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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Memorial Day Meals - YUM!

It's time for the Memorial Day Meal Recipes. Memorial Day is a week away, however, some people may want to prepare for it ahead of time, especially if inviting a large crowd/family over to the house. Menus must be made, portions must be measured, etc. so I am doing my part to help make your Memorial Day a little easier and take the guess work out of the meal part. Here is a veritable PLETHORA of recipes for you to choose from. I hope you enjoy the ones you choose and that it makes for a memorable Memorial Day (weekend).

Memorial Day Meal Recipes


The Fruit

Creamy Hawaiian Fruit Salad
Prep Time: 10 min
Total Time: 4 hr 10 min
Makes: Makes 10 (1/2-cup) servings.

2 cups seedless red grapes
1 cup seedless orange sections
1 banana, sliced
1 can (8 oz.) pineapple chunks, drained
1 cup JET-PUFFED Miniature Marshmallows
1 container (8 oz.) BREAKSTONE'S or KNUDSEN Sour Cream
BAKER'S ANGEL FLAKE Coconut, toasted (optional)

MIX all ingredients except coconut; cover.
REFRIGERATE several hours or overnight.
SPRINKLE with coconut just before serving.

Five-Cup Fruit Salad
Prep Time: 15 min
Total Time: 3 hr 15 min
Makes: 7 servings, 1/2 cup each

1 can (8-1/4 oz.) DOLE Pineapple Chunks, undrained
1 can (11 oz.) DOLE Mandarin Orange Segments, drained
1 container (8 oz.) BREAKSTONE'S or KNUDSEN Sour Cream, any variety
1 cup JET-PUFFED Miniature Marshmallows

DRAIN pineapple, reserving 1 Tbsp. of the juice.
MIX pineapple, reserved juice and remaining ingredients; toss lightly. Cover.
REFRIGERATE several hours or until chilled.

Special Extra
Garnish with maraschino cherries and mint sprigs.

Strawberry and Melon Salad

Prep Time: 20 min
Total Time: 20 min
Makes: 8 servings

1 envelope GOOD SEASONS Italian Salad Dressing & Recipe Mix
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup oil
2 Tbsp. Water
1 bag (10 oz.) salad greens
3 cups melon cubes, such as cantaloupe, honeydew or watermelon
1 cup sliced strawberries
3 Tbsp. PLANTERS Sunflower Kernels or use chopped cashews or slivered almonds

MIX salad dressing mix, juice, oil and water until well blended.
POUR over combined greens, melon and strawberries in large bowl; toss lightly.
SPRINKLE with sunflower kernels.

Helpful hint:
Look for firm plump berries that are fully colored for their variety. Berries in season have more flavor and are typically lower in cost than their out-of-season counterparts. Fresh berries are perishable and do not ripen after picking. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Rinse with cool water just before using and remove the hulls, if necessary. Or, enjoy summer's best all year long by freezing berries at the height of their season. Then, thaw and use as desired.

The Pasta

Garden Fresh Pasta Salad
Prep Time: 20 min
Total Time: 1 hr 30 min
Makes: 14 servings, 3/4 cup each

1 pkg. (16 oz.) bow tie pasta, uncooked
2 cups broccoli florets
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 medium red pepper, chopped
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup KRAFT 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 bottle (8 oz.) KRAFT Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette Dressing

COOK pasta as directed on package, adding the broccoli to the pasta cooking water for the last minute of the pasta cooking time. Drain; rinse under cold running water. Drain well.
PLACE pasta mixture in large bowl. Add remaining vegetables; mix lightly. Stir in cheese. Add dressing; toss to coat. Cover.
REFRIGERATE at least 1 hour or until ready to serve.

Nic’s Popular Pasta Salad
I threw some things together many years ago and ended up making a pasta salad that people have really enjoyed over the past several years. It’s easy and relatively quick but it makes a lot so you might want to modify the amounts if you’re making it for a small group.

1 box Barilla rotini pasta (I’ve found that this cooks up the best!)
2 containers Safeway Select herb spinach and cheese ravioli (You can find this in the refrigerated section of any Randall’s, Skagg’s, Tom Thumb or Safeway stores. This isn't a MUST have, but it adds something special to the taste)
2 cups cubed mild or sharp cheddar cheese (I prefer the sharp b/c it blends well with the other flavors)
2 large jars whole mushrooms or 1 large jar sliced mushrooms (drained)
1 bottle Kraft Zesty Italian salad dressing
Olive oil
2 cups sliced carrots
2 cups semi-cooked broccoli florets
2 cups cubed ham or turkey

Step 1:
Boil water with at least 1 tsp of salt and 2 tsp olive oil (yes, it’s a lot of salt but you’ll understand further down)
Place rotini in water and cook for 8 minutes
Remove rotini and place in colander to drain
RINSE rotini under cold water (this stops the cooking process and rinses off the majority of the salt – the purpose of the salt was to lend your rotini some flavor as it cooked)
Place cooled pasta in large plastic container (that has a lid to it)

Step 2:
Boil new pot of water and olive oil (same pot is perfectly fine!)
Place herbed ravioli in water and let cook for 4-5 minutes
Remove ravioli and place in colander to drain
RINSE ravioli under cold water
Place cooled pasta in large plastic container with the rotini

Step 3:
Add cheese and veggies (and meat if desired) to rotini and ravioli
Add ½ bottle of Zesty Italian
Place lid securely on the container
Shake, shake, shake the container to mix the ingredients thoroughly
Taste results and add more salad dressing if desired (if you do add more dressing shake again to mix)

Summertime Tuna Pasta Salad
Prep Time: 25 min
Total Time: 3 hr 25 min
Makes: 12 servings, 1/2 cup each

3/4 cup MIRACLE WHIP Dressing
1 tsp. dill weed
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 cups cooked bow tie pasta
1 can (6 oz.) white tuna in water, drained, flaked
1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup sliced celery

MIX dressing, dill weed and pepper in large bowl.
ADD remaining ingredients; mix lightly. Cover.
REFRIGERATE several hours or overnight.

3-4 bags baby shrimp (cooked and frozen)
3/4 to 1 lb. pasta shells or macaroni
2 c. cooked tiny peas
1 tbsp. dry dill weed
1 tbsp. dry basil
2 1/4 c. mayonnaise
2 tbsp. tarragon vinegar
1/4 c. drained capers

Unfreeze baby shrimp
Cook pasta in boiling, salted water and drain.
Cool slightly.
Grind dill and basil together (fresh herb may be used if so adjust amounts accordingly).
Mix mayonnaise, vinegar, and capers with dill and basil. Taste and adjust seasoning.
In large bowl, mix shrimp, pasta, and peas.
Pour dressing over mixture. You may want to add this by degree to get the amount you prefer.
Toss gently. Adjust seasoning and refrigerate.
Better made the day before.
Serves 8 to 10.

The Greens

Almond Mandarin Salad
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 10 Minutes
Yields: 8 servings

1/2 pound bacon
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon dry hot mustard
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon ground paprika
1/4 cup olive oil
1 head red leaf lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
1 (15 ounce) can mandarin oranges, drained
1 bunch green onion, diced
3/4 cup slivered almonds

In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, cook bacon until evenly brown. Drain, cool, and crumble.
To make the dressing, thoroughly blend the vinegar, honey, dry mustard, celery salt, paprika, and olive oil.
Place lettuce, oranges, green onion, bacon, and almonds in a serving bowl. Toss with dressing and serve.

Apple Avocado Salad with Tangerine Dressing
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Yields: 10 servings

1 (10 ounce) package baby greens
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/3 cup feta cheese
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 apple - peeled, cored and sliced
1 avocado - peeled, pitted and diced
4 mandarin oranges, juiced
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt to taste

In a large bowl, toss together the baby greens, red onion, almonds, feta cheese, and lemon zest. Mix in the apple and avocado just before serving.
In a container with a lid, mix the mandarin orange juice, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, olive oil, and salt. Drizzle over the salad as desired.

B.L.T. Salad with Basil Mayo Dressing
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 10 Minutes
Yields: 8 servings

1 pound bacon
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil
8 slices French bread, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 pounds romaine lettuce - rinsed, dried, and torn into bite-size pieces
4 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered

Place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain, crumble and set aside, reserving 2 tablespoons of the drippings.
In a small bowl, whisk together the reserved bacon drippings, mayonnaise, vinegar and basil and let dressing stand, covered, at room temperature.
In a large skillet over medium heat, toss the bread pieces with the salt and pepper. Drizzle with the oil, continue tossing and cook over medium-low heat until golden brown.
In a large bowl mix together the romaine, tomatoes, bacon and croutons. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well.


