begin preparing it first, then start the pancakes while it’s simmering.

And don’t forget to click on over to Bridget’s Flavor-of-the-Month blog to check out her Pumpkin Woopie Pies and all the other pumpkiny treats.

Pumpkin Pancakes with Warm Cider Syrup

1 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup milk
½ cup canned pumpkin
2 slightly beaten egg yolks
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 egg whites

1. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. In another bowl, combine milk, pumpkin, yolks, and oil.

2. Add pumpkin mix to dry mix and stir just till combined.

3. In another bowl, beat egg whites till stiff. Fold into pumpkin mix.

4. Heat oil in a skillet till hot and drop pancake mix by 1/3 cupfuls, (or whatever size your little ol’ heart desires). Flip when the pancakes form a few bubbles on the top and cook till golden. Makes about 10 pancakes.

Warm Cider Syrup

¾ cup apple cider
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
2 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Cook and stir over medium heat till sugar dissolves and mix is bubbly. Simmer about 20 minutes till reduced to 1 cup.

2. Let stand about 25-30 minutes to thicken.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

To Halloween Or Not To Halloween

I remember as a little girl trying to peer through tiny holes that had been cut into a small, white sheet and tripping through our cold, dark neighborhood in hopes of filling my bag with candy. I remember keeping a watchful eye on a very, scary witch who was standing in her doorway handing out candy and hoping that we would not end up on her darkened porch. I remember hearing electronic screams throughout the neighborhood and being glad when we were finally home.

So, what’s wrong with that? It’s become part of the fabric of our American traditions. (And by the way, Halloween is also celebrated in several other countries around the world.)

But, once we surrender to Christ, I think we can sometimes forget to go back and ask ourselves, and even more importantly, the Lord, if some things we’ve become accustomed to are things that we should still be doing. We keep practicing them because we see others do them and we don’t see the harm. But now that we are The Called of God for His purposes, He has created us to be a separate people unto Him.

“You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill can't be hidden. People don't light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lampstand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people in such a way that they will see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16

We have been called to come out of the world and its darkness and join the city of believers that casts the light of God brightly into the world. And that means casting off the things that would darken His light in our lives. And we may not even realize that some things, like Halloween, may be part of that darkness.

I’ll give you a brief overview of the origins of Halloween and some of the traditions associated with it.

Halloween’s origins began at approximately the time of the birth of Christ with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (sow-in) in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and the northern part of France. Samhain was celebrated on the night of October 31, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth to play tricks on people. To appease the dead, the Druids would visit homes and the people would give them offerings of food. During the celebration of Samhain, the Celtic priests, or Druids, built huge, sacred bonfires and the Druids would disguise themselves by wearing animal-head masks and animal-skin costumes and jumping through the flames. The people from the surrounding villages would gather around the bonfires (which comes from the words “bone” and “fire”) to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to appease the Celtic deities and so that these deities would enable the priests to use divination to make predictions about the future.

In the 800’s, Christian religion had spread over this area and Pope Boniface IV designated November 1 as All Saints’ Day, which would honor saints and martyrs. This celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas. The night before this celebration, October 31, was known as All-hallows Eve, and eventually became known as Halloween. November 2 later became known as All Souls’ Day, a day to honor the dead by building bonfires, having parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels and devils.

European immigrants began coming to America and bringing their Halloween traditions with them. The celebrations were in limited sections of America and began as parties to celebrate the harvest, where neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell each other’s fortunes, tell ghost stories and cause destruction.

Later, Halloween celebrations spread across America and people began to borrow from the old European traditions by dressing up in costumes and go from house to house asking for food or money. It was also believed that young women, on Halloween, could divine the name or appearance of their future husband by doing tricks with yarn, apple pairings or mirrors.

Trick-or-treating probably evolved from the Samhain traditions to those in Ireland of going door-to-door begging for soul cakes in exchange for promises of prosperity or protection against bad luck.

