Thursday, March 29, 2012

An Egg-stra Special Easter Part Six: Plus Recipe for Empty Tomb Rolls

A snow family and their dog
A New Kind of Parent
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:
The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Corinthians 5:17
Even though my children are grown, I’m still being renewed as a parent daily. I’m always learning and maturing in my relationship with the Lord, and much of what I learn applies to my parenting role. It’s something you never feel you completely master. Everyone makes mistakes along the way that we can’t go back and do over, but we can start from where we are and keep improving.
No matter how old they get, I’ll always be Mom. That connection never changes. I still look to my mom and dad for comfort, advice, prayer support, and reassurance. And even though it surprised me, they thought of their parents the same way until they passed away.

When my last grandparent died, my mom and aunt talked about the fact that they were orphans. I was jolted by the thought. No matter how old we are, we never lose that all-important connection. That’s why I want to do the very best job I can with my kids, step-kids, and others I unofficially “adopt” along the way.

No matter where you are in the parenting arena - pre-parent, young parent, empty nester, grandparent, or a loving aunt or uncle – you can be new each day. The Bible has much to say about parenting, giving examples of how to do it right as well as stories of those who made a mess of things. Because of Easter, we not only have the information to put this wisdom into action, we also have the power of Christ in us to succeed.
A few areas I’m challenged to be new and improved:
·         Not Showing Favoritism –Isaac and Rebekah are a prime example. They played favorites; it tore apart their family and created two nations who are still at war today (Genesis 25:19-34).
·         Discipline – King David and Eli both loved God, but enabled their sons’ by failing to discipline them. David almost lost his kingdom to his scheming son, Absalom. Eli lost the priesthood and his life because he let Hophni and Phinehas do what they wanted . All three sons died tragic deaths as a result (2 Sam. 13-18 and 1 Sam. 2).
·         Encouragement – As children we’re commanded to honor our parents; as parents, we’re told not to discourage our children (Eph. 6:4 and Col. 3:21). This could mean being harsh, inconsistent, living a life that’s unworthy of honor, or crushing their spirit.
·         Spiritual Training – Deuteronomy 6:5-9 says to talk about our love for God in everyday life. It’s not just for Sunday school; we teach our kids with every breath we breathe.
·         Blessing – The Bible is full of examples of blessing. First God showed us how by blessing us, backing it up with constant proof of His love. Then He instructed us to pass it on. Apostle Paul included a blessing to fellow believers in every letter he wrote – with praise for what they were doing right and envisioning hope for future success.
Of course the only perfect parent is God. It’s so wonderful that no matter how many times we blow it, His forgiveness is just a prayer away. He will keep giving us new wisdom and energy to do this important job. Praise God for the very special gift of being a parent!

A Sweet Easter Surprise: Empty tomb rolls are easy to make and delicious. A yummy treat to make with your kids (or spouse) and talk about how sweet it is that the tomb of Christ is empty!
You will need:
1 batch homemade bread dough or frozen dough
Regular sized marshmallows
·         Preheat oven to 350°
·         Cut dough into 12-16 pieces (depending on how big you want your rolls)
·         Roll dough into balls and flatten with rolling pin
·         Place one marshmallow in the middle and seal dough around it
·         Optional – roll in cinnamon sugar mixture: 1 T. sugar, 1 t. cinnamon
·         Place rolls sealed side down in muffin cups or on a greased cookie sheet
·         Cover and let rise 30 minutes or until dough bounces back when gently pressed
·         Bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned
·         Cool on wire rack
The marshmallow will melt into the bread as it bakes and leave a hollow center. This is what we celebrate at Easter – that life is sweet because Jesus rose from the dead and lives in us.

Friday, March 23, 2012

An Egg-stra Special Easter Part Five: And A Reverse Easter Basket

A New Marriage
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:
The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Corinthians 5:17
 If you read this title and thought, “Hey, I want a new marriage!” then I have good news for you. You can have a new marriage - not by getting a new partner, but by becoming a new partner. Sound tricky? It is. You have to die first.

The Bible says, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). That’s what Jesus did for us and that’s what we have to do in order to show our love to others – especially our husband or wife. You may not have to take a bullet or run in front of an oncoming car, but you will need to lay down your life for them.
Let’s face it, we’re selfish people. The most natural thing for us is to look out for number one which leaves everybody else to fend for themselves, including our mate. That’s why it totally revolutionizes your marriage when you are reborn in Christ. You become a brand new person from the inside out.