1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. lemon pepper
1 tsp. granulated garlic
1 tbsp. Lea & Perrins
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
4 tbsp. butter, melted
9 slices bacon
18 jumbo shrimp, shelled and deveined

Cut the slices of bacon in half. Partially cook the bacon over moderate heat to render some of the fat without allowing the pieces to crisp. Combine butter with spices, add shrimp, toss well to coat, let marinate at room temperature 30 to 60 minutes. Remove shrimp from the marinade, reserving the marinade. Wrap a slice of bacon around each shrimp and secure with a toothpick to hold both ends of the bacon. Place shrimp on hot grill for 4 minutes; turn and brush shrimp with reserved marinade and grill for 4 minutes longer or until shrimp are opaque throughout.

Nic’s BBQ Bacon-wrapped Shrimp – With a Kick
20-30 Jumbo Shrimp (deveined)
Equal amount of Bacon
De-seeded and deveined jalapeño slices (small)
Cream Cheese
Your favorite brand BBQ sauce (I personally prefer Jack Daniel’s Original – blue label)
¼ cup Dark Brown Sugar
¼ cup Honey
Toothpicks that have been soaked in water for an hour
Metal skewers or bamboo skewers that have been soaked in water for an hour

BBQ Sauce:
To make the BBQ sauce sweeter to offset the heat of the jalapeño (for those of you who like that – and to make it glaze better while grilling) empty the bottle of BBQ sauce into a glass mixing bowl.
Mix the dark brown sugar and honey thoroughly with the BBQ sauce and let set while preparing the shrimp

Butterfly the shrimp
Stuff with small slice of jalapeño and small piece of cream cheese
Wrap with bacon and secure with toothpick OR place directly on skewer to hold together
Brush liberally with BBQ sauce
Grill 3-5 minutes on each side until done, glazing with BBQ sauce as desired


The Beans

Crowd-Pleasin' BBQ Beans

Prep Time: 5 min
Total Time: 35 min
Makes: Makes 10 servings, about 1/2 cup each.

2 cans (15 oz. each) pork and beans
1 can (15-1/2 oz.) butter beans, drained
1 cup chopped grilled beef sirloin steak
1/2 cup Kraft or Jack Daniels Original Barbecue Sauce
1 small onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. dry mustard

MIX all ingredients in large saucepan on medium heat.
BRING to boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Great Substitute
Prepare as directed, using 1/2 lb. ground beef, cooked and drained, or 1 cup chopped grilled boneless skinless chicken breasts or 1 cup chopped grilled pork.

Boston Baked Beans
Prep Time: 10 min
Total Time: 1 hr 10 min
Makes: 8 servings, about 2/3 cup each

1 tsp. oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cans (16 oz. each) baked beans
1/2 cup brewed MAXWELL HOUSE Coffee
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 tsp. black pepper

PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Heat oil in large skillet on medium heat. Add onion; cook and stir until tender.
PLACE onions in 1-1/2-quart casserole dish or bean pot. Add remaining ingredients; mix well.
BAKE 45 minutes to 1 hour or until liquid is almost completely absorbed and bean mixture is heated through.

Refried Beans Supreme
Prep Time: 5 min
Total Time: 11 min
Makes: 4 servings

1 can (16 oz.) Refried Beans
1 cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese, divided
1/2 cup chopped tomato

MIX beans and 1/2 cup of the cheese in 1-quart microwavable dish; cover.
MICROWAVE on HIGH 3 to 4 minutes or until heated through; stir. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Microwave, uncovered, 1 to 2 minutes or until cheese is melted.
SPRINKLE with tomato.

The Spuds

Ok, I am giving you my secret mashed potato recipe. It is extremely easy to make, but I have never failed to have someone ask for the recipe wherever I have brought it. The secret is in the taste. I personally no longer really measure, it is all by taste to me, but when I started out, I used this recipe. I originally got it from Martha Stewart and modified it to my tastes. (Mine tastes better!) This is NOT for the faint of heart as it is very generous with the calories. It also doesn't taste as good with anything less than what is here.

4 large peeled Russet baking potatoes
1 1/2 sticks salted butter - almost room temperature (BUTTER - NOT Oleo or Margarine)
1/2 cup HEAVY whipping cream (regular will suffice for a sub if you can't find the heavy kind)
Salt and (Fine Ground Black)Pepper to taste (sometimes I add a little garlic powder to make "hint of garlic" mashed potatoes but I am not using that in today's recipe)

Cube potatoes and put in large pot with enough water to cover the potatoes and add some salt to the water. Not much, maybe 1 tbsp. This will help the potatoes absorb flavor during the cooking process.

When potatoes are fork tender (meaning you can pierce them easily with a fork), drain completely. Take an electric mixer with the paddle attachment if you have it (regular attachment will work ok if you don't have a paddle attachment) and mix until most of the potatoes are mashed with only a few lumps left. You won't get all the lumps out in this step.

Add the butter and mix completely into the potatoes. Your potatoes should start to have a creamy consistency already and the lumps should be mostly out by now.

Next heat the HEAVY whipping cream until it is HOT - this is best in a Pyrex measuring cup. Start by pouring in 1/4 cup of the cream and mixing completely. Taste the potatoes. If you feel like they are not creamy enough, add more of the cream and mix thoroughly again. Taste again and add more butter and/or cream if you want to.

Last, add salt and fine ground black pepper for taste.

Makes approx 6 servings.

This is an extremely easy mashed potato recipe, but the steps must be followed in order. I've found that for some reason it tastes different if you add everything together at the same time instead of in steps. These are supposed to be THICK, heavy and rich potatoes. Not wimpy, thin and tasteless. These potatoes are the staple of my meals for steaks, BBQ chicken, chicken fried steak, etc. You can never go wrong with these. I hope you enjoy them.

Abuela's Easy and Delicious Potato Salad
Unlike the other potato salads, this one does not need refrigerating and can be served immediately after making. My former Mother-In-Law makes this all the time and it is delicious!

6 large Russet Potatoes (peeled)
6 Hard Boiled Eggs
Hot Paprika
Pickle relish

Boil peeled potatoes until cooked completely. Cool in chilled water. Dry and dump in large bowl. Score and dice with knife. Add chopped eggs. Mix in other ingredients to your liking. Serve. It's that easy! And super tasty. :)

Great American Potato Salad
Prep Time: 30 min
Total Time: 3 hr 30 min
Makes: 8 servings, 1/2 cup each.

1/2 cup KRAFT Mayo Real Mayonnaise or MIRACLE WHIP Dressing
1 Tbsp. KRAFT Pure Prepared Mustard
1/2 tsp. celery seed
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
4 cups cubed potatoes, cooked
2 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/3 cup dill pickle relish

MIX mayo, mustard and seasonings in large bowl.
ADD remaining ingredients; mix lightly. Cover. Refrigerate several hours or until chilled.

Great Substitute
Substitute GREY POUPON Dijon Mustard for prepared mustard.

The Other Sides

Sesame Rice
Prep Time: 10 min
Total Time: 40 min
Makes: 4 servings

1 can (15 oz.) mandarin orange segments
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups MINUTE Brown Rice
2/3 cup prepared GOOD SEASONS Asian Sesame Salad Dressing & Recipe Mix
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 can (8 oz.) sliced water chestnuts, drained

DRAIN oranges, reserving liquid. Add enough water to reserved liquid to measure 1-3/4 cups. Add ginger and salt.
PREPARE rice with 1-3/4 cups liquid as directed on package; stir. Refrigerate 30 minutes.
STIR in dressing, green onions and water chestnuts. Gently stir in oranges.

Great Substitute
Substitute 1/2 cup celery slices for water chestnuts.

VELVEETA® Cheesy Tortilla Corn

Prep Time: 5 min
Total Time: 20 min
Makes: 6 servings

1/2 cup sliced green onions
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
1 Tbsp. margarine
2 pkg. (10 oz. each) frozen whole kernel corn, thawed, drained
6 oz. VELVEETA LIGHT Reduced Fat Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product, cut up
2/3 cup crushed tortilla chips
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro

COOK and stir onions and red peppers in margarine in large skillet on medium-high heat until tender. Reduce heat to low.
STIR in corn and VELVEETA LIGHT. Cook 5 to 7 min. or until VELVEETA is completely melted and mixture is heated through, stirring occasionally.
SPOON corn mixture into serving bowl; sprinkle with tortilla chips and cilantro.

