Saturday, October 16, 2010

Cream Cheese Pie with Sour Cream Topping

Yesterday, the bake shop gave the basic cooking class two pies in exchange for our Cream of Broccoli Soup and Cream of Mushroom Soup. We got the better end of the trade, by far. The pie is awesome, easy and, if you use low fat cream cheese and low fat sour cream, only 75 calories per slice. WHAT!!???!! Yes, I said 75 calories per slice. That's like eating broccoli its so healthy. WHAT UP!

It was so good, I asked the teacher for the recipe and it is so easy even a trained monkey could make it. You probably have the ingredients in the fridge right now. Take this pie to a pot luck (keep the other for yourself) and it will disappear faster than your kids disappear when it is chore time.

Cream Cheese Pie with Sour Cream Topping (makes two pies)

Pre-made Graham Cracker Crust
24 oz Cream Cheese
8 oz Sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla

Mix the cream cheese with the sugar until smooth.
Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well.
Pour into the graham cracker crust.
Bake at 350 F for 20-25 minutes.
Top pie with Sour Cream topping and bake an additional 5-10 minutes to set the topping.
Show some self discipline and let it cool or refrigerate until cold before digging in. If your monkey made this pie, give him a piece of pie to reward him for his hard work.


Crumb Pie Recipe

The bake shop at ElCentro College has a bake sale every Friday. I bought a crumb pie for two dollars because nothing else really appealed to me. I brought it home and my family devoured it. It was one of the best tasting "pies" I have eaten. So I asked the baking teacher if I could get the recipe from her and she happily made a copy for me. So here it is:


Crumb Topping:
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbl (3/4 of a stick) unsalted butter at room temperature

2/3 boiling water
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 eggs

1 frozen pie shell, thawed at least 20 minutes

Preheat the oven to 450 F.
To make the topping, in a large bowl stir together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, using a whisk or fork. Cut the butter into several pieces and drop them into the bowl. Using your fingertips or a pastry blender, blend the butter into the flour until their are no visible pieces of butter and the mixture resembles coarse, dry crumbs. Set aside.

To make the filling, in a medium bowl, whisk together the boiling water and brown sugar. Add the baking soda and whisk until well incorporated. Add the eggs and whisk well. The mixture will be quite thin. Pour into the pie shell and sprinkle evenly with the topping.

Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 F and bake for 25 to 30 minutes longer. As the pie bakes, it will puff dramatically and the crumb surface will crack. It is done when you insert a knife into one of the cracks and it comes out clean. Cool for one hour before serving. There won't be much left after people taste this pie so get a big piece first.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Please watch this video about a man who attends The Branch, the church I attend. It is a powerful testament to the power of God and to the fact that God still works miracles. It's awesome!!!

This video is a response to people who think God wound the Earth then stands back without interference. I don't know why God chose Chip, but I am glad he did.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Texas Ranger Baseball

I have two team in Major League Baseball that I love to watch. The TEXAS RANGERS and any team playing the New York Yankees.

But if you watch baseball, have you noticed the Rangers are playing really well? I don't get to write this very often so I am going to write quickly while they are winning.

Go Rangers!!!!!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Culinary School

I am in my third week of culinary school and can scarcely wipe the smile off my face. It's awesome. I am taking three classes: Intro to Hospitality (how to run a restaurant), Sanitation and Safety (how to not make someone sick or kill them with your food) and Intro to Cooking (how do use a knife, convert recipes and cook).

I wish I would have done this years ago. I am a duck to water.

Top ten things I have learned in culinary school:

1. How to hold and handle a knife.

2. Cover the pan when you are boiling water and it traps the heat energy in the pan and boils the water faster.

3. Beef stock is made by boiling beefs bones for 8 hours with mirepoix.

4. Mirepoix is celery, carrots and onions cut in a large dice and added to most soup and stew recipes.

5. There are about 35 food borne diseases that can kill you or make you really sick. Use Clorox Clean-up to wipe down your kitchen. Seriously. Go wipe down your kitchen right now to kill all those germs. Throw away your kitchen sponge.

6. The internal food temp of 165 (for about 15 seconds) kills bacteria in your food. Especially eggs.

7. If a cow uses the muscle to walk or move, it will be tough and you have to cook it on low heat (225 degrees) for a long time with a little water and covered to make it edible. You only grill steaks that have enough fat in them to keep the meat juicy and tender.