Carving Jack-O-Lanterns originated from a myth about a man named Stingy Jack who invited the devil to have a drink with him. Jack tricked the devil into turning himself into a coin to pay for the drinks, and then he tricked him once again before he died. God wouldn’t let Jack into heaven, and the devil was angry with Jack and wouldn’t let him into hell, so he sent Jack out with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with it ever since. The carving of turnips to scare away Jack began in Scotland and Ireland, and then eventually the tradition transformed into carving pumpkins here in America.
Today, of course, Halloween has become synonymous with horror films, blood, death, witches, ghosts, haunted houses and evil. Darkness.

“But,” you say, “I don’t do any of those things. We just dress up in cute costumes and walk around the neighborhood getting candy.”

I don’t want to be your Holy Spirit. But I am encouraging you to allow the Holy Spirit to be your Holy Spirit. Ask Him if this is something that is honoring and glorifying to Him or is it participating in a celebration that is glorifying His enemy?
Because the reality is, we don’t see the spiritual warfare that goes on that night, or any night for that matter. But it is a celebration that is steeped in pagan worship, in divination, and in sacrifice in order to appease demons. We may not take it seriously, but I bet the enemy of God does, and I believe he’ll use any opportunity to worm his way into the lives of people.

And yes, I know the Lord may choose to use you in a way on this night that truly is glorifying Him, and that's wonderful, too. 

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:5-7

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cross-Like T-Shirt Design at Penn State University Sparks Controversy

Now even the shape of a cross, even when the shape isn't intentionally depicting a cross, is deemed offensive.  Where will it end? The following is a news article on

A blue, cross-like design emblazoned on T-shirts at Penn State University has some critics seeing red.

The shirts — intended to foster school spirit — sport a vertical blue line down the center with the words "Penn State White Out" emblazoned across the chest, forming a design that some say resembles a cross. The back of the shirt depicts the same blue line obscured by the words, "Don't be intimated … It's just me and 110,000 of my friends." Roughly 30,000 of the shirts have been sold.

Penn State says it has received six complaints about the shirt, including one from the Anti-Defamation League's Philadelphia branch, from people who say it connotes a Christian cross. The logo design also has become the focus of controversy in the student newspaper, "The Daily Collegian," which has received several letters to the editor on both sides of the issue.

Michal Berns, a junior majoring in media law and policy, said she refused to buy the $15 shirt because of its religious connotations.

"At first glance, you don't necessarily think that's what it looks like, but when you look at it more, it does look like a cross," Berns told "That's the reason I didn't purchase it."

Berns said students can purchase the shirts when they buy season tickets for the university's nationally ranked football program or during the football season at the campus bookstore and other stores. The shirts are typically worn at Penn State's annual "White Out" game, at which a crowd of 100,000 screaming Nittany Lions fans creates a virtual sea of white at Beaver Stadium.

While Berns acknowledged the shirt's single blue stripe resembles the stripe on the team's football helmet, she and others at the university's Hillel Jewish organization plan to show their school pride in other ways.

"There always has to be some sort of separation," said Berns, referring to the state-funded school and religious affiliation. "Me personally, I'm not going to buy the shirts and I know others at [Penn State Hillel] who won't, either."

Bill Mahon, vice president for university relations, said six people have contacted Penn State to voice their objections to the shirt's design.

"Six complaints is not a controversy," Mahon wrote "Students submit shirt designs to the student paper each year. Students then vote for their favorite design and they are sold in the campus bookstore."

Mahon said the design was based on the single blue stripe on the football team's helmets and will not be pulled from store shelves as some have asked. "The shirts have sold out and no changes are planned," he said.

Stephanie Bennis, a senior at the school, said she created the shirt's design in March with fellow public relations major Emily Sabolsky, and in no way did they intend to create religious overtones. Like Mahon, she said the single blue stripe is a nod to the university's football program.

"That was the entire idea," she said. "And all we thought was normally wording goes right across the chest. That's truly the reason why we did it."

Bennis said she was "very shocked" when she learned the university had received complaints about the design.

"It's just sad to see that in this day and age, the most offensive thing on a shirt can be what people see as a religious symbol," she said.

"Are we going to ban lowercase t's in the alphabet? Where do you draw the line?"

Barry Morrison, regional director of the Eastern Pennsylvania-Delaware region of the Anti-Defamation League, said the organization contacted Penn State officials last month after receiving a complaint regarding the shirt.