Great Substitute
Prepare as directed, substituting PHILADELPHIA Neufchatel Cheese, 1/3 Less Fat than Cream Cheese for the VELVEETA LIGHT Reduced Fat Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product.

How To Chop Fresh Cilantro
Just place cilantro leaves in a glass measuring cup or small bowl and cut them into tiny pieces with kitchen scissors, using short quick strokes.

Jacksonville Carrots
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 20 Minutes
Yields: 8 servings

8 large carrots, halved
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup clarified butter

1. Steam the carrots in a steamer basket over 1 inch of boiling water for 7 to 10 minutes, or until tender but still firm. Cool, and grate with a large holed grater. Mix together the grated carrots, honey, apple juice concentrate, parsley, and hazelnuts. Season with garlic powder, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
2. Heat butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the carrot mixture in the hot butter until heated through.



Tangy Southern BBQ Ribs

Prep Time: 5 min
Total Time: 1 hr 35 min
Makes: 10 servings

1 bottle (18 oz.) KRAFT Original Barbecue Sauce or Jack Daniels Original BBQ Sauce (blue label)
1 tsp. hot pepper sauce
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
4 lb. pork spareribs, baby back ribs or big ol' beef ribs (my personal favorite)

PREHEAT greased grill to low heat. Mix barbecue sauce, hot pepper sauce and garlic powder. Reserve 1/2 cup of the barbecue sauce mixture for serving with cooked ribs.
PLACE ribs, bone sides down, on grate of grill. Cook, uncovered, 1 hour, turning over after 30 minutes. Brush with the some of the remaining barbecue sauce mixture; continue grilling 30 minutes or until ribs are cooked through, turning and brushing with the remaining barbecue sauce mixture every 10 minutes.
SERVE with the reserved 1/2 cup barbecue sauce mixture.

If you don't have a grill, you can use your oven
Place ribs on rack of broiler pan. Reserve 1/2 cup of the barbecue sauce mixture as directed. Brush ribs with some of the remaining barbecue sauce mixture. Bake at 350°F for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until ribs are cooked through, turning and brushing occasionally with the remaining barbecue sauce mixture. Serve with the reserved barbecue sauce mixture as directed.

Pork on a Bun
Great for large groups or leftovers!

Prep Time: 15 min
Total Time: 3 hr 45 min
Makes: 20 servings

1/2 cup BULL'S-EYE or KRAFT Original Barbecue Sauce
1/2 cup pineapple juice
2 tsp. grated gingerroot
2 tsp. minced fresh garlic
1 pork shoulder (5 lb.)
3/4 cup A.1. Original Steak Sauce
20 hamburger buns, partially split

PREHEAT grill to medium heat. Combine barbecue sauce, pineapple juice, gingerroot and garlic. Place pork in disposable baking pan. Pour barbecue sauce mixture over pork. Let stand at room temperature 20 minutes.
PLACE pan on grate of grill; cover with lid of grill. Cook 3 to 3-1/2 hours or until pork is cooked through. Remove from grill; cover with foil. Let stand 10 minutes.
SHRED or pull pork into shreds with 2 forks or your fingers. Add steak sauce; mix lightly. Serve in buns.

The Beef

Steakhouse-Style Grilled Steak
Prep Time: 5 min
Total Time: 21 min
Makes: 4 servings

2 tsp. each brown sugar, garlic powder and onion powder
1 tsp. coarse ground black pepper
4 beef tenderloin steaks (6-8 oz. each)
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

PREHEAT grill to medium-high heat. Mix brown sugar and seasonings.
BRUSH steaks with oil. Sprinkle seasoning mixture evenly over both sides of steaks; press gently into steaks to secure.
GRILL 6 to 8 minutes on each side or until cooked through.

All-American BBQ Bacon Cheeseburgers
Prep Time: 10 min
Total Time: 28 min
Makes: 4 servings

1 lb. ground beef
1/2 cup KRAFT Original Barbecue Sauce, divided
4 KRAFT Singles
4 kaiser rolls, split, toasted
4 lettuce leaves
4 thin tomato slices
4 slices OSCAR MAYER Bacon, crisply cooked, drained and broken in half

PREHEAT broiler or grill to medium heat. Mix meat and 1/4 cup of the barbecue sauce. Shape into 4 patties.
BROIL patties 4 to 6 inches from heat or grill patties 7 to 9 minutes on each side or until cooked through (160°F). Top with Singles; continue cooking until Singles begin to melt.
COVER bottom halves of rolls evenly with lettuce and tomato; top with cheeseburgers, remaining 1/4 cup barbecue sauce, bacon and tops of rolls.

Great Substitute
Substitute KRAFT DELI DELUXE Cheese Slices for the KRAFT Singles. Substitute sesame topped hamburger buns for the kaiser rolls.

Grilled Taco Cheeseburgers
Prep Time: 10 min
Total Time: 30 min
Makes: 4 servings

1 lb. ground beef
1 pkg. (1-1/4 oz.) TACO BELL HOME ORIGINALS Taco Seasoning Mix
4 KRAFT Singles
4 kaiser rolls, split, toasted
4 lettuce leaves
1/2 cup TACO BELL HOME ORIGINALS Thick 'N Chunky Salsa

PREHEAT grill to medium heat. Mix meat and seasoning mix; shape into 4 patties.
GRILL patties 7 to 9 minutes on each side or until cooked through; top with Singles. Grill an additional 1 to 2 minutes or until Singles are melted.
TOP bottom halves of rolls with lettuce, burgers and salsa. Cover with tops of rolls.

Use Your Stove
Mix meat with seasoning mix and shape into patties as directed. Cook in skillet on medium heat 4 to 6 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Top patties with Singles; cover. Cook an additional 1 to 2 minutes or until Singles are melted. Continue as directed.

The Fish

BBQ Salmon

Prep Time: 5 min
Total Time: 17 min
Makes: 4 servings

1/2 cup KRAFT THICK 'N SPICY Original Barbecue Sauce
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 green onion, sliced
4 salmon steaks (4 oz. each)

PREHEAT greased grill to medium-high heat. Mix barbecue sauce, brown sugar and onion until well blended.
GRILL salmon 4 minutes on each side. Brush generously with the barbecue sauce mixture. Continue grilling 4 minutes or until salmon flakes easily with fork, turning occasionally and brushing with the remaining barbecue sauce mixture.

Great Substitute
Substitute halibut or swordfish steaks for the salmon steaks.

Use Your Broiler
Mix barbecue sauce mixture as directed. Place salmon on rack of broiler pan 3 to 5 inches from heat. Broil 4 minutes on each side. Brush generously with barbecue sauce mixture. Broil an additional 2 to 4 minutes or until salmon flakes easily with fork, turning once and brushing occasionally with the remaining barbecue sauce mixture.

You can also click the link to pull up the recipe I did for Father's Day last year for Cedar Plank Grilled Salmon.


Meringue-Topped Southern Banana Pudding

Prep Time: 20 min
Total Time: 45 min
Makes: 12 servings, 2/3-cup each

4-1/2 cups milk
2 pkg. (4-serving size each) JELL-O Vanilla Flavor Cook & Serve Pudding & Pie Filling
3 eggs, separated
42 NILLA Wafers (1/2 of 12-oz. pkg.)
2 large bananas, sliced
Dash cream of tartar
1/3 cup sugar

ADD milk to pudding mix in medium saucepan; stir until well blended. Lightly beat egg yolks in small bowl. Add to milk mixture; mix well. Cook on medium heat until mixture comes to full boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
ARRANGE layer of wafers on bottom and up side of 2-quart baking dish. Top with layers of 1/3 of the pudding and 1/2 of the banana slices. Repeat layers, ending with remaining pudding.
BEAT egg whites and cream of tartar in medium bowl with electric mixer on high speed until foamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Spread over pudding, sealing to edge of dish.
BAKE at 350°F for 15 minutes or until meringue is browned. Cool on wire rack. Serve warm or refrigerate until ready to serve. Store leftover pudding in refrigerator.

Special Extra
Garnish with additional banana slices dipped in lemon juice to prevent darkening just before serving.

