Thursday, August 27, 2015

Thou Knowest...



Psalm 139:1-18

  O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. 

He knew what He was getting before He saved me... and before He called me to the field.

Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising,
thou understandest my thought afar off. 

Some people think that because I am a missionary that I do all things well, but He knows differently. He knew my faults, failures, and weaknesses as well as my strengths before He called me.

Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.

He promised to go with me each step of the way... to protect me, strengthen me, correct me, guide me... Because He knew I would need help. He didn't call me because I had something great to offer Him or the people I work with. He called me because He wants to do something great through me in spite of my weaknesses.

For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether

I am so glad this applies to when I am learning a new language, too. Sometimes I struggle... sometimes all the wrong words come out. Sometimes even in English the wrong words come out by choice. Sometimes I don't know what to teach, or if what I am teaching is making sense. But You know, Lord...

Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. 

Lord, I can't do this without your favor... with out your help. I need You! Thank you for preparing the path before me and for going behind me and cleaning up the messes I make in life and ministry.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it. 

Things are just too big for me, but they are not too big for You.

Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? 

There is nowhere I can go that you are not there.

If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. 

In my darkest, most frustrating days, You are there comforting me. In my brightest and happiest moments, I have You to thank.

If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; 
Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. 

Sometimes I feel like I am swimming and just barely keeping my head above water. I am glad You are there, too.

If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me.

When I feel like I cannot tell anyone... You already know.

Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee. 

You see the tears I shed when no one is looking.

For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb.

You have known me from the beginning.

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. 

You designed me... given me the talents I have as well as withheld the talents I don't have. All for a specific purpose and plan.

My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. 

Planned... designed... not an accident.

Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. 

So it doesn't shock you that I cannot do certain things well. You knew exactly who I would be even as I was forming in my mother's belly.

How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! 

Knowing all that, and you still love me and want to use me.

If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee. 

Oh, to think that You spend time thinking of me! 

by Charity, Southern Asia





Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Banana Bread

I don't know if you are like me or not but, when I have made a basic recipe several times I like to try to find a way to make it better. Just about the time I was wondering if there was a better recipe for banana bread, one of my friends posted the recipe I had been searching for. I was reminded about this recipe just the other day as I made a loaf of banana bread but had forgotten about this recipe.So,  I just used one from my Betty Crocker cookbook. As I was taking it out of the oven I thought to myself, this is not the recipe I used before. Our youngest son immediately asked, "Mom, where is the crumby stuff on top like the last time?" Oops, Mom messed up! :) Looks like we need to buy some more bananas and try not to eat them until they are ripe enough to make banana bread with crumby stuff! :)

This recipe does not call for a glaze, this is a stock photo that was as close
 as I could find to what this bread looks like fresh out of the oven. :)


Ingredients:

FOR THE BATTER:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/3 cups mashed overripe bananas (about 5 medium)
FOR THE TOPPING:
1/4 all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, diced


Directions:

FOR THE BREAD:
Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celsius (350°F). Lightly grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt and cake spice.
In another large bowl, using an electric hand mixer on medium speed, cream together butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy - about 3 minutes.
Stir in eggs, vanilla and mashed bananas until well blended.
Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, gently stir banana mixture into flour mixture - stirring until ingredients are just combined.
Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.

FOR THE TOPPING:
In a medium bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, cake spice and salt.
With your hands, work in butter pieces, until small clumps form.
Spread topping evenly over batter.

TO BAKE:
Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean.
Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack.


Notes:

Banana bread is better served after it has had time to sit overnight at room temperature.
Banana bread will keep wrapped in plastic wrap and aluminum foil for up to 3 days.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Look for Laughter... Look for Beauty

God didn't promise this would be easy.
Actually, He guaranteed it would be quite the opposite.
Things will get hard. And then sometimes things will get harder.
But through it all, if you look closely, you can see Him sending little love notes... a little laughter here. A little beauty there. He is there... walking with us, strengthening... carrying.

Such intense beauty...


Psalm 19:1  "The heavens declare the glory of God;
and the firmament sheweth his handywork." 

And such needed laughter...


Proverbs 17:22  "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine..."


When the road is long... look for beauty.


Stuck in traffic... Look for laughter.






When the road is hard to see... look for beauty.



When the wait is long... look for laughter.

(Waiting at the Visa office)

(Waiting on the roadside for paperwork at language school)


When the work piles up... look for beauty.



When the work is hard... look for laughter.


(Maybe this should actually be under "When the work piles up!" Ha!)

When it gets steep... look for beauty.


When it gets deep... look for laughter.


The question isn't, Will the monsoon rains of life come?
The question is, WHEN the rains come, will I trust God's sovereignty and love for me,
see the beauty, laugh out loud,
and learn to play in the rain?


Psalm 118:24  "This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." 

by Charity, Southern Asia



Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Chicken Pillows





Last week I posted a recipe for crescent roll dough. 
This week I am posting a way to use that recipe to make a complete meal.
I originally discovered this recipe through Pinterest on this blog.