8. If you get sick at a restaurant, it usually is because a restaurant worker DID NOT wash their hands after going to the restroom and got feces in your food. Ugh!

9. Eating raw oysters is a bad idea. The diseases you get from doing that are really bad and can cause you to forget your name (seriously) and go into a coma.

10. Chef's aren't necessarily good cooks (although it really helps if they are)...they run a team of people that are good cooks and have a kitchen staff that work their butts off to make great food and they depend on incredible waiters to make the customers feel great. But the back bone of the entire restaurant rests on the shoulders of the pot washer and the ones that do the dishes. Without them, nothing could get done.

11. Most likely, you can't go to the store and buy the steaks they serve at Three Forks, Ruth's Chris, or Bob's Steak and Chophouse. Those are Prime and cost a lot of money. Buy Top Choice (if you can find it) and only cook your steak to medium (never well done). Salt meat at the end of cooking or it will draw out all the moisture in the meat and make it dry.

Bon Appetite! More tips later.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Missionary's Kid

I grew up an MK. Actually the moniker would be VDMK (Vocational Domestic Missionary's Kid). When I was six, my parents lived in Northwest Tennessee, a hotbed of conservative religion, when they heard about a place in Western Colorado that had no church of Christ in the entire county. Actually, there had been one there in the 40's and 50's but had closed its door for about 10 years. So, within two months of finding that out, we moved to Delta County.

My mom and dad made a five year commitment to the Paonia church. They worked hard in the tiny town and brought many people to Christ by meeting people's needs for friendship, partnership, and compassion. My dad ran orchards, raised cows, worked in the coal mine, farmed and bartered to be able to stay there (they are still there). It took at least 20 years for my parents to accepted in the community, to stop being outsiders.

But what happens when you stop being a missionary but you are still where God sent you? How long does one have to be someplace before you can be called a towny, where you actually become part of the community?

PKs and MKs and EKs don't have it easy. They grow with their parents given to loving God first and doing his will first. I wasn't neglected as a kid, I just knew I was second behind God. I knew that being involved in God's work was a higher calling, a more important calling. I was not the center of my parent's world, my family were more like planets revolving around God's will. We all did it together.

Are you a MK, PK or EK? What was your experience?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Going Back to School

Today, I enrolled in culinary school at El Centro College in Downtown Dallas. I am taking Basics of Cooking, Sanitation and Safety, and Introduction to Hospitality Services. I am really excited about taking this step although I am not looking forward to driving to Downtown Dallas for two years. Although with tuition comes a DART rail pass so I won't have to look for a parking space in the center of downtown.

I forgot about the joys of standing in line, and sitting around waiting for academic advisers to put me in classes...but it was very easy. I was the oldest person in the room, even the registrar and all the advisers were younger than me. Oh well. I look forward to being able to learn more about being a chef and operating a restaurant or food establishment. Along with books, I have to get a chef's hat and coat and all the knives and utensils for the kitchen. there anything you have been putting off than you need to get on with? You ever wish you could be or do something but never got around to it? Carpe diem! Take the first step. Stop wishing and dreaming about it and take your first step. If I can do it, so can you.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Squeaky Wheel Gets the Grease

Have you noticed that authority reacts to whining?

As a parent of three boys, I tend to let them have freedom until they start a ruckus then I intervene. When they start arguing or hitting each other past a certain point, I step in and try to de-escalate the situation. Most of the time, I have to initially get louder and stronger in order for there to be some peace.

Churches do the same thing. Churches chug along at a complacent clip until people start grumbling or arguing. Then the authorities of the church step in to mediate and moderate the problem until there is peace or someone leaves.

Governments do the same thing. Citizens go along with status quo until someone gets their panties in a wad and then government steps in, makes a law that gets everyone back into the status quo. The biggest complainers cause the most laws to be passed, which in turn, causes a new norm to be established that everyone has to live by.

Equilibrium is the balance we have in any social system that are seen as normal. It is not always good (like when injustice or discrimination are the norm) nor is it always bad (driving on the correct side of the road is an agreed upon norm). Every social system from families to the global community has equilibrium. Some society's equilibrium is constant war, injustice and oppression (like most Muslim countries) while others are based on individual freedom and justice (like what our constitution espouses).