PHILADELPHIA® 3-STEP® Key Lime Cheesecake

Prep Time: 10 min
Total Time: 3 hr 10 min
Makes: 8 servings

2 pkg. (8 oz. each) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. grated lime peel
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1 HONEY MAID Graham Pie Crust (6 oz.)
1 cup thawed COOL WHIP Whipped Topping

PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Beat cream cheese, sugar, peel, juice and vanilla with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add eggs; mix just until blended.
POUR into crust.
BAKE 40 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool. Refrigerate 3 hours or overnight. Top with whipped topping just before serving. Store leftover cheesecake in refrigerator.

Special Extra
Garnish with lime slices just before serving.

Yummy Nummy Frozen Lemonade Pie

1 can 6 oz. frozen lemonade
1 pt Vanilla ice cream, softened
3½ c Thawed Cool Whip-type topping
1 ea Ready graham cracker crust
1 x Yellow food coloring, opt.

Place concentrate in large mixing bowl and beat about 30 seconds.
Gradually spoon in ice cream and blend.
Fold in whipped topping and add food coloring, whipping until smooth.
Freeze, if necessary, until mixture will mound.
Spoon in pie crust.
Freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.
Store any leftover pie in freezer.

Yield: 6 servings

Cherry Pie
Recipe Rating:
Prep Time: 30 min
Total Time: 1 hr 20 min
Makes: 12 servings

4 cups fresh pitted sour cherries
1-1/2 cups sugar
3 Tbsp. MINUTE Tapioca
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1 pkg. (15 oz.) refrigerated pie crusts (2 crusts)
1 Tbsp. butter or margarine

PREHEAT oven to 400°F. Toss cherries with sugar, tapioca and almond extract. Let stand 15 minutes.
PREPARE pie crust as directed on package for 2-crust pie, using 9-inch pie plate. Fill with fruit mixture. Dot with butter. Cover with second pie crust. Seal and flute edge. Cut several slits to permit steam to escape.
BAKE 45 to 50 minutes or until juices form bubbles that burst slowly. Cool.

Great Substitute
Frozen sour cherries, thawed and drained, can be substituted for the fresh sour cherries.

How To Make Lattice-Top Pie
Prepare bottom crust and fill with cherry filling as directed. Cut second pie crust into 10 (1/2-inch-wide) strips with pastry wheel or sharp knife. Place 5 of the strips over filling. Weave lattice crust with remaining strips by folding back alternate strips as each cross strip is added. Fold trimmed edge of lower crust over ends of strips. Seal and flute edge. Bake as directed.

Juicy Fruited Summer Pie

Prep Time: 10 min
Total Time: 4 hr 40 min
Makes: 8 servings

2/3 cup boiling orange-pineapple-banana juice
1 pkg. (4-serving size) JELL-O Brand Pineapple Flavor Gelatin
Ice cubes
1/2 cup cold orange-pineapple-banana juice
1 tub (8 oz.) COOL WHIP Whipped Topping, thawed, divided
1 HONEY MAID Graham Pie Crust (6 oz.)
1 cup mixed cut-up fresh fruit (strawberries, blueberries, mandarin oranges, peeled kiwi)

STIR boiling juice into dry gelatin in large bowl at least 2 min. until completely dissolved. Add enough ice cubes to cold juice to measure 1 cup. Add to gelatin; stir until slightly thickened. Remove any unmelted ice. Add 2-1/2 cups of the whipped topping; stir with wire whisk until well blended. Refrigerate 20 to 25 min. or until mixture is very thick and will mound.
SPOON into crust.
REFRIGERATE several hours or overnight. Top with the remaining whipped topping and fruit just before serving. Store in refrigerator.

Great Substitute
Prepare as directed, using JELL-O Brand Strawberry Flavor Gelatin.

Hazelnut Cheesecake

Prep Time: 20 min
Total Time: 4 hr 35 min
Makes: 16 servings

45 NILLA Wafers, finely crushed (about 1-1/2 cups)
3/4 cup toasted ground hazelnuts, divided
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine, melted
4 pkg. (8 oz. each) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 cup BREAKSTONE'S or KNUDSEN Sour Cream
3 Tbsp. hazelnut liqueur

PREHEAT oven to 325°F if using a silver 9-inch springform pan (or to 300°F if using a dark nonstick 9-inch springform pan). Mix wafer crumbs, 1/4 cup of the hazelnuts and the butter; press firmly onto bottom of pan. Bake 10 minutes.
BEAT cream cheese and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each addition just until blended. Add sour cream and liqueur; mix well. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup hazelnuts. Pour over crust.
BAKE 1 hour to 1 hour 5 minutes or until center is almost set. Run small knife or metal spatula around rim of pan to loosen cake; cool before removing rim of pan. Refrigerate several hours or overnight. Store leftover cheesecake in refrigerator.

Great Substitute
Substitute 2 Tbsp. milk and 1 Tbsp. vanilla for the liqueur.

Wave Your Flag Cheesecake

Prep Time: 20 min
Total Time: 4 hr 25 min
Makes: 20 servings

1 qt. strawberries, divided
1-1/2 cups boiling water
1 pkg. (8-serving size) or 2 pkg. (4-serving size each) JELL-O Brand Gelatin, any red flavor
Ice cubes
1 cup cold water
1 pkg. (12 oz.) pound cake, cut into 10 slices
1-1/3 cups blueberries, divided
2 pkg. (8 oz. each) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 tub (8 oz.) COOL WHIP Whipped Topping, thawed

SLICE 1 cup of the strawberries; set aside. Halve remaining 3 cups strawberries; set aside. Stir boiling water into dry gelatin in large bowl at least 2 min. until completely dissolved. Add enough ice to cold water to measure 2 cups. Add to gelatin; stir until ice is completely melted. Refrigerate 5 min. or until slightly thickened (consistency of unbeaten egg whites).
MEANWHILE, line bottom of 13x9-inch dish with cake slices. Add sliced strawberries and 1 cup of the blueberries to thickened gelatin; stir gently. Spoon over cake slices. Refrigerate 4 hours or until firm.
BEAT cream cheese and sugar in large bowl with wire whisk or electric mixer until well blended; gently stir in whipped topping. Spread over gelatin. Arrange strawberry halves on cream cheese mixture to resemble the stripes of a flag. Arrange remaining 1/3 cup blueberries on cream cheese mixture for the "stars." Store in refrigerator.

Great Substitute
Prepare as directed, using JELL-O Brand Berry Blue Flavor Gelatin.

IOW for May 25

I must admit, I got carried away on this one. I just kept writing until I was done. LOL!

“Our view of the Holy Spirit is too small.
The Holy Spirit is the One who changes the church,
but we have to remember that the Holy Spirit lives in us.
It is individual people living Spirit-filled lives
that will change the church.”
by Francis Chan
Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God

Ah. There it is. Finally. Someone said it.

"Spirit-filled lives".

Romans 8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. If believers are not following the leading of the Holy Spirit then the inverse of Romans 8:14 applies. Them who are not following the leading of the Holy Spirit are not the sons of God.

Everything these days seems to be a "Purpose Driven" factor. So much so that the Spirit has been taken out of it.

Derek Prince once said, “Anything that drives us is demonic.”

By teaching people to follow the leading of anything other than the Spirit of God, many church services are led by the man-made program. Many charismatic churches are now under the control of the spirit of entertainment. Instead of being Spirit friendly, most churches are “seeker friendly”. They are the ear tickling churches.

The unsaved person has basic control over most churches while the Holy Spirit is hardly even invited to attend. It has become increasingly common in Charismatic Churches for the service to begin without even a word of prayer, and quenching the move of the Spirit for the sake of the schedule is the norm. This shift away from the being Spirit-led to program-led has caused the churches to become full of goats, unbelievers, those who are not the children of God. This opened the door for the devil to begin to drive these churches like a herd of goats.

Thousands of churches across the U.S. have now participated in the 40 Days of Purpose. This program by the author of The Purpose Driven Church and The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren, actually encourages churches to become driven by the motive of numerical growth, rather than obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Just one of the many problems that I have with "Purpose Driven" is that people have been taught that it is PEOPLE who change things. People who move the world. People who change people. People who change the church.

Not true.

Well, ok, actually it is true, but not in the way they want it to be true. When people try and create this grand design and change on their own, without the involvement of the Holy Spirit, the change that they affect is a cheap imitation. It's costume jewelry compared to a rare and precious gem.

Purpose Driven. Your Best Life Now. So forth and so on. It's the illusion of Christianity. God is a kind God. God doesn't want anything bad to happen to you. God wants you to succeed and prosper. Well, again, all true.

But God is a just God. A jealous God. A God that, while He wants to give us HIS best, will not always give us what we want. Instead, He will give us what we need. But, he expects us to follow Him. To obey Him. To live the kind of life He has laid out for us, according to the precepts of His Word. He will not share with the world.