The old you wants to have your needs met; the new you seeks to meet your spouse’s needs. The old you complains about your husband or wife’s faults; the new you gives praise and encouragement for their hard work and positive qualities. The old you demands to be heard, taking center stage; the new you listens and responds. If you both commit to love God’s way it becomes a competition, with each person trying to out-give the other.
Kelly and I joke about who is currently in the lead in our contest of love. Sometimes he’s ahead and sometimes I am. Either way, it’s good. Nicholas Sparks said, “Love is more than three words mumbled before bedtime. Love is sustained by action, a pattern of devotion in the things we do for each other every day.” Love is definitely a verb.
We hear so much about the warm gushy feelings of love we forget it is a lot more than a feeling! Love is the thing that makes you stay when your beloved is disfigured in a fire. Love is what keeps you together when there’s no money. Love is what holds you steady if your husband or wife develops Alzheimer’s or is disabled or becomes clinically depressed. The only Source for this kind of love is Jesus.
My view of love has significantly deepened over the years. An excellent book on successful marriage is Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. He addresses the hardest challenge there is in marriage – when you give and give, but your mate does not respond in kind. The answer is to get a new perspective:
“Ultimately, you practice love or respect because beyond your spouse you see Jesus Christ and you envision a moment when you will be standing before Him at the final judgment, realizing that your marriage was really a tool and a test to deepen and demonstrate your love and your reverence for your Lord.” An new marriage, means respecting your husband or loving your wife because you want to please God even more than you want to have your own needs met. When we love like this, heaven cheers and Jesus smiles.                

A Fun Way to Build Easter Suspense – create a Reverse Easter Basket:

1.      Start your Easter hunt the Sunday before Easter with only one item in your basket.
2.      Read the scripture that goes with it and then hide the item in another room for the rest of the family to find.
3.      Repeat the hunt until every member of the family has had a chance to hide the item.
4.      On Monday, add the next object, read the next scripture and hide both items as before.
5.      Repeat each day until on Easter Sunday you have eight objects in the basket to hide.

Here are some items and scriptures you might use. To keep it exciting, next year use different verses from the gospels about Jesus’ last week. And surprise your family by bringing out new things for the basket.
* a donkey figurine: Luke 19:28-44
* a packet of seeds: John 12:23-36
* artificial grapes: Luke 20:9-19
* a bag of gold coins: Luke 22:1-6
* a goblet (plastic or unbreakable): Luke 22:7-30
* a cross: Luke 23:26-49
* a lamb: Isaiah 57:7-12
* a stone: Luke 24:1-49

Monday, March 19, 2012

An Egg-stra Special Easter Part Four: Plus Recipe for Matzoh Bread

A New Mouth

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:
The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Corinthians 5:17
 In the movie My Fair Lady, Eliza Doolittle is transformed from a poor flower peddler to an elegant lady of society – all because Professor Henry Higgins and Colonel Pickering teach her how to speak “more genteel like.” But it doesn’t happen all at once. It takes months of lessons and constant practice until everyone is exhausted and their nerves are raw. Then suddenly, there’s a breakthrough and Eliza speaks her very first sentence, “The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain.” Not exactly news of great import, but pronounced perfectly.
Everyone cheers. Eliza, Higgins, and Pickering sing and dance even though it’s the middle of the night. From that moment on, Eliza’s progress continues - so much so that when she’s introduced at the queen’s ball she’s thought to be royalty in disguise.
The same thing happens when we begin our new life in Christ. If we place ourselves in the Lord’s care our speech too will be transformed. Like Eliza, we'll have to practice, but the biggest changes will start from the inside, in our heart and mind. Jesus pointed out, “whatever is in your heart determines what you say” (Matt. 12:34, New Living). The more time we spend loving and thinking about the things of God, the more it affects the way we talk.
What are are our goals? The Bible is full of great verses (especially in Proverbs), but one of my favorite passages is Ephesians 4:29-30:
·        Keep it wholesome. If it’s not pure, it’s not God-honoring.
·        Speak what is helpful. So often we say things that are not helpful but boastful, complaining, discouraging, or just taking up air space.
·        Build others up according to their needs. What a great distinction! God encourages us not only to build others up, but to pay attention to what they need to hear.
·        Benefit those who listen. How much gossip we would avoid if we thought about who might overhear our conversation. Will our words bless, inspire, reveal truth, or challenge someone else listening in?
·       Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God. This is the best reason of all to watch what we say - God hears everything, and it hurts Him when we misuse the gift of speech.
The more of God we take in, the more it affects what comes out - like pouring clean water into a glass of dirt and grime. It’s a gradual process. Plus we have to fight incoming sludge from other influences. But bit by bit the gunk inside will clear, and what is left is pure and healthful. In this, I fail so often, but my prayer is that more and more, my speech will reveal that Jesus is the King of my life. That I’m really royalty in disguise.