So why do whiners and complainers always get their way while the rest of us suffer? Until we take matters into our own hands (learn how to solve problems ourselves) we will have to turn to whatever authority is out there to solve problems for us.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Midstream Career Change

I am thinking seriously about going to culinary school in Dallas. I love to cook...actually, I have a passion for cooking. Cooking a meal taps into my creative side (sometimes a little too creative) and, most of the time, people really like what I cook.

My Grandmother Helen started a home cookin' (no "g"..."g's were too refined) restaurant after she retired in Palmersville, Tennessee. She used every country fried, gravy covered, sugar glazed recipe in her arsenal and she could pack the place at night. I think I got her cookin' DNA.

But what I want to know is God is calling me to be a chef? Can I serve Him well cooking food and serving others? I am praying about it.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Life Like Gardening

I like well tended gardens. I like gardens where there are no weeds and all the flowers bloom. I like gardens that have flowers blooming, birds singing, and neat rows of flowers and plants. I love gardens like that....but mine is nothing like that.

My garden looks like a Mega-Gardening Center threw up. I have plants everywhere and thanks to a "plant-buying" addiction, I have plants in pots that need to be planted. I have difficulty curbing this addiction. For example, I went to Lowes and they had Wax Myrtles on sale for 4 dollars....4 dollars! So I bought one. It now sits with two upright yews and a couple of fringe flowers waiting to be planted. Keep me away from Nicholson and Hardie, Calloways and Jacksons (three places I score my addiction) until I plant what I have.

Plants need to come with warning labels. My root beer plant that I bought two years ago has now taken over half my back yard and is now trying to take over two other flower beds. The warning label should have read, "Plant in a pot only. This plant will utterly take over your back yard." Same should go for Monkey grass (which should be renamed "ground cover from hell") and Asiatic Jasmine (I hope the person who planted this at my house years ago suffers from a really bad case of hemorrhoids). Why can't petunias or Japanese maples take over? That, I would enjoy.

Weeding is a whole 'nother issue? I have a bind weed problem. My vegetable garden (which has only produced 7 tomatoes in the past ten years) seems to attract bind weeds. If I don't pull weeds at least every other day, I would not be able to find my tomato plants. I wonder what would happen if there was a smack down between bind weed and root beer plant. Now that would be a pay-per-view event.

But life is like gardening. We all have weeds. We all have something in our lives that "goes rogue" and tries to take over. And we all have beautiful spots in our lives that bloom and bring joy despite the best attempts of the weeds to ruin it. God gives us all a gift that, when planted, watered and cultivated brings joy to his heart and ministers to those around us. Yeah, we have weeds but the beauty of what God has planted surpasses the chaos in our lives. Have a great weekend.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Who is Spiritual Among You?

Here are my observations about the characteristics of the most spiritual people I know:

Spiritual people many times look like their lives are a train wreck. People who have disasters, tragedy, and/or hardship in their lives and turn to the presence of God for life and sanity have a different understanding of God than others who have a great life. Some spiritual people have dealt with depression or anxiety while others are transformed through incarceration or addiction. But they all know Jesus is real and that the power of God is good.

Spiritual people don't argue religious dogma nor do they cling to a traditional view of God.

Spiritual people have a constant eye out for other spiritual souls and are attracted to those who gently and humbly carry the transforming message of hope in Jesus Christ that they daily live in.

Spiritual people don't always talk about everything they know or have experienced without being asked.

Spiritual people usually don't ask the question of "why me?" but have just accepted that sometimes good people hurt and the reason may be God's alone. They are thankful for today and today alone.

Spiritual people hunger for the word of God in Scripture and in the "still quiet voice."

Spiritual people show up to pray for and encourage others who are going through difficulty and have the faith to really pray for healing and deliverance.

Spiritual people find true praise and worship as pleasing as spending time with their closest friend because it is.

Spiritual people aren't all up tight about everyone believing as they do.

Spiritual people find beauty in the quiet moments with God.

Spiritual people belong to a fellowship of believers.

Spiritual people love Jesus with all their heart and aren't afraid of raising their hands or being demonstrative during praise and worship.

Spiritual people give freely to those in need and shows hospitality.

Spiritual people are spiritual because of their daily walk. They are not born into it but rather are borne into it in the arms of Jesus.

When you think of spiritual people, what characteristics do you think of?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Pray for You

YouTube - Pray for You - Jaron and The Long Road to Love :: Official Video

Give this song a listen. When I first heard this song, I laughed out still brings a smile to my face.