Choose this day whom you will serve. Joshua 24:15 (excerpt)

The problem with these "friendly faiths" is that the need for repentance, the need to acknowledge you're a sinner, the need to realize that you must do more than just believe that there's a Jesus and that He is THE ONLY way to heaven (I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life and NO MAN COMES TO THE FATHER APART FROM ME John 14:6), that's all thrown by the wayside.

What "ear tickling" churches promote is a man-centered-felt-needs, find a purpose for your life, God is love and has a wonderful plan for everyone's life theology.

They seek the culture instead of preaching the Gospel. Instead of having a Spirit-filled church filled with individuals indwelt by the Holy Spirit, seeking to tell the others the Truth that there IS a hell and without coming to Christ and acknowledging your sins and need for a Savior, they tell them, "oh, don't worry. With God everything is a-ok."

What about when tough times befall them and they suddenly find themselves thinking, "I don't understand. I was told that if I prayed this prayer that everything would be fine. I wouldn't have any more troubles. I guess I'm not such a good Christian and need to try harder." Or even this, "They lied to me! They told me it would all be just fine. All my problems would disappear. This stuff is nothing but a hoax!"

The Christian who has heard the Gospel and has a Spirit-filled life knows that hard times will come and learns to lean on the promises and provisions of God and trusts God to see them through.

Not so with the "Purpose Driven", "Your Best Life Now" Christians. With them it's more of a "power of positive thinking" personality. "If you think it, God will do it". Wonder how they feel when God says, "No" or "Not Yet", as He has definitely done to me.

Ear tickling churches, such as those, focus on a "man can do it" religion instead of a "God will do as He purposes" relationship.

I doubt very many of them have a "Spirit-filled" life because those churches avoid any mention of "the bad stuff". They avoid the subjects of Repentance, Sin, Guilt, Judgment, Hellfire, and Damnation. There are no words that cross the pulpit like hell, sin, "repent and be saved, sinner". GASP! I said the word "sinner".

Well, face it. We are ALL sinners.

For ALL have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God. Romans 3:23

Ear tickling churches don't like to make people feel uncomfortable. Sprit-filled churches WILL make sinners feel uncomfortable. With the ear tickling churches it's about numbers and money and prestige. With the Spirit-filled churches it's about saving souls.

Meanwhile, pastors who have been trained in our seminaries on how to successfully manage the business of the church will take the large crowds as a sign of success. Nevermind the crowd is made up nearly entirely of unbelievers who have no intention of accepting Christ because they're not hearing anything of the Spirit in the sermons at those churches. The deception will be that as long as the money is pouring in to fund the “ministry” the church must be doing something right.

Ear tickling churches may be large and "do their part" to do social justice work (social justice is another term for socialism), but they don't go about doing the work of nourishing a soul, changing a life for Christ, saving a sinner from the fires of hell. No methodology, or level of religious commitment, can substitute for repentance towards God (Acts 20:21)

Salvation is more than a mere prayer, and all the prayer in the world cannot save a person who hasn't repented. Salvation is of God, NOT man. The Biblical Gospel excludes all forms of self-righteousness.

I view the ear tickling churches as the Pharisees of old, standing on a street corner, praying out loud about all the things THEY have done for God so that they receive the praise of man. Oh, look at all the stuff this person has done. They're so "spiritual". They are much like the Pharisees in the story below from Luke 7:36-50.

The Spirit-filled churches are like the unknown woman (not to be confused with Mary washing Jesus' feet in a similar manner in John 12:1-10) in Luke 7:36-50, washing Jesus' feet with her hair and tears and pouring out the precious oil, displaying devoted and affectionate humility to one she loved deeply and sincerely.

It is a love story, pure and simple.

It is also a story of contrasts -- the self-righteous Pharisee vs. a sinful woman, formal hospitality vs. overflowing love, self-worth through righteous living vs. self-worth through forgiveness.

The woman inwardly, she is broken and bleeding. Her spirit is wounded. But the sinful woman has heard of Jesus. She has probably heard his teaching. She has heard his gracious words of God's love and forgiveness and healing and restoration. She has heard him speak of his Father's Kingdom in words so plain and compelling that she can see herself as a child of God once more, a full citizen in this Kingdom of Love. Yes, she is still broken, but now she can see light and hope beyond.

THIS is what the Spirit instills inside each and every one of us who live a Spirit-filled life.

"Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven - for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little." Luke 7:47

The Spirit-filled person has realized the need to repent of ALL of their sins and because they have been forgiven much, the love much and delight in showing that love of God to others. They have a burden, given by the Spirit, to gather the Harvest, to find the lost, to minister to them out of love, out of compassion, out of concern for their eternity because God, through Jesus, has saved them from that same eternity apart from God in the tormenting fires of hell, and therefore, we want to lead others from that same fate. That is what the Spirit-filled individual does.

When we have more Spirit-filled individuals changing the churches for Glory of God, instead of for the praise of man, then they can truly change the world for the better because they are changing it for Christ and doing it in the manner and for the reason of the love shown by the sinful woman of Luke 7.

By the way, if you have never heard Jonathan Edwards' famous sermon – perhaps the most famous sermon ever given since the time of Jesus – you are missing out. Edwards was on FIRE and filled with a zeal and passion for saving souls. His burden given to him by the indwelled Spirit. That sermon, given by a Spirit-filled man, changed the lives of countless tens of thousands, who then went out and changed the world. You can read it here.

For more perspectives on this In Other Words quote, please visit our wonderful hostess this week, Tami @ The Next Step.

Monday, May 24, 2010

But I believed...

As some of y'all know, I belong to an online group called the Omega Letter. I've done a few of my more serious posts with some of the articles my friend Jack has written.

One of our non-forum members asked this question about Saturday's briefing:

"This REALLY bothers me: "Believing that Jesus died and rose again -- by itself -- is simply an acknowledgment of fact. Satan knows that Jesus died and he certainly knows that Jesus rose again. And he just as certainly isn’t saved by that knowledge. Neither is anybody else." I was always told that that was the crux of salvation - Satan knows it but I believe it. By faith, I believe it, because I was not there to witness it as Satan was. Satan has no faith, only facts. Now you are telling me my faith that Jesus died for my sins will not save me!?!?!?! I'm hoping I missed the point you were trying to make!"

My reply was this:

"Believing it happened in and of itself won't save you, accepting Jesus as your Savior is what saves you. That's where the pitfall lies in so many who think they're Christians. One can believe the Resurrection all they want, they can believe that Jesus was born, lived a perfect, sinless life and died for their sins, but until they accept that Jesus is Lord, the Son of God and repent of their sins, ask for forgiveness and ask for Him to save them from their sins and be their Savior...that's where their salvation lies. Not in the belief of the Resurrection or the belief that Jesus lived and is who He said he was. Does that make it a little more understandable?"

As I mentioned above that IS where the pitfall lies with so many who consider themselves to be Christians. You can ask 100 people if they believe in the Resurrection and in Jesus and you can have 100% of them say absolutely, "yes". You ask those same people if they have personally realized their need to be saved from their sin, come before Jesus and repented of their sins and asked for forgiveness and asked Jesus to be their Lord and Savior, if they can pinpoint that defining moment in their lives, and probably 25 or 30 of those polled might raise their hands and the rest start to huff and puff about it and make noise trying to make excuses and justify themselves.

You have Christians who don't believe that the Bible is the word of God or that Jesus is the Son of God who lived a perfect, sinless life, who believe that he was just a good man, a good teacher.

Either the Bible IS the Word of God and Jesus IS who He said He was or it's all a lie and God isn't really real, just come capricious cosmic jokester pranking us all. You either believe everything IS as God says it is or you're gravely in error.

There is absolutely ZERO piecemeal Christianity. You can't pick and choose the parts you want. It's all or nothing and it is with your whole heart, mind, body and soul.

As my friend Jack, and several others, have stated before, you can be sincere about something and, yet, be sincerely wrong! I can be sincere about my belief in Christ, but unless I have taken that step to actually BECOME a Christian, then I will be sincerely wrong when Jesus comes back for those who have acted on their belief and I will be left behind and be bewildered and say, "But I believed..."

I guess that's what we should be asking others who say they "believe".

"Yes, you believe, but have you acted upon that belief and turned your life over to Christ and accepted Him as your Savior?"

