Old-Fashioned, Home-Town Date Bars

Larry and my husband were close friends from such early days that Alan can’t ever remember not being friends. They lived across the street from each other, rode the school bus together, and roomed together during part of college. Larry and his wife, Kari, even ended up at the same university where Alan and I were in grad school one year, and Kari and I used to swim together and dream about what our babies would be like, since we were both pregnant with our firstborn (sons) at the same time! Now, years later, we’re living in the same community again—also with my closest friend from school days, Brenda (and her husband Tom), which is super fun!

Often when we get together, Kari brings some delectable dessert, but a few weeks ago Kari was at a medical meeting and couldn’t make it to our dinner party, so Larry brought a dessert that had been a favorite when he was growing up. The recipe is so old he hasn’t a clue where it came from, but Alan also remembered loving date bars when he was little (growing up in the same rural community), and Tom (Brenda’s husband, also a farm boy growing up) remembered them from his childhood as well. I loved the salty, sweet, buttery flavor, so I thought you might too! Thank you for sharing, Larry!!

Old-Fashioned Date Bars

For the date filling:

  1. In a medium sized sauce pan, mix 3 cups of cut up dates, ½ cup of sugar, and 1 ½ cups of water.
  2. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture is thickened.
  3. Set aside to cool.

For the crust/crumble:

  1. In a bowl, mix together thoroughly ¾ cup butter (softened) and 1 cup of brown sugar.
  2. Sift and stir in 1 ¾ cups flour, ½ teaspoon baking soda, and 1 teaspoon of salt
  3. Stir in 1 ½ cups of rolled oats.

Place half the mixture on the bottom of the baking pan and pat the mixture down (9” x 13” pan if you want thin date bars or 8” x 8” or so if you want thick date bars.  I think I used a 6 ½ “ x 9” pan and it seemed a bit too thick to me).

Spoon the cooled date mixture onto the crust/crumble in the pan and spread evenly.  Then spread the remainder of the crust/crumble mixture evenly onto the date filling.

Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Psalm 100

“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.” Happy Thanksgiving!!

Monte Carlo Night: Great Fun for the Holidays…but…No Gambling or Drinking!