Baking Tip - Make Your Own Unleavened Bread: It’s Jewish tradition to clear all forms of yeast from the home in order to celebrate Passover. It was unleavened bread that Jesus broke with His disciples at the Last Supper just before His crucifixion. It’s a fun tradition to make Matzoh Bread the week before Easter to remember His sacrifice for us. I like to add olive oil, salt, and spices to make it tasty.
Matzoh Bread
2 c whole-wheat flour
¾ c water
  • Preheat oven to 500ยบ.
  • Flour hands and knead the dough lightly for 3 minutes. Divide into 6-8 balls, rolling them with floured hands. Place balls on greased cookie sheet. Press down or use a rolling pin to flatten to about 5 inches in diameter. Prick with a fork to prevent swelling.
  • Bake for 10 minutes.
For soft matzoh: remove from oven when cooked and serve immediately. For added flavor: mix salt, pepper, basil, oregano, and garlic with olive oil and brush warm matzoh.
For crispy matzoh: leave in the oven until cool. Store in an airtight container.
Serve with soups and cheese spreads.

Friday, March 9, 2012

An Egg-stra Special Easter Part Three: Plus Recipe for Sicilian Easter Ring

All Things Become New - On Our Face
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:
The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Corinthians 5:17
My friend Tia’s getting married tomorrow, and you can tell with one look at her face that she’s in love. She is radiant. She is ready to spend the rest of her life loving Tim, in good times and bad. They have taken their time getting to know each other and will be joined tomorrow by God’s own hand. I am confident she will be a beautiful bride and a beautiful wife.

It shows up on our face when we fall in love with Jesus too and commit to be His Bride (which is how men and women of the church are referred to in the Bible). From the day we accept His proposal, our love for Him begins to affect our countenance. Apostle Paul said, “we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory” (2 Cor. 3:18).

I ran into a girl I knew in junior high a few years ago. In school she was a pretty tough character. I was afraid of her, in fact. But when she saw me, her whole face lit up and she came over to say hello. We were barely into the conversation before she shared her big news with me – she had become a Christian. And it showed; her face practically glowed.

How can we help it, when the Lover of our soul is so loving and kind, so strong and caring, so wise and good? He sacrificed everything to give us His joy and peace and release us from the bondage of sin. Anyone who has truly experienced God’s love should have the “look” of one who is passionately in love and confident in the One they have committed to.

The reverse is also true. Isaiah, God’s prophet to Israel, exposed the duplicity of those who thought it was enough to be religious, saying “Their words and deeds are against the LORD, defying his glorious presence. The look on their faces testifies against them” (Isa. 3:8-9).
God doesn’t want our religious flirtations, but a deep and personal relationship with us where we give ourselves to Him in total abandonment. When we do, our face will speak volumes.
Who does your face say is the love of your life?

Braided Bread Ring: This is one of my favorite things to make for Easter. It’s a deliciously sweet bread ring inset with colored eggs.

Sicilian Easter Ring (Sunset Italian Cookbook)

1 package active dry yeast
¼ c warm water (about 110°)
2/3 c warm milk (about 110°)
2 T butter, softened
1/3 c sugar
3 ¾ to 4 c all-purpose flour
½ t cinnamon
½ t vanilla
2 eggs
5 hard-boiled eggs, colored
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 t water
  • In a large bowl sprinkle yeast over warm water and let stand 5 minutes. (If using a bread machine, put first 9 ingredients in to mix and skip to step 6)
  • Stir in milk, butter, sugar, and salt until butter melts
  • Add 2 c flour; mix to blend. Beat until dough is elastic (about 5 minutes). Beat in cinnamon, vanilla, and eggs.
  • Stir in about 1 ½ c more flour to make a soft dough and knead on floured surface until dough is smooth and springy (15-20 minutes). 
  • Place in a greased bowl; turn dough to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled (about 1 ½ hours).
  • Punch dough down and turn onto floured surface and knead lightly to release air. Divide into three equal portions.
  • Roll into strips 25 inches long. Braid loosely on large greased sheet. Curve braid to make a circle, pinching ends tightly to seal.
  • At evenly spaced intervals, gently separate braid strands and press in colored eggs (pointed ends down).
  • Cover lightly and let rise until very puff (40-45 minutes).
  • Brush bread lightly with egg yolk mixture. Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes (until richly browned and sounds hollow when tapped).
  • Let cool at least 15 minutes on wire rack before slicing; serve warm or cool. Makes one round braid.

Monday, March 5, 2012

An Egg-stra Special Easter Part Two: Plus Book and Movie Recommendations

All Things Become New - in Our Mind

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:
The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Corinthians 5:17
My brain doesn’t work the way it used to. Lest you think I’m referring to menopausal madness or early signs of dementia, let me assure you it is neither. What I mean is I don’t think the way I used to think before I became a Christian.

Before I knew Christ, I interpreted events as to how they affected me personally. But after Christ, I began to see things from a new perspective. Instead of seeing delays, frustrations, or painful situations as a waste of time and energy, God has given me a more hopeful outlook. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” He says (Isaiah 55:8).