There is a vast difference between believing and doing something about that belief. An entire eternity of difference.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

I love true classics

I have two videos today for your edification and viewing pleasure. First up is the ever and always classic Red Skelton with his take on the Pledge of Allegiance - I have included the text to the video.

Second is the always hilarious Ray Stevens with his "We the People" and his take on Obamacare...it is rather...articulate in some places.

I hope you get enjoy these as much as I do!

When I was a small boy in Vincennes, Indiana, I heard, I think, one of the most outstanding speeches I ever heard in my life. I think it compares with the Sermon on the Mount, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and Socrates’ Speech to the Students.

We had just finished reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, and he [Mr. Lasswell, the Principal of Vincennes High School] called us all together, and he says, “Uh, boys and girls, I have been listening to you recite the Pledge of Allegiance all semester, and it seems that it has become monotonous to you. Or, could it be, you do not understand the meaning of each word? If I may, I would like to recite the pledge, and give you a definition for each word:

I -- Me; an individual; a committee of one.

Pledge -- Dedicate all of my worldly good to give without self-pity.

Allegiance -- My love and my devotion.

To the Flag -- Our standard. “Old Glory”; a symbol of courage. And wherever she waves, there is respect, because your loyalty has given her a dignity that shouts “Freedom is everybody's job.”

of the United -- That means we have all come together.

States -- Individual communities that have united into 48 great states; 48 individual communities with pride and dignity and purpose; all divided by imaginary boundaries, yet united to a common cause, and that’s love of country, of America.

And to the Republic -- A Republic: a sovereign state in which power is invested into the representatives chosen by the people to govern; and the government is the people; and it's from the people to the leaders, not from the leaders to the people.

For which it stands

One Nation -- Meaning "so blessed by God."

Indivisible -- Incapable of being divided.

With Liberty -- Which is freedom; the right of power for one to live his own life without fears, threats, or any sort of retaliation.

And Justice -- The principle and qualities of dealing fairly with others.

For All -- For All. That means, boys and girls, it's as much your country as it is mine.

Now let me hear you recite the Pledge of Allegiance:

I pledge allegiance
to the Flag of the United States of America,
and to the Republic, for which it stands;
one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Since I was a small boy, two states have been added to our country, and two words have been added to the Pledge of Allegiance: Under God. Wouldn't it be a pity if someone said, "That is a prayer" -- and that be eliminated from our schools, too?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Growth...as an adult

Have you ever wondered why, as you grow stronger in your faith and in your walk with God , the things you used to enjoy, have fun doing, had no problem with, etc. have lost their zeal, their sparkle, their shine?

Have you ever noticed that the partying, the drinking, the hanging around with people who cuss freely or say derogatory things about others . . . just the situations in general that you once found to be fun and gave you absolutely no worry . . . now you find to grate on you, rub you the wrong way, you take offense to and would rather make up an excuse to leave than stay in that atmosphere?

I sure have in the past several months. I find myself in situations where I am uncomfortable now around certain people or at certain places that I had never found to cause any problem with me before. After reading verses like 2 Corinthians 6:14-15 "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial [the devil]? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?" I begin to understand why that is.

We are call to be in the world but NOT of the world. We are to be as salt and light. Salt was used as a preservative and a seasoning in Biblical times, and even insofar as up to the 1800's when there were no "ice boxes" to keep food from spoiling. Light is to shine on the darkness and keep the darkness away. We are to be DIFFERENT from everyone else so that they might see God in us and how He has changed our lives and make them want to know what makes us different, what makes us unafraid in times of turmoil, what keeps us calm during hardships.

I confess, when I'm really ticked off – yes, it is 99% of the time in traffic – I can let a few choice, unsavory words that are definitely NOT seasoned with Grace, fly from my mouth . . . but not when the kids are around. Why can't I be that way when the kids aren't around? I think that might be one of the biggest things I struggle with is the words that I say when confronted with stupid, not-paying-attention drivers.

But, there are now things that I would have said or done even a year ago that bring me pause now b/c it is the Holy Spirit pricking my conscience to let me know that it's wrong in the eyes of God. And then I remember back to when it didn't bother me and the people who act the same now and think, "We all consider ourselves Christian and I know that I was at that point, I just wasn't acting like it so what was there to distinguish me from everyone else? If someone who didn't know any of us saw us together, they never would have known that any of us called ourselves 'Christian'."

The closer I draw to God, the closer He draws to me and shows me what is not right in order to be more pleasing to Him. In order to be a better witness. In order to be salt and light to a world full of spoil and darkness. In order to see Jesus in me because, after all, I may be the only encounter with Jesus that someone has.

I am not perfect. Far, far, FAR from it. I am a work in progress always. And I know that I am a work in progress always b/c God will not be finished with me until it is my time to be called Home to be with Him.

God's Little Lessons

Ever wonder why God does or doesn't do some things?

I know I have.

I know that there are times I have prayed and prayed and prayed for something that was needed and God held back for a long time before answering.

Case in point, Oscar's lack of a job. Oscar was without a job for over 7 months. In this economy, not having two incomes for 7 months at our level and with children would mean that the family would be deeply in debt or living in a shelter. Not so with us. God's provisions have carried us through and while we've had to hold off for a few months in paying Nate's several thousand dollar hospital bill from the RSV he was hospitalized for twice at 7 and 8 weeks, we've still been able to put food on the table, keep a roof over our heads, have electricity and be able to have one child in a Christian private school and Nate in day care.

Oh, it's been tough and there have been months where we've had to figure out what bill can slide to the next month and what absolutely has to be paid this month. But with God's grace we've been able to make it. A check came from Oscar's mom to help out for a couple of months, the IRS refund came at a time when our money was running out. My savings of several thousand dollars was pretty much depleted. But we made it through. Finally, after several months of being stressed to the max (I am only human), but trusting God completely to provide for us, Oscar was given a job!

He started today.

One of my wonderful mother-in-law's called me on Friday to relay to me that she had heard a woman on the Christian talk radio in Midland whose son-in-law had gone through exactly what Oscar [and the family] were going through. The woman had stated that she had come across Hebrews 14:6. "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need"

She went before God, humbly, but boldly and prayed to God that her son-in-law be given a job NOW. Not a month from now, but NOW. And she prayed specifics, which I had been doing; but, unlike her, I had not gone boldly before the Throne of Grace. I had approached God with a sincere, humble heart, but asked Him that IF it was His will that He give Oscar a job.

Silly! Anything that God does, anything He purposes, is HIS WILL! I didn't even think of that.

So, I thought about it and on Sunday prayed to God that He give Oscar a job NOW, this week, that the job he receives would be a living wage, full benefits, let him be home 90% of the time on the weekends (and during the week) – in other words to work locally, and that it would be a positive, encouraging atmosphere for him . . . and that it would start THIS week. Not next week. Not two or four weeks from now, but THIS week!

Monday, Oscar somehow got in contact with one of my friends and the company they work for were looking for someone with Oscar's qualifications. Oscar went in on Tuesday and explained the whole *driving record situation and the man told him, "as long as you don't have any felonies, you're hired. I'll let you know early this evening." Oscar found out before noon that he had the job. Just in time for upcoming bills that I wouldn't have been able to meet anymore on my own – like tuition and rent.

This is not THE job for him, that I can see, but it does absolutely fit the description of the job that I prayed for him to have in the interim. The job that would pay the bills, give insurance and keep the roof over our heads. The job that allowed him to be in an atmosphere that they absolutely want him – CDL, can climb (which will enable him to get a higher pay), has his own climbing gear and tools . . . he's a real gold mine for them.

I wondered this morning as I was getting ready for work just what it was that had God keeping us where we were. Having just enough to always keep the most important of the bills paid and not really much more aside from the being able to get the necessities.

Then it hit me.

When things are going easy and good and everything is hunky dory, I tend to keep God out of the equation. Oh, I still thank Him for the blessings, but I don't keep Him in the decision making or as the one to lean on at ALL times, and not just in times of hardship. I get the "I'm a big girl, I do what I want!" syndrome. Now, please, tell me just where in that statement is God? Absolutely nowhere. I should keep in my mind what my lovely mom always told me when I would go out to a party in high school or to dance/go out after high school . . . "Remember WHOSE you are." I am God's first, my husband's second, my children's third, my mom's fourth, my family and friend's fifth and so forth and so on. But always, I am GOD'S FIRST. So why don't I keep Him first in my life?