Morrison said the similarity to a cross appeared to "inadvertent and unintentional," but he acknowledged that some could take exception.

"This is not intended to be a cross," he said. "But some people clearly saw this connection and decided to complain about it."

Other students contacted by said if there is a hidden religious message in the shirts, they haven't seen it.

"It's a little blown out of proportion," senior John Shoemaker said. "I kind of see where they're coming from, but I don't think it was designed as a religious statement."

Shoemaker, who purchased one of the shirts for $15 to wear at Penn State's loss to Iowa last month, said they're "relatively common" on the State College, Pa., campus.

Nick Mangus, a senior majoring in East Asian studies, described the controversy as "ridiculous" and said images of crosses can be seen virtually anywhere, even in "tiles on the floor."

"Honestly, I think it's basically people just trying to stir up controversy over something that's ridiculous," Mangus said. "If you don't want to buy it, don't buy it. It's that simple. You don't have to try and force everyone else to change their ways because you think it's offensive."

The Promised Land - Breaking Down Strongholds

Series on The Promised Land

So, now we have our spiritual armour firmly in place.  No?  Time to go back and put it on.  Now, time to slay the dragon. Time to drive our personal enemies out of our spiritual promised land flowing with milk and honey.

When Moses was still leading the Israelites toward Canaan, he knew that enemies lurked there and God’s people would have to wage war in order to drive them out of the land that God had promised to them. The first order of business was to send spies to evaluate the enemy territory.

“These were the names of the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land. And Moses called Oshea the son of Nun Joshua. And Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said to them, ‘Go up this way, southward, and go up into the mountain. And see the land, what it is, and the people that live in it, whether it is strong or weak, few or many. And see what the land is that they live in, whether it is good or bad; and what cities they dwell in, whether in tents or in strongholds;” (Number 3:16-19)

And this was the answer the spies brought back to Moses and all the people:

“And they told him and said, ‘We came to the land where you sent us, and surely it flows with milk and honey. And this is the fruit of it. However, the people that dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are walled, very great. And also we saw the children of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south, and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the mountains. And the Canaanites dwell by the sea and by the coast of Jordan.” Numbers 13:27-29

The Israelites faced many enemies who were very well established in the land and who did indeed live in strongholds. A stronghold is “a fortification, castle, or fortified city; a fenced or walled fortress.”

The warfare that was ahead of this bunch of weary travelers, of whom there were no formally trained warriors since most grew up in the desert, save maybe Moses since he grew up in the Pharaoh’s house, but that was 80 years past.

But one of the spies, Caleb, “stilled the people before Moses and said, Let us go up at once and possess it. For we are well able to overcome it.” (Numbers 13:30)

And then were the poo-pooers. “But the men that went up with him (Caleb) said, ‘We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.’ And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched to the sons of Israel, saying, The land through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eats up those who live in it. And all the people whom we saw in it were men of stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, of the giants. And we were in our own sight like grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.” (Numbers 13:31-33)

All these men saw the same land, the same people. All of them were certain of heart that they could not wage a successful warfare on these giants. But one man, Caleb, had faith that they could.

But the Israelites believed the majority. They were the majority, so they must be right, right? And once again, they regretted they had not died back in Egypt – the land of slavery from which God had delivered them. And they began to grumble against Moses.

But Joshua and Caleb tore their robes at the faithless response to the Israelites. The two of them spoke to multitudes and reminded them that they were not just rebelling against their leader, they were rebelling against God. God had promised this land to them and the pair knew that God kept His promises, if they would only follow Him.

And even in the rebellion and provocation of the people that God loved so much, He remained faithful to be with them.

So, what did it take to bring down those strongholds, and what will it take to bring down the strongholds that the enemy has long set up in our own minds and hearts that keep us from entering into a spiritually victorious life? Not one always free from attacks, but one in which we dwell with our God in peace with all trust and faith and joy in Him? One that is free of those walls that keep us from fully entering in to a life flowing with milk and honey, flowing afresh daily with the Holy Spirit Himself.

We’ll see next time.