Ingredients:

1 (8oz) can Pillsbury Crescent Rolls (or recipe to make the dough from scratch)
8 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup butter
2-3 cups cooked chicken
1 egg
1 sleeve saltine crackers crushed
1 can cream of chicken soup (see recipe)
1/4 cup milk (**IF you are making homemade cream of chicken soup you will not need to add this milk)
2 spoonfuls sour cream
1/2 cup shredded cheese

Instructions:

Cook chicken ahead of time so it can cool. Once cool, pull apart so that it has a shredded texture.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 Celsius)

 Soften butter and cream cheese. Stir to a smooth consistency. Add cooked or shredded chicken to the bowl.

Divide crescent dough apart into small balls and roll them out into circles as needed.

Place a couple spoonfuls of the creamy chicken mixture into the center of the crescent to fill it. Then fold the crescent around the mixture so that none of it is showing, forming it into a "pillow".

In a separate smaller bowl, put the egg and a little bit of water, maybe a couple tablespoons worth and beat together. Dip the "pillow" into the blended egg. After dipping into the blended egg, proceed to dip it into the crushed saltine crackers and place on cookie sheet. Repeat for the remaining crescents.

Cook the pillows at 400 F (200 Celsius) for 20 minutes keeping an eye on them to avoid overcooking them.

For the sauce topping:
If you are making cream of chicken soup from scratch your mixture will already be warm. Add the two spoonfuls of sour cream and cheese to your liking. 
If you are using canned cream of chicken soup, combine the soup with the milk in a sauce pan. Add the two spoonfuls of sour cream and cheese to your liking. 

***Based on the amount of canned crescent roll dough, this recipe makes eight chicken pillows. I usually double this recipe. Making the homemade crescent roll recipe allows you enough dough to double this recipe.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Homemade Crescent Roll Dough Recipe


Recipe originally found here


This recipe makes 32 rolls, more dough is used if you are not shaping them into rolls.

Ingredients:

2 pkgs. active dry yeast
3/4 cup of warm water (105 degrees)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 lg. eggs
1/2 cup shortening
4 cups unbleached flour
Butter or margarine, softened

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Stir in the sugar, salt, eggs, shortening and half of the flour into the yeast mixture.

Add the remaining flour blending until smooth. Scrape the dough from the sides of the bowl and cover with a cloth dampened in warm water. (The cloth should feel wet, but not be so wet that water drips onto the dough.) Let rise in a warm place (85 degrees F.), until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours. 

**At this point you can use the dough for other recipes if you are not baking them as rolls.
Divide the dough in half, rolling each half into a 12-inch circle 1/4 inch thick. Spread with the soft butter and cut each circle into 16 wedges. Roll up each wedge beginning at the largest end. Place, point side down, on a greased baking sheet. Curve to form crescents. Cover and let rise until double, 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 C) and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until they are a rich golden brown. Brush with soft butter.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Twelve Tips For a Successful Team Ministry


Our family arrived in Spain in August, 1984. At the time, we knew that God had led us very specifically to work with another family who were veteran missionaries. We worked very closely together as a two-family team for twenty years. The last ten years we were in two separate churches with close ties between them. They retired last year.

I’ve known many missionaries in team ministries over these thirty-one years. I’ve asked a lot of questions, observed other works, and learned a thing or two. I’m hoping that some of the tidbits I’ve picked up will help you in your ministry.
  1. Let God bring your team together. One of the factors in our working together for so many years was the obvious leading of God. Our co-workers were looking for someone to work with them, and we were looking for God’s leadership at the same time. There were unforgettable “coincidences” that confirmed to us that God was bringing us together as a team. Our co-workers were praying very specifically, and it was amazing how, unknown to us, God answered their specific prayers with us. When God puts the team together, it’s more successful than when men orchestrate teams.
  2. Have a team mission statement. It doesn’t have to be written down necessarily, but everyone should be aware of the ultimate goal. We are “planting a church in City X with the aim that someday a native pastor will take it over.” We are “starting a school for grades K-4 through 8, and it’s to be Christian and soul-winning.” We’re “founding a Christian camp ministry something like the one we knew at Camp Z in the States.” We are “training university students for the ministry.” Know your team goal so everyone can work toward it.
  3. Consider others’ gifts. Many years ago, I asked a woman in a very successful team ministry how they had worked together for so long. She replied that everyone was allowed to exercise his own gift. It only makes sense to consider people’s spiritual and natural gifts when divvying up tasks. Also, make sure each member of your team understands his “job description.”
  4. Have team meetings. This is so important for keeping everyone on the same page! Make sure you share ministry ideas, goals, and general information. Also, make sure everyone has a voice, every time (if he so desires).
  5. Communicate, communicate, communicate. This means talking, team meetings, listening, and all the rest. Make sure the whole team knows what’s expected and is aware of all the things he needs to know.
  6. Listen to others’ ideas. If you’re the team leader, of course, you will lead. But, it’s important to at least listen to and consider other angles of thinking and others’ ideas. (Sometimes, they’ll be great!)
  7. Pray together. No one can do God’s work effectively without God’s help and guidance. Prayer is vital! Plus, people who pray together naturally become closer.
  8. Work. Pull your own weight. Do what you find to do. Do what you’re asked to do and do it well. Be a witness to your own friends and acquaintances. (You don’t need an assignment to do that!) Be willing to work hard.
  9. Be kind. No matter what, speak to your co-workers kindly. Be considerate.
  10. Solve problems rather than letting them slide. If you really and truly have an issue, work it out with your co-worker. Talk it over in private, and solve it. A lot of team problems are simply misunderstandings and/or due to poor communication. Talk through problems, and get them resolved. If you’re the leader and need to tackle an issue, help your co-worker understand why you’re speaking to him.
  11. Celebrate some purely social occasions with all of the team together. We used to have a meal with our co-workers after our families distributed tracts on Saturday mornings. Both families contributed to the meal—the same menu every week—and it gave us some quality time together. When our children were younger, we celebrated American holidays (Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July) together with them. 
  12. Honor each other in public and in private. Nothing chops a team apart faster than harmful talk. When you speak of your co-worker, only speak positively. Praise him, if you can. Never publicly criticize someone you work with. (Deal with any genuine issue privately.)