God does say we're supposed to pray for others. Can you think of someone in your life you could pray for? Heh heh

Thursday, April 8, 2010

One Big Happy

I just got through eating at Potz Cafe in Irving. Interesting place. It's more like walking into the kitchen at my mom's house and asking "What's for lunch?" than it is like 'going out' to eat. They treat you like family.

I watched "THE BLIND SIDE" last week....yes...almost a year after it came out but wow, what a movie. I guess the question the movie answers is "Who's your family?" For a very large homeless black boy it was a family who extended grace and mercy to him and invited him in.

I grew up in a Paonia, Colorado, attended a small church and school. Everything was small but the feeling of family there. What struck me was the feeling of togetherness, community, belonging, acceptance and love. At church, there was Grandma Connie and Grandma Della, neither of whom gave birth to either of my parents but they LOVED me and cared for me. They hugged me and kissed me like any grandma should do...I belonged to them. I feel a fondness for them even now they both have passed away.

So here is my list of the top ten ways you know you belong to a family:

1. There is hospitality. You are welcome in their home and are treated like a biological member of the family (or better in most cases). You rarely go away hungry for food or affection. They give freely of the resources they have.

2. There is affection. Hugs and kisses and physical touch send the message, "I like you." Affection is the glue that holds a family together. Without it we are a bunch of strangers wandering around together but never really connecting. Affection forms life long bonds with others that can never be diminished over time.

3. There is a need to know you. Questions are constantly in the air about how the other is doing and what is happening. They want to know about your health, relationships, family, and any minute detail they can pull from you. That sharing helps them understand who you are and what you are about. It comes from the theory that the more we know about each other, the more we have in common. Familiarity breeds love.

4. There is safety. The healthy family is a calm harbor in which to rest and relax before going back out into the waves and wind. I can talk freely about myself because the information won't be held against me because family knows that growth is a process. The world beats us up but family is there to build you up.

5. There is acceptance. Family knows your weaknesses and they still like you. They know each member is not perfect but each member is important. There is forgiveness and grace to handle the realities of real life.

6. They tell you "you can do it." Family is your biggest fans. Whatever goals and dreams you have, family standing on the sidelines cheering for you to reach your potential. They tell you that you are smart enough, clever enough, nice enough, good enough and strong enough.

7. They give you what you need. Family provides the basics so you are free to succeed. So many people in this world strive their entire lives just to get their basic needs met (food, shelter, love,). There is no freedom to move beyond the striving because they feel as though something is missing. Family is a constant source of provision so each member can move beyond to achieve greater things.

8. There is belonging. You are a vital part of the machine and your identity is woven in that belonging. They miss you when you are not there and seek to connect with you wherever you are. They call and chat because they belong to you and you to them.

9. There is freedom to leave. Even though you are a part and belong, they also know you must leave the nest in order to succeed. They tearfully let you go and think about you often. They pray for your safety and success often. Like the cable that allows an astronaut to work securely on the space station, prayer is the tether that holds us together when someone is outside the fold. I know many people who pray for me daily and that bond is felt and returned.

10. There is love. All these things together is the proof of love. Whether the family is biological, social, or spiritual, the things listed here are the proof that we are a part of something greater and sweeter. It's tender and warm. Whoever does these things for us, whoever invites us in to share life together, they are "family."

Did I miss anything? What does family mean to you?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Word of your Testimony

My father-in-law turns 80 years old this month. He is a gentle, warm, caring man of God. He is usually quiet but tonight he blew me away. We were celebrating his birthday today and tonight he pulled out the testimony of his faith.

He started with creation and went all the way through his beliefs about God and started getting emotional as he talked about Jesus. It was beautiful. He touched my heart (and my kids hearts) with his sincere and meaningful recounting of his faith.

It was a reminder of how important it is to talk about Jesus, even to those who believe. It helps people solidify their own faith as they hear others tell the story. God moves in our story and touch those who listen to it. I encourage you to tell your story today and see what God can do.

Monday, March 29, 2010

What Parents Shouldn't Do

Here's a list of 10 things parents should avoid:

1. Screaming/Yelling at the kids. Yelling is out of bounds unless the child is in mortal danger, i.e., about to run out in the street. Talking is the best way to get your child to listen. Usually, if your children are not listening, it is not a volume problem with you.

