Countdown to Easter

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Attention all ladies!

Do you need a little focus as you prepare for Easter Sunday?

Check it out!

If Gathering

featuring Jennie Allen & a little video message packed with inspiration

Watch it on your own, keep an Easter journal, and spend some quality time.

Wait, there’s more! Thanks to one amazing lady at our church, Paula, our women are having their own If Gathering  twice a month to share insights from the video, encourage one another, and experience Lent together. Maybe your friends would like to do this, too.

Be blessed,

Donna

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And the Greatest of These

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Last Sunday, our student ministries pastor asked us to do something very different. At least different for me. In our  communal prayer  time we asked God to help our church live out the love chapter, I Corinthians 13.

You know the one: love is patient, kind. That one you often hear at wedding ceremonies.

Quite frankly, I’ve always viewed the LOVE Chapter with a more personal than corporate perspective. I could be more patient, more kind, more this, more that! But practice these admonitions as a church? Sounds a little over the top. But why was I surprised?

After all . . .

Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, 2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours: 3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Rather than pray “Lord help me to be patient, help me to be kind,” we were guided to pray for our church of God in Ashland

Pastor Cory poked at us pretty hard. “What does 1 Corinthians 13 mean to Park Street Brethren Church?” He challenged us to think beyond ourselves as individuals. Cory explained that we would be praying through the love chapter as a church body. We bowed our heads and let Cory lead. “Love is patient,” he said. I prayed for our church members to be patient with each other.  Cory continued, “Ask the Lord to show you specifically how Park Street needs patience.” I immediately thought about the diversity of gifts amongst the congregation and how we need to nurture each other in their unique areas. Often that requires patience!

“Love is kind,” quoted Cory. And so the process continued. Prayer time was a unifying experience. I sensed a seriousness about us, a desire to consider the very character of our church community.

And I felt most rattled when Cory punctuated our experience with this declaration: “The way we behave as a community makes a difference in the world.”

Hearts were humbled.

Because behavior is a reflection of how we embrace the character of Christ.

And the greatest of these is love.

(Italicized scripture is from 1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

Joseph . . . called Barnabas, Son of Encouragement

For an end of the year wrap up, WordPress stats sent me a list of posts with the most views for 2015. Joseph . . . called Barnabas, Son of Encouragement was at the top of the list. 

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“Be kind; for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” Plato

 

 

 

If you’ve had experience with creating documents on the computer, you know that at the bottom of the page is the two word phrase, word count. It’s simply a running total of the amount of words you have written. For some that’s an important number; especially for students who need a quota for an assignment, or an author submitting a piece for publication.

While word count may be needed at times, wouldn’t it be interesting if we had an additional feature called word quality?

I’m not alluding to the need for a thesaurus and an expansion of vocabulary. Nor am I thinking about the development of one’s writing style. What I’m wondering is what it would be like if the computer could intuitively evaluate the quality or encouragement factor of our words. (Hmmm . . . maybe word quality should be a Facebook option.)

What would our interchanges be like if we all were given a word quality feature? I imagine it to be a little box I clip onto my waistband, emitting a buzzing sound when I’m too blunt, unnecessarily critical, or totally unaware of how I am coming across to another person (which happens more than I care to admit at the mature age of 60!).

On the other hand, this small attachment could play a pretty melody when my words are for the sake of helping others see the best in themselves, letting them know how much I value them, or responding in ways that show them I hear their feelings.

Thank God, I can point to conversations in which I’ve done pretty well with my word quality. I do think it will always be a work in progress. Below are three areas I am working on to help me communicate with encouragement. Perhaps one of these areas that speak to your own quality of words will resonate with you.

1. Self-awareness. You probably wonder what that has to do with encouragement. Well, when I am not in tune with my internal state of emotions, I have a tendency to respond unkindly. This can be discouraging to the person on the receiving end. A recent conversation with my spouse is a good example. Last Sunday I was exhausted and a little overwhelmed by life. In the midst of this emotional upheaval, my husband asked about having a weekend houseguest the following weekend. My first impulse was to show anger and scream “are you kidding me?” After a few moments, I was able to identify and share where I was emotionally. A fruitful conversation followed.

Relationships can get a bit dicey when we have to guess what’s going on inside the other person. Recognizing your feelings and expressing them with others is perhaps one of the greatest connecting points between humans. Having good self-awareness of your emotions will impact how you respond to people and how they respond to you as well!

2. Discounting. A good definition of this word is: to think of something as having little importance or value. This is an important concept that doesn’t get talked about a lot. I got to see this in full force several years ago when I was co-leading a group for emotional and spiritual healing. A young woman was describing a picture she drew of a very dark time in her childhood. The image, quite frankly, was startling and not at all pleasant. An older woman in the group chimed in that she saw hope because of the color yellow in the picture. Well, the younger woman immediately shut-down. Her feelings were discounted. Now the older woman meant well. She’s an absolutely lovely person. I’m sure she discounted the younger woman’s feelings without realizing it. This interaction brought discounting onto my radar screen and I’ve been working on that area ever since.

3. Blessing. Look for opportunities to bless one another with your words. Recently my daughter drove three hours with her four children to our home in order to celebrate her grandmother’s 90th birthday. Before she made the long trek back, I blessed her with words of gratefulness and acknowledgement for her sacrifice.

I also had the opportunity last week to bless my new daughter-in-law. She has hurdled major life obstacles and continues to persevere in challenging circumstances. I intentionally include blessings of encouragement when we Skype and let her know how proud I am of her.