When things don’t go according to plan, we need to joyfully embrace Plan B. Many years ago in Spain, a veteran missionary told us he thought he would start a church every few years, be able to turn it over to a national pastor, and move on. To his dismay, the first church he founded was twenty years in the growing before it was ready to call a pastor. He started a new one after that, and now, it too has called a Spanish pastor. If at first things don’t work like you thought they would, ask the Lord for guidance. Sometimes, all you need is perseverance.

What if the team doesn’t work? Of course, there are ministries where partners just can’t work together. They have more issues than solutions. They don’t agree, and they don’t fit! It’s time to seek God’s leadership. Be humble, analyze the issues, and look for a satisfactory solution. If you have irreconcilable differences, bow out gracefully without bad-mouthing anyone. Make sure you don’t harm the cause of Christ on that field. If your team can’t work together, leave sweetly and quickly.

What if there’s a moral or legal issue? Moral issues should be taken care of by the church, according to the guidelines in Matthew 18:15-17. Legal issues should be taken care of by government authorities.

Team ministries can be very effective in serving the Lord. We need only to read the book of Acts to see how the apostles and disciples went together on many of their missionary journeys. We watch Paul being evangelistic and father-like while Barnabas gave people special help as they were finding their way in their Christian faith and ministry. We see great orators like Apollos learning doctrine in the home of Aquila and Priscilla. We watch Dorcas making clothes for widows, Lydia opening her spacious home, and Rhoda keeping the door at a prayer meeting. Each person counts. Every role is important.

Whether your particular part in the team ministry is great or small, the Lord appreciates everything that's done in His name, His power, and for His glory.

So then neither is he that planteth any thing,
neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.
Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one:
and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.
For we are labourers together with God:
ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.
According to the grace of God which is given unto me,
as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon.
But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Now if any man build upon this foundation
gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
Every man’s work shall be made manifest:
for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire;
and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.
If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon,
he shall receive a reward (1 Corinthians 3:7-14).

So run, that ye may obtain (1 Corinthians 9:24b).

May the Lord find us faithful!


  

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Homemade Alfredo Sauce

Every now and then a craving hits you for a good plate of...something fattening. :) Sometimes that fattening food has to be Italian. For those days, you need a recipe for Alfredo sauce. I always imagined Alfredo sauce to be difficult to make. So much that when my hubby offered to cook dinner and we happened to have some 30-35% cream on hand, I would ask him to make pasta with Alfredo sauce. Then, one day we wanted to make some and he had something come up that kept him out of the kitchen when it came time to start dinner prep. So, I got a crash course in whipping up some Alfredo sauce and found it to be super easy to make. I am going to include two recipes in case you are wanting a quick way to make Alfredo (which we make all the time) or if you are trying to make a thicker sauce more like your favorite restaurant back "home", wherever that may be.



Quick Alfredo Sauce

Ingredients:
Heavy cream (ideally 30% and higher)
Approx. 3/4 cup of finely grated Parmesan cheese
salt to taste
garlic powder to taste (optional)

Directions:
Combine 1 pint of heavy cream with Parmesan cheese and stirrring constantly, heat slowly over medium heat until the cheese is melted. Add salt to taste.  **The main point to remember is to NOT allow the sauce to come to a boil.**

Note: I am estimating on the amount of grated parmesan cheese to add so you may want to play around a bit with this recipe to achieve the desired texture you are wanting for the sauce. Not thick enough, add more parmesan next time until you find what works best.


Thicker Alfredo Sauce

Ingredients:
1 pint of heavy cream
1 stick of butter
2 tbsp. cream cheese
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. garlic powder

Directions:
Simmer cream, butter, and cream cheese until all is melted, stirring constantly. Add cheese and garlic powder. Simmer for 15-20 minutes on low or until cheese begins to brown slightly. Season with salt and pepper if desired.


Serve either one of these recipes over the pasta of your choice with garlic bread on the side and enjoy...but not very often if you are concerned with your weight. ;)