When I am stuck in traffic, my first response is to be angry and impatient. My new mind tells me I can use the time for good – to pray for someone who is hurting, sing, enjoy the beauty of the day, be thankful for a moment to catch my breath in this fast paced world, renew my resolve to leave early enough to allow for delays, or even (yes, even this), to learn patience.

When someone hurt me, my old mind used to replay the offensive scene and savor thoughts of revenge or snappy comebacks. Or, more often, I took it in and inwardly flailed myself for my imperfections. Now (and I must admit this is a gradual process that is still in the works), I take the hurt to Jesus and ask: Why did they say/do this to me, Lord? Are they lashing out at me because they are in pain? Do I need to change in some way? How do you want to use this?

I even view loss from a different perspective. If God can bring good out of any situation for those who love and follow Him (Romans 8:28), then even the worst heartbreak is an opportunity for His love to prevail. An unwanted divorce, a prodigal son or daughter, sickness, injury, financial devastation, the early death of a loved one brings me to Him: What do you want me to see in this, Lord? I am broken, I am empty, but I wait in expectation to see what you want to do. I know you care and I know you’re in control.

A lot of times, my mind has an attitude problem that needs to be adjusted. Paul said, “Be made new in the attitude of your minds” (Ephesians 4:23). And, “Put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Col. 3:10). The more I learn about our Creator, the less my brain works the way it used to – in selfishness and despair. The more I know Jesus personally, the more I see things from an eternal perspective – promising and constructive.

Easter Tip: What are you feeding your mind this Easter? It’s not too early to begin reviewing the Easter story, books, or movies to help renew your brain. This year I am reading little bits of Max Lucado’s book Six Hours One Friday before my morning devotions. Here are a few other brain teasers:

· *    Books: The Book of Jesus for Families by Calvin Miller; And the Angels Were Silent by Max Lucado; Jesus Wept by Bruce Marchiano; The Three Trees a traditional folktale beautifully retold by Angela Elwell Hunt
· *    Movies: The Passion; The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe (a child friendly depiction of what Christ did for us!); Jesus of Nazareth

· *     From the Bible: Read the four gospel accounts leading up to Jesus’ death and resurrection – Matthew chapters 21-28; Mark chapters 11-16; Luke 19:28-chapter 24; John 12:12-chapter 21

And if you want to know if you can trust that Jesus really is the Son of God: check out these Messianic prophesies fulfilled by Jesus Christ

Thursday, March 1, 2012

An Egg-stra Special Easter Part One: Plus Easter Decorating Ideas

All Things Become New in Our Heart
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:
The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Corinthians 5:17

We used to sing a song in my youth group that said, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.” And it’s so true! This is the first thing that changes in us when we express our belief in Jesus and ask Him to be Lord of our life – our heart beats truly for the first time. We suddenly have this overriding desire to please God in every way.
When I married Kelly I loved him with all my heart. But now I know him better. We’ve shared new experiences and faced adversity together, and my love for him is even deeper. That’s the way it is with Christ. From the moment we give Him our heart, we begin a new relationship. We know Him through the pages of the Bible. We build memories as we share each day. And He holds our hand in the heartache and trials.

The more we love Him, the more we try to find out what makes Him happy. I know my husband loves it when I greet him at the door with a hug and a smile. He appreciates it when I run him a hot bath if he’s worked in the rain all day. He loves it when I show interest in and help him with his work. So why would I not do these things? Jesus came to show us the heart of God, and through Him, we get a better idea of how to show Him our love.

One thing He especially appreciates is when we love His other children. Isn’t that a key to winning the heart of any caring parent? To our Father, this is essential for every Christian.

            How do we do that?
·         We care about the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs of others
·         We make people priority over things
·         We are honest with others, showing grace in conflict
·         We nurture relationships

It’s true that past experiences can make us hesitant to open our hearts if we’ve been hurt. But Easter is all about fresh starts and new beginnings. We don’t have to love God or others in our own power. God promised, “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.” (Ezek. 11:19 and 36:26).

That’s the way God loves us, the way Jesus showed us His love, and the way He wants us to love Him back – with undivided attention, a new spirit, and a soft heart. And when we love Him, we can’t help but care about His other children.

Easter Decorating Idea: There are bunnies and chicks everywhere, flowers in pastel, and lots of candy, but not always signs of Jesus at Easter. I encourage you to make your home bright, inviting, and full of hope with flowers, lambs, tasteful images of the empty cross and tomb, and written expressions of what Easter means to you personally. Let the world know it’s not just spring and chocolate that makes your heart sing. And don’t forget to dress up the outside. Yard flags, flowers, a lighted cross, or even a replica of the empty tomb boldly proclaims the love of your heart.