2. Making fun of your kid's weaknesses or flaws. If you need me to explain this one, you probably shouldn't have had kids in the first place.

3. Threatening your kids with punishment. If you aren't going to carry through, don't make a threat. They will begin to disregard everything you say as an empty threat. If you want your kids to respect you and what you expect from them, follow through.

4. Model bad eating habits. Yup, they will pick up every habit you think you are hiding. Provide children with healthy food (fruits and vegetables) for every meal (french fries are not a vegetable). What they grow up eating will be with them the rest of their lives.

5. Talking about your child to others in front of your child while acting as if your child wasn't standing right there listening. This happened with me the other day. A mom started talking about her daughter in a very negative light in front of her (and 15 strangers standing around). Get a one else wants to witness a parent ripping into their child.

6. Smile when they say inappropriate things. Yup, they will repeat it at the most inopportune at church or to you. Then it ceases to be funny.

7. Tolerate porn. I heard a father the other day laughing that he caught his son looking at porn. WHAT!!???!!! And he didn't do anything about it or talk to him???? He dismissed it as 'boys will be boys.' Will he be laughing when his son disrespects girls and becomes sexually aggressive? Will he be laughing when his son becomes a registered sex offender because dad didn't set boundaries when he was 13 years old? Porn isn't very funny when it wrecks a man's life.

8. Hit your kids as your only way of punishing them. Spanking ceases to be effective by age 12. Learn the fine art of grounding them from privileges, taking away items that are loaned to them (like the Wii, a car, iPod, computer time, cell phone, etc.) Usually removing an item one or two days is enough to punish unless your child's behavior is really out there.

9. Ignore your kid. The most damaged adults I have ever known are those whose parents ignored them and didn't give them the love and affection (and availability) they need to form healthy human connections. A child needs AT LEAST an hour a day of one on one time with a parent (or both parents). Homework help, just talking about their day, playing a game, reading with them, or sitting on the edge of their bed and engaging with them are just a few ways to get this done.

10. Expect church to spiritually train them. I know so many parents who let the youth pastor give their kids the only dose of God they get. Bad idea. Parents need to encourage prayer, scripture reading and worship. Talking to your child about and modeling it is the best way for the child to see its importance in their life.

What else should parents avoid doing to their children?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Parenting...Be Available

I have read just about every parenting book out there with strategies and techniques ranging from extreme permissive to Nazi-like control. But I think there are basic things parents can do that help kids grow into healthy, happy, normal adults that aren't going to require daily therapy. So here is my seven things parents can do to raise happy, healthy kids:

1. Be available to love. Children need to be told they are loved at least once a day. This can be done through affirmation, praise and just saying "I love you," "I care about you," "I like you," "I think you're pretty cool," and "I am proud of you."

2. Be available to listen. Kids have things on their mind and they will talk about it if given half a chance. They ask questions. They say immature and naive things that crack me up. Treat each statement with respect and they will continue to talk to you as a teen and adult.

3. Be available for affection. When your kids hug you, hug back. Show your kids physical affection at least 5 times a day. Give them a back rub, hug , wrestle, kiss, hold hands, pet, and snuggle. Affection is the most effective way to communicate love, deeper than just saying it. Dads, be affectionate with your sons...don't hold back even as they get older.

4. Be available for help. Kids need help. They need homework help (or may pretend to to get one on one time). They need help learning about life and how to operate in their world with relationships. They need help cleaning, organizing and learning the healthy habits that will sustain them into adulthood.

5. Be available to play. I have spent many an hour throwing balls to my sons. We have wrestled, tackled, chased and laughed together. Play Uno, Skipbo, Risk, and Catan. They thrive on it. It teaches them to take life a little less seriously and just to have fun. It also teaches them to be a good sport, whether they win or lose.

6. Be available to practice awe. Take the time to worship God and teach them about the things that have deeper meaning a purpose. Stand on top of a mountain or a canyon or look at a beautiful flower together and marvel at the hand of God. Encourage them to read scripture and teach them gratitude for what they have been given. Help them discover awe in their life.

7. Be available for celebration. Celebrate often. Christmas, birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, victories and a game well played. Go all out. Put up the Christmas tree, wrap the presents, put candles on the cake, go to Braums and eat a victory Rocky Road ice cream cone, or break out the Blue Bell ice cream. Take the time to treat each other special.