Before our grandsons lay their heads on their pillows to sleep at night, our son-in-law blesses them with a scriptural passage of blessing from the Old Testament. Isn’t that a beautiful way to end the day and get ready for a night’s rest?

Offering a word of blessing is one of the most encouraging acts you can do for someone.

One of my favorite little stories in biblical times is about a Jesus follower that was known for the quality of his words. A certain man in the newly formed Christian church named Joseph was a key leader, preacher, teacher, and missionary. The book of Acts even calls him an apostle alongside of Paul (Acts 14:14), though he was not one of the twelve apostles. But the quality for which Joseph will probably be remembered more than any others was his willingness to express encouragement to others. In fact, that was such a strong virtue in Joseph’s life that the early church gave him a new name, Barnabas, which means son of encouragement.

Perhaps we should dare to clip on the Word Quality Box and become sons and daughters of encouragement!

If you need a little more encouragement on the topic of encouragement, check out Shauna Niequist’s post at http://www.shaunaniequist.com/use-words/. She’s one of my favorite authors and has a “good word” to say on the subject!

Blessings, (literally)

Donna

Taking the Bitter with the Sweet

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My Mom and her sisters Shirley and Joyce

It’s a liver and onions weekend. Now while that may not sound very good to you, my husband Jim is thrilled. He LOVES it. I follow my Mom’s recipe which is probably one of the best around (with the exception of Jim’s Mother’s liver and onions, of course!)

We don’t have this dish very often; there must be 1000 calories in one serving of this meal. But I felt compelled to serve this up in honor of the anniversary of my Mom’s birthday. If she were still alive, she’d be 87 today! (Actually she’s a leap year baby so her true birthday date is February 29th).

Pan-fried liver was a regular dinner offering when I was growing up. I always looked forward to the buttery-browned onions and crispy bacon. The liver? Ah. . . not so much. But back in the day my brother and I didn’t dare say anything negative about the food that was put in front of us. I was too worried that if I spoke up I would hurt my Mom’s feelings and, worse yet, incur the anger of my step-father. So I tolerated the liver by drowning it in catsup. Catsup was definitely my friend!

Poor, sorry, liver and onions. They certainly get a bad rap. But when I consider the techniques to prepare this dish, I realize that it offers quite the nice balance of flavors. Browning the onions for several minutes provides a sweetness. Soaking the liver in milk calms down the bitterness. The bacon adds that salty, smoky kick. And frying it all in butter makes everything better, as they say!

So kudos to my Mom for her kitchen savvy. Mom was not only a good cook, but a fine seamstress and knitter. She supported her kids by working as a waitress for many years. Her customers spoke quite highly of her and became her friends. More importantly, she was a loving sister and a caring Mom. I’m sure she didn’t hear that from her family as much as she deserved. Tension was thick at our house and conflict was the norm. Unfortunately, life in general at home when I was growing up was a little more bitter than it was sweet.

Today I’m choosing to feast on the sweet.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

My Mom’s Liver and Onions with Bacon (scroll down for the recipe)

Start with bacon. You can never go wrong with bacon!

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Pack in as many strips of bacon as you can in your skillet. I used my ceramic cast iron. Fry bacon until close to the desired crispness.

Once you’re done frying the bacon, remove from pan and pour off most of the bacon grease. Discard the extra grease.

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Melt a half of a stick of butter in the pan. Toss in the sliced onion. Cook the onion on medium heat until golden brown. Towards the end, add in the bacon and cook together for a minute.

While the onions are cooking, soak the liver in milk. Put flour in a shallow dish to dredge the liver in. (Ignore the balsamic vinegar in the background.)

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Since my husband is gluten free, I use either King Arthur or BG Bakes GF flour for the dredging. Salt and pepper the flour if desired. Jim can’t have pepper, so I don’t season it. Not sure it needs salt since you’re cooking the liver with bacon.

Dredge each piece of liver in the flour. Melt another half stick of butter in the pan and then add the liver.

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Looks rather unappetizing at this point! Fry the liver for a few minutes until brown. Flip and fry a few more minutes. My cast iron fries food pretty fast, so I use a medium to medium low heat. Minutes will vary depending on your skillet. We like our liver just barely pink on the inside.

Once the liver is nicely brown on each side, add the onions and bacon back into the pan.

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Cook liver, onions, and bacon for about 30 seconds.

Enjoy!

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Ta-da! My Mom’s liver and onions with bacon.

Ingredients:

1 pound of calf beef liver~ I buy mine from our local co-op that offers grass-fed, organic meats

1 stick of butter, in two parts

1 large sweet onion, sliced

1/2 pound of bacon~ I’m partial to Applegate brand

1 cup or so of flour

Salt and pepper if desired

Directions:

Place bacon in large skillet. Fry until it is close to the desired crispness.

Drain skillet of most of the bacon grease. Remove bacon and set aside.

Melt a half stick of butter in pan. Add sliced onions. Cook for several minutes until golden (slightly carmelized).

While onions are cooking, place flour in a shallow bowl. Place liver in a bowl with one cup of milk. If desired, do this earlier which will help the liver become even less bitter.

Throw the bacon back in the pan and cook with onions for a minute or two.

Remove onions and bacon. Set aside.

Dredge each piece of liver in the flour. Place in pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes or so on each side. Turn liver over when bottom side is nicely browned. Make sure you brown both sides well. My cast iron cooks quickly. Your pan may be slower. Check the liver on the inside to see if it is cooked through. Jim and I like it barely pink.

Add the onions and bacon back into the pan. Cook for about 30 seconds.

Serve on a pretty platter and enjoy!