It's in the lean times, the tough times, that God teaches me the lessons I should have known all along. It's in those times that I keep Him close and depend on Him for sustenance and provision. But it shouldn't be just in those times. It should be all the time. I have to say that, sadly, that is SO not the case. So, I know why now that God is keeping us where we are. Until we learn to ALWAYS keep Him FIRST and include Him in ALL our decisions and 24/7 in our lives instead of only when we "need" Him, we'll be in the learning process for as long as it takes.

*Regarding the driving record situation, Oscar found out last week that the insurance companies only look back at 21 months and not the driving record as a whole so all they see are 3 motorcycle tickets in 21 months, which renders him "uninsurable" in the job that he's really wanting to do until they come off, the last ones will come off in December.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Where I'm From

I found this from another blog that I frequent and found it to be wonderful and I was so intrigued that I had to do one of my own. Wendell Berry said, "If you don't know where you're from, you'll have a hard time saying where you're going."

If you do this too, or have done this, please let me know so I can see where YOU'RE from!

For the rules on how to do this, please visit HERE.

Where I'm From

I am from salt of the earth, from God ordained and inspired birth and loving family holding my hands from first step to birth of my children. I am from an unknown mother to a farmer's daughter's loving arms and I am royalty because my Father is the King.

I am from the large, muti-treed, green-grassed back yard, my host to play dates with a metal swing set and blanket laying, listening to the summer cicadas while watching the stars through the hole in the green canopy above. From wooden fences, jasmine, honeysuckle and rose-scented air surrounding a modest white brick house with those familiar yellow garage doors.

I am from the cerulean blue of the bluebonnet, the brick red of the Indian paintbrush, the arrays of oranges in the Mexican hat and the deep yellows of the black-eyed Susan, the wide expanse of robin's egg blue sky and bright, hot, lazy summer days.

I am from opening presents on Christmas Eve after reading Luke 2 and laying out in the living room at my mom's under the lights of the Christmas tree while finishing a Disney movie and from big, warm, enfolding, never-let-you-go hugs, from mom and daughter.

I am from the messy kitchens filled with the remnants of food love and cluttered rooms filled with mementos that are impossible to throw out.

From "because I said so", "I love you, twinkletoes", "remember WHOSE you are" and before bedtime Bible stories with loving prayers for my future. From "God Bless America, land that I love", "salute the flag and support the military" and "hand over your heart, hat OFF of your head during the National Anthem".

I am from Bible believing of the inerrant Word of God, knowing that God listens to every prayer, every word, every thought and hears you no matter where you are, from understanding that sometimes the answer is "no" or "not yet" and that the best things are still yet to come if we just wait and have patience, from knowing that THE KING IS COMING! and is coming back for His own soon, from hymns sung in the car, as lullaby's, as any time songs whenever we felt like it, from forgiveness after wild-child antics and "welcome home's" from a prodigal journey.

I'm from the great state of Texas and from farmland in the Upper Midwest with meal time prayers and family devotions before pot roast, carrots and mashed potatoes or chicken, corn and salads.

From the riding on the lap of my grandpa on his riding mower and smelling the sweet scent of the grass as we cut the green, green, tickly-between-my-toes acres of the yard on the family farm, the perfect Tang mixture and frozen chocolate chip cookies of a loving grandma, the hikes up Enchanted Rock with my dad, the always beside me "thereness" of a devoted mother and the jumping into the cold lake water with beloved cousins at park-side massive family reunions.

I am from the giggles of my children and slobbery kisses of my babies, the deep timber of my husband's voice and his warm, caloused hands holding mine.

I am from old photo albums of faded family pictures, slides of vacations on a projector screen taken by my dad, cedar chest memories of my childhood, costume jewelry sparkles of my grandma, dusty faded powder smells of warm grandparent skin, twinkles in the eyes of those who love me and replayed scenes in my mind's eye; all of which have more worth to me than any jewel or monetary denomination, or priceless work of art.

I am from a place not of this earth, where there is no more sorrow, no more tears or hurts or disappointments, no more anger or betrayals. Where there is no death or separation of loved ones who are in Christ.

I am from streets of gold beside living water and the Tree of Life, where the light always shines and darkness is no more.

I am a name in the Book of Life and I shall live forever. Death has no victory over me.

I am from abundant, precious, selfless, pure Love.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Why I can no longer call myself Evangelical

It is sad to me that these days the word "Evangelical" has been hijacked by those who are anything but.

Princeton defines "Evangelical" as relating to or being a Christian church believing in personal conversion and the inerrancy of the Bible especially the 4 Gospels "Evangelical Christianity"; "an ultraconservative Evangelical message"

Other places define it as any Christian who holds historically orthodox or conservative theological views. In common usage, the term applies to western Christians outside the Roman Catholic Church. Also as Christians who believe in the authority of the Bible and the need of forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

Except, if you look at those using the term "Evangelical" today, it is used by those who do NOT believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, who do NOT take the Word of God as literal and as the definitive WORD of God, but believe that the Bible is open to liberal "interpretation" – as in, "God didn't really mean it when it says _____" or "The Bible was written by man and translated by man so therefore it is a book full of error". They do not want to hear the words "sin", "repentance", "in need of forgiveness", "sinner" or the granddaddy of them all . . . "Hell". They want a "cushy" Christianity. One that fits with their lifestyles and makes them feel good. They don't want to be made to feel uncomfortable. All they're really doing then is suffocating in their sin instead of being freed from it by the Grace of God and they don't even know it, nor do they want to.

How about those so called "Evangelicals" who call for the withdrawal of support from Israel, claiming that Israel is the "occupier" and that the land doesn't rightly belong to them, regardless of what is promised by God in the Bible to His chosen? In Deuteronomy 7:6 it says, "For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession." Jeremiah 30:3 states, "For, lo, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the LORD: and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it." And Paul asks in Romans 11:1-2(a) "I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew..."

Since when did Israel UN-become God's chosen? Since when did God withdraw His favor from Israel? The Bible clearly statest hat He hasn't! If God can withdraw His favor from His CHOSEN people, then what good are His promises throughout the rest of the Bible? God is unchanging. He is the same today as He was yesterday and as He will be tomorrow. God would no more turn His back on His chosen people with whom His promises rest as He would turn His back on those who have cried out to Him, "Abba, Father...help me...I need You!".

There are "Evangelicals" who support abortion. The murder of an innocent life. Do you know that it has been scientifically proven that the heartbeat of a baby in the womb starts 18 days after conception? Would you say that something with a heartbeat is alive? Has life? Is life? I'd say the answer is a resounding "YES". The Bible says in Jeremiah 1:5(a), "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart…" God created the life that grows inside of a woman in her womb. Life begins at conception. God said it was so. If God said it, then so it is. No wiggle room. No alternative interpretation.

There are "Evangelicals" who are tolerant of other religions and believe that "there is more than one path to God". Ummmm, no. In John 14:6 Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me". If that is not true then Jesus is a liar and everything He taught and everything we know about Him and know Him to be is suspect to being a lie and is false.

How can I call myself an "Evangelical" anymore? The term "Evangelical" is no longer applicable to those who live the definitions of it that I listed above.

I like what one of my friends has down as their "Religious Views" in Facebook. Simply put, they have nothing more there than "John 14:6".

That is what I am. Instead of an "Evangelical" Christian, I am a John 14:6 Christian.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

In Other Words for May 11

"A sentence from Psalm 101 has been both challenging and convicting for me: 'I will walk in my house with blameless heart' (Psalm 101:2, NIV). When God speaks to me about being more loving, this verse reminds me to make application in my family first -- and then to others. It forces me to ask, 'Am I more spiritual, more loving, or more fun somewhere else? Who gets my best -- my family or others?"
~Jean Fleming
from "A Mother's Heart: A Look at Values, vision and Character for the Christian Mother"

I don't know if I can get the same thought from that verse, in all honesty. When I read Psalm 101 in its full context I receive a much different interpretation of that sentence. And while I know this is supposed to be from the quote, I can't help but read the chapter and come up with something entirely different, but perhaps, in a more expanded view along a similar line.

Psalm 101

1 I will sing of your love and justice;
to you, O LORD, I will sing praise.
2 I will be careful to lead a blameless life—
when will you come to me?
I will walk in my house
with blameless heart.
3 I will set before my eyes
no vile thing.
The deeds of faithless men I hate;
they will not cling to me.
4 Men of perverse heart shall be far from me;
I will have nothing to do with evil.
5 Whoever slanders his neighbor in secret,
him will I put to silence;
whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart,
him will I not endure.
6 My eyes will be on the faithful in the land,
that they may dwell with me;
he whose walk is blameless
will minister to me.
7 No one who practices deceit
will dwell in my house;
no one who speaks falsely
will stand in my presence.
8 Every morning I will put to silence
all the wicked in the land;
I will cut off every evildoer
from the city of the LORD.