What would you add to the list?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Pictures of Colorado

These are some pictures from out Spring Break trip to Paonia, Colorado from the deck of my parents house. We went skiing at Powderhorn (an awesome local ski area) and just hung around the house and ate homemade donuts (from scratch), hearty soups, great enchiladas and green chili blintzes. Paonia feels like home to me almost as much as Irving, TX does.

My parents operate Austin Family Farms, a farm that supplies farmer market, supermarkets, natural stores, and the community with naturally grown fruit and vegetables. They have apples, peaches, apricots, cherries, berries, table grapes and all manner of veggies. The white triangles is hail screen for the fruit trees.

These pictures remind me of when I was growing up, the gardeners of the church would put bags of zucchini and other veggies in unlocked cars in the church parking lot. God has blessed my dad with a green thumb.

Mountains outside Salida

My parent's peach orchard.

And when we got to Irving, TX, it had been snowing for the past 12 hours....WHAT!!???!!! It is supposed to be warmer than Colorado.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Rocky Mountain High

I am sitting here looking out over a snow covered North Fork Valley in Western Colorado. The sun is just peeking over Beckwith peak, causing the mountains to glow gold. I am so glad my parents are from Western Colorado because it gives me a reason (free room and board) to visit here. We have been skiing and playing in freshly fallen snow, acting like the Texans we are.

We're headed back today, to the warmth of Texas, a place where it is not 12 degrees, where daffodils and redbuds are already blooming instead of the monochromatic shades of black, gray and white. Its a 16 hour drive from back to the Dallas area. From cold to warm, mountains to flat lands...both places feel like home. I will post some pictures when I get back to Texas. Have a great day.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Role of Pastor

How involved should a pastor be in the the lives of people in their their community? Should they be friends? Accountability partners? Should they have a professional distance in their relationships? Should they share their own issues with members of their church?

What do you think?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Government Gridlock II

I was watching the news today where a prominent Democrat was lamenting that Congress couldn't get anything done because of Republicans. He said the "people of America expect more from the government. The American people want this government to get things done."

Uh, no we don't. We elected people who we thought were going to shrink the size of government and its intrusion in our lives. We elected people who promised to stand up against terrorism and protect us from harm. We elected people who would argue until they are blue in the face for the rights of the unborn, states rights and fairness. If they are fighting for these things, they are doing what we elected them to do.

Not everyone is for the US becoming Socialist country where the government replaces God to give us all we need at the cost of freedom. There are still honest and good folks who liked it the way it was in the 50's, 60's and 70's and 80's. And we vote our morals and dreams for this country.

Filibuster. Fight. Argue. Hold fast until the elections of 2010. Be obstructionists. That is why we elected you (and there are more on the way this fall).

Monday, February 15, 2010

Gridlocked Government

I see the snow in Washington DC and I smile. The government cannot meet and that is fine with me. The less the House and Senate does, the better for the people. At least if they are doing nothing, they're not screwing with the country. I am for filibustering. I am for Democrats and Republicans getting nothing done....that is much preferable to them getting something done. At least I can keep more of my money if they do nothing, if they can't pass laws that are going to hurt my ability to keep more of what I earn.

What do you think?

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Snow in Dallas

Here some pictures of the snow we are getting. Woohoo. Snow day tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Morally Superior, Spiritually Dead

Is it evil to be a moral person? No. Is it bad to have a set of standards to adhere to? Absolutely not. Is it wrong to make others follow your set of moral standards? Depends.

The Pharisees were good people. They had following rules down to a science (Lawology). In fact, when God was not specific enough, they so clarified the rules so one could know which side of the Law they were standing on. For example, if you were not to cook a baby goat in its mother's milk, they interpreted this to mean that you should have two kitchens, one for dairy and one for meat. That way, the two ingredients would not find themselves hanging out together, thus avoiding EVER cooking them together.

Even though they were morally stringent, Jesus found them spiritually dead. They kept the rules to a "T" but never "got it" that God wanted a relationship with them. God wanted love and all He got was fear. God wanted closeness but the Pharisees wanted adherence to Laws.

Rules without relationship lead to rebellion. It is relationship that attaches us to God and the rules set the limits...the outer limits. Inside that relationship, God wants us to have the freedom of expression, freedom to give and receive, freedom to act upon the impulses that He places there. Rules can't do that.