Anybody who thinks Sunday school is just for kids has never been to our Sunday school class! In a mega church like Calvary (with about 6000± attendees), it would be easy to get lost in the crowd, so you need to connect with a smaller group of people for friendship and fellowship. Midweek prayer meetings, care groups, life groups, youth groups, music groups…short circles…there are so many ways to engage with other people, but one of our favorites has always been via a Sunday school class. Our class, Heirs Together, has about 120 members and a wide age span, although I think we’re pretty close to the median age with a profile like most of the members, including a similar world view and deep faith although somewhat irregular attendance due to travel, family and health needs. The class has been hanging together for many years, and although the majority have probably been married for 35-50+ years, there is a growing population of singles. (Yes, we’re getting older!)  We have a monthly “event,” and last weekend it was a “Monte Carlo” game night which was super fun and perfect for getting to know people. Therefore, I want to pass it along to you in case you think it also sounds like fun. I’m hoping to try it out over Christmas break when we have many of our kids home, but it could also be used in any group of 8 or more.  I think our Monte Carlo Night was the brainchild of Ed Avink, who’s one of our class leaders and an architect. The only tricky part is that you need groups of 4 people to make it work, and probably at least 8 to make it work well. Here’s how to play: Either number people off into teams of 4 or let them gravitate naturally to a seat at any of the card tables you have set up. We had 17 tables of 4 people, but that’s way more than you need, and actually none of us got to play a hand with everybody.  To prepare, set up a room (or rooms) with one card table, four chairs, 4 score cards, a couple of pens, and a deck of cards on each table. Once people are settled:1. Have somebody at each table shuffle the cards.
2. Everybody takes a cut. The person with the highest card deals. Aces are high. If two people get the same card, then it goes by suit: Spades (highest), hearts, diamonds, and clubs (lowest) 3. Deal out all the cards by going from left to right around the circle. (Should end up with 13 cards per person.) It looks to me like it’s polite to wait until all the cards have been dealt before looking at your hand. 4. Play your hand according to the instructions on the game card. (Obviously, you could make up your own rules and number of hands. Fourteen hands took us close to three hours.) The person to the left of the dealer starts first, but after that, whoever has the highest card wins that “trick” and starts the next round.
5. After all the cards have been played, count your tricks (by team, with your partner being across the table from you) and record your score on your score sheet.  6. The tables are all numbered: 1-??? The two winners move on to the next highest-numbered table and play kitty-corner, so they have new partners for the next hand. The losers stay at the same table they were at but also change positions so that they are sitting kitty-corner and will each have a new partner
7. Play through all the hands.
8. Count up your final points.
9. The winner wins! At our Monte Carlo night, Dean won with some 2,100+ points. The next two tied at 1,900+. Alan and I were in the 1700 range, but some people ended up with 700+, so there’s a huge variation. I’m not sure if anybody needs to know who loses, but there was much admiration for our winner, so that was fun.  Nobody passed out a candy bar or anything as a prize, but everybody brought an appetizer, or a bottle of pop or juice to share, which worked out great, because sometimes you had to wait for the next table to finish before you could play again. Alan and I had several good opportunities for conversations with members of the class that we’d met but didn’t know very well, including one couple that we discovered were married just one month before us (both couples married nearly 46 years now) and had attended the same university, the same year, even living in the same married student housing, although we never met! Best of all, the next morning we learned that one of our newest members, who was widowed last January, shared that the night of our Monte Carlo game night was the night he would have celebrated his 51st anniversary, and he’d been dreading that day for weeks. He said going to the game night and enjoying everybody’s company had turned a terrible night into a blessing for him.  So, if you’re looking for a fun way to celebrate and reach out this holiday season, you might enjoy throwing a Monte Carlo Night! If you do, please let me know how it goes! Or, if you’re lonely and aren’t plugged into a good group for fellowship, let me know, and I’ll invite you to our Carol Sing coming up in December. You are also cordially invited to try out our Sunday school class. Not only is it warm and friendly, the teaching is excellent, and we pray for every request that’s given each week! Let me know, and I’ll tell you when and where . . . and introduce you to everybody! And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42).

The Glass Church: Lloyd Wright’s Wayfarers Chapel

If you’re ever in the Los Angeles area and want to spend a blissful day   soaking up the majesty of the Pacific Coast and meditating on our majestic God, consider visiting the “Glass Church.” This National Historic Landmark was built from 1949-1951 by Lloyd Wright (son of the famed architect, Frank Lloyd Wright) as a memorial to theologian Emanuel Swedenborg.
It is beautiful, open to the public, and totally free! Tucked into the hills at 5755 Palos Verdes Drive South in Rancho Palos Verdes, the chapel sits like a silent beacon above the din of traffic . . .and serves as a serene respite from the frenetic pace of Southern California . . .a quiet place to come away and commune with our heavenly Father! The Wayfarers Chapel is both simple and complex. The Glass Church has an elegant, open design
that incorporates nature into its sacred space. But, the complex also has lovely, tree-lined lawns  and plenty of benches where one can sit for a while to rest and reflect . . .  or enjoy gazing out at the vast blue Pacific.  Although I wouldn’t say it’s really a “kid place,”
Alan and I went with our kids and grand children,  and they definitely enjoyed playing with some of the toys in the gift shopas well as meandering along the garden paths breathing in the sweet scents and reading the love stories etched in stone.  Alan and I are having a new addition built for our home.  It isn’t an elegant glass house. (It is a simple sun room.) And, our little lake—though lovely— doesn’t hold a candle to the grandeur of the world’s largest ocean! Nevertheless, beauty is beauty, our Father’s world is glorious everywhere,
and no matter where we live, we all need time to pray and worship!I hope our new addition will offer a warm welcome to all who visit,  and I pray that each of us, as humble temples of the Holy Spirit
(1 Corinthians 6:19), will provide respite for everyone who comes our way! Give unto the