So, my interpretation is this:

1 I will sing of your love and justice;
to you, O LORD, I will sing praise.

I will rejoice, God, in Your love and in Your righteousness. I will praise You because you are always fair, always just and never with malice or unfairness – even though we cannot understand at the time.

2 I will be careful to lead a blameless life—
when will you come to me?
I will walk in my house
with blameless heart.

I will do my very best to live a life where nobody can blame me for wrong doing, for behaving apart from what Your commands are. I will try my very hardest, with Your help, to not carry in my house anything that could cause strife or anger or hurt to the relationships of spouse to spouse and mother to children. I will try my very best to be a Proverbs 31 woman , not only in my house, but outside of it so that I can bring honor to my house. Will You be there, where I can feel You when I need help with this? Will I be able to know You are with me?

3 I will set before my eyes
no vile thing.
The deeds of faithless men I hate;
they will not cling to me.

I will not look at anything or allow anything to settle into my mind that might bring discord or dishonor to my life, my family, my relationships or my walk. I will not abide by the actions of the hypocrites who claim one thing but do another. I will not follow in their footsteps nor will I allow them to attach themselves to me.

4 Men of perverse heart shall be far from me;
I will have nothing to do with evil.

People who deliberately do wrong, who constantly exhibit a lifestyle with which I am not comfortable being around, people who look to the profane and the wicked and let it run their life, I will turn from them, I will not allow them to color my life, my outlook or my world as it is so contrary to what I should be exhibiting when I follow Your leadings.

5 Whoever slanders his neighbor in secret,
him will I put to silence;
whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart,
him will I not endure.

When someone speaks unjustly about someone else and backstabs I will not stand for it. When someone is two-faced, I will not partake of the same for who can trust one who talks bad about others but is sweet as honey to their face? Whoever is greedy, vain, arrogant, proud, elevates themselves above others, treats others as beneath them, I will not spend even an ounce of time around them for that behavior is wrong and it is behavior that You hate.

6 My eyes will be on the faithful in the land,
that they may dwell with me;
he whose walk is blameless
will minister to me.

I will keep those who keep Your word and commandments, those who truly love You with all their heart, in my company, for they are few and far between these days. I will seek them out so that I may fellowship with them. Those who are walking rightly and who are walking on Your path and keeping their eyes on You I will look to them to shepherd me, counsel me, comfort me, advise me.

7 No one who practices deceit
will dwell in my house;
no one who speaks falsely
will stand in my presence.

I will not allow false people to stay in my house. I will not allow liars, cheaters or those who seek personal gain through manipulating the goodwill of others to be part of my household or friends. I abhor lying as You do, so therefore I will not allow anyone who cannot be trusted to tell the truth or be honest to be around me or my family.

8 Every morning I will put to silence
all the wicked in the land;
I will cut off every evildoer
from the city of the LORD.

Every morning I will pray for Your judgment to be upon the wicked, to be upon those who seek to destroy the nation who follows You, I will defend You and Your Word to those who seek to destroy either one in word and deed. I will not let those who intentionally do wrong and evil to inhabit and infiltrate Your church (since the City of the Lord is Jerusalem and that is an ocean away) and I will support and defend the city of the Lord (and its nation – Israel) against those who would seek to corrupt and destroy it.

Anyway, I hope that you were able to follow along with the method to my madness. I actually got quite a bit from going through this chapter verse by verse, a lot more than I would have with just one part of it and that's what In Other Word's Tuesday's are about is each individual interpretation, even though some (mine for today) are kind of off the beaten track. LOL!

For more perspectives on this In Other Words quote, please visit our hostess this week, Loni.

Monday, May 10, 2010

I Am ... Held

Who would have thought that Mother's Day could be such a sad time when one has such a beautiful and wonderful family? After waiting for a couple of weeks for the inevitable to happen, the miscarriage finally happened yesterday...on Mother's Day. The heartbreaking irony of it is not lost on me. I had to work this morning b/c the executive assistant was out and there were several caterings that needed to be done - 3 meetings requiring coffee/water/etc. this morning, lunch for one and afternoon snack for another. I left early to go home and take some more pain meds for the cramping I'm still going through - they made me very fuzzy and sleepy. Thankfully, the bleeding has mostly stopped, but the cramping is still going on, though lessening in frequency finally.

To top it off, Oscar did not get the job with LCRA. They went with someone "more qualified", but what we found out today, from another job he interviewed for, was practically given the job and then was told he DIDN'T get it, is that the loss of this opportunity and quite possibly the LCRA job is b/c of his driving record - which is NOT bad. He had 3 tickets on his motorcycle, two of which were NOT moving violations (one was no helmet, one was not having an M class license - which he got), and which were supposed to be off his record in March.

They didn't come off as he was told they would.

They're still on and he was told today that they would be on there for seven years. All of his skills, experience and knowledge deal with jobs that require having a CDL and even though he still has his CDL, hasn't had a violation in over a year and prior to those tickets hadn't had any tickets in probably 10+ years, he is not able to get a job. Unfortunately they don't look at his spotless record prior to them or the fact that it's been over a year since he's had any or the fact that they were on a motorcycle, not a truck or CDL required vehicle or the fact that two were not even moving violations (they still consider them as such). He is a very, very good driver, but it doesn't matter.

Oscar tries so hard and he is such a wonderful, beautiful soul and has a truly golden heart. I am beyond proud to have him as my husband. He is an amazing husband and father and best friend. It breaks my heart to look into his eyes and see such despair and hopelessness. I talked to a lawyer friend of mine to see if there's something that can be done regarding Oscar's record so that he can get a job that isn't flipping burgers. Hopefully Scott will have some information for me tomorrow.

Two songs I listened to on my iTouch that really spoke to me are Nichole Nordeman's "I Am" and Natalie Grant's "Held". It's so hard to keep up the faith when it is one punch after another with no respite to be found lately, but I know that God has a plan. I just wish I new what it was. I'd like a breather. Really. I'm not sure what else God has to teach me through these difficulties. I'd just like a break from the stresses.

I Am
Nichole Nordeman

Pencil marks on a wall, I wasn't always this tall
You scattered some monsters from beneath my bed
You watched my team win
You watched my team lose
Watched when my bicycle went down again
And when I was weak, unable to speak
Still I could call You by name
And I said, Elbow Healer, Superhero
Come if You can
You said, I Am

Only sixteen, life is so mean
What kind of curfew is at 10pm?
You saw my mistakes
And watched my heart break
Heard when I swore I'd never love again
And when I was weak, unable to speak
Still I could call You by name
And I said Heartache Healer, Secret Keeper
Be my best friend
And you said, I Am

You saw me wear white by pale candlelight
I said forever to what lies ahead
Two kids and a dream, with kids that can scream
Too much it might seem when it is 2am
And when I am weak, unable to speak
Still I will call You by name
Shepherd, Savior, Pasture Maker
Hold onto my hand
You say, I Am

The winds of change and circumstance blow in and all around us
So we find a foothold that's familiar
And bless the moments that we feel You nearer

When life had begun, I was woven and spun
You let the angels dance around the throne
And who can say when, but they'll dance again
When I am free and finally headed home
I will be weak, unable to speak
Still I will call You by name
Creator, Maker, Life Sustainer
Comforter, Healer, my Redeemer
Lord and King, Beginning and the End

I Am
Yes, I Am

Natalie Grant

Two months is too little.
They let him go.
They had no sudden healing.
To think that providence would
Take a child from his mother while she prays
Is appalling.

Who told us we'd be rescued?
What has changed and why should we be saved from nightmares?
We're asking why this happens
To us who have died to live?
It's unfair.

This is what it means to be held.
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive.
This is what it is to be loved.
And to know that the promise was
When everything fell we'd be held.

This hand is bitterness.
We want to taste it, let the hatred numb our sorrow.
The wise hand opens slowly to lilies of the valley and tomorrow.

This is what it means to be held.
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive.
This is what it is to be loved.
And to know that the promise was
When everything fell we'd be held.

If hope is born of suffering.
If this is only the beginning.
Can we not wait for one hour watching for our Savior?

This is what it means to be held.
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive.
This is what it is to be loved.
And to know that the promise was
When everything fell we'd be held.