Muslims want to impose their set of rules on everyone. Christians, Communists, Mormons, Socialists, and politicians do the same thing. One denomination condemns another even though they both are acting within the freedom God has given them. We want to major in the minors and be quick to see others faults (while ignoring the proverbial log in our own eye). We think we have to elevate our own ideologies and prove others wrong as a way of winning their hearts..???...that doesn't make sense to me.

I must work on my relationship with God and get that right first. I can not live a moral life without Him. If I try, I end up frustrated because I don't have the strength of will to do that. Only God can help me and I must have (or really want) a relationship with Him to ask Him for help. I want to stay within the limits God has set out (Don't murder, covet, steal, lust, or lie) but then I want to dance freely in the wide open spaces where freedom allows me. Don't impose traditions like they were handed down from God or make me have to believe in God the way you do.

I want relationship with God, family, friends and community. I want the openness, vulnerability and honesty (and fear it brings) so I can be close...real I can know love. How about you?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Be Thankful in All Circumstances

Here is the devotional message I gave last week in church:

Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. I Thessalonians 5.16

There once was a little boy who was always optimistic and thankful. His father was the opposite, a cynical, negative man who found something wrong with everything (of course, the father labeled himself a "realist"). So, to teach his son "a dose of reality" the father gave the son a roomful of horse manure for his birthday.

The son's eye widened in delight when he saw the manure and squealed as he began digging in it with both hands. The father asked what was so great about it.

The boy replied, "There's got to be a pony here somewhere!!!"

I hope you find the pony this week, in whatever circumstances life gives you.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Helping the Homeless

The DFW area has many homeless people who hang out at stoplights and intersections with homemade signs from torn cardboard boxes that beg for money. I feel a great compassion for these folks but I don't feel good about giving them money which might be used to further an addiction that got them there in the first place. I also don't feel good about driving past them, the thought "There but for the grace of God go I" at least sparks a tingle of guilt if I don't help.

So what I did was go to Jack in the Box and buy 20 gift cards valued at six bucks each, enough for a hamburger and a drink. It is my way of helping someone, giving them a warm meal. If I were in their place, it is a small gift that I could see I would need, a gift that communicates that some stranger cares...A gift that says Jesus cares about them.

Just this past week, I have handed out three of them. And each time, I feel more blessed than the person I gave it to. Try it....It is helping the helpless and feeding the hungry, a very scriptural thing to do.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Set me free

Ps. 142.7
Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name.

We have all been in prison in one way or another. I worked in a Federal Correctional Institution for a year and let me tell you, it was not a place you could get out of on your own. Two 20 foot razor wire fences with motion, heat and touch detctors. Armed guards. Locked doors and gates. Sally-ports where your id was checked and rechecked. You were not getting out if you were sentenced there.

Well, my sinful nature and addictions are my prison. I cannot get out of it on my own accord. I cannot escape it by thinking the right thing, or avoiding it. I cannot get out of it through therapy or church. Only God can help me break out of my prison that I walked into, that I sentenced myself to, and locked the door behind me. Only God can help me break the sin bonds with overeating, lust, pride, depression or anything other prison I can walk into and shut the door behind me.

Just like when Paul was in prison, God will rattle the doors open in some life-shaking experience and let me out. Its happening to me right now in my life on so many different issues and levels, because God is faithful. God wants us free so He can have our heart back, so He can be in fellowship with us again. He misses us, and wants us back because He loves us. Even if we are in our own Super Max prison (now there is a prison), He still desires to have you back. He still wants to set you free so He can have your undivided heart.

Lord, Set me free.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Searching for the Spirit

When and how were you aware of the Holy Spirit acting in your life?

My first and most significant time was at a retreat after 6 hours of praise and worship. I had fasted for four days, asking God to make himself known to me. I was aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit when a magnificent sense of peace and love overcame me to the point I could barely move...actually, I didn't want to move. I felt an incredibly powerful love for the men who were at the retreat, a love for Jesus that was tangible, and a desire to be closer to Him.

It has been my experience that the presence of the Spirit is most noticeable after an extended period of praise and worship (refer to my first posts concerning how I got there) and asking God to be known. I have also found that fasting for several days helps and that confessing my sins openly does as well. Its like God wants us to clean away the muck of our lives so He has room to inhabit us as we praise Him. This is just my experience, I am sure it is different for others.

But I would like to hear about your experiences with the Spirit. How are you aware of the Spirit? What to you do to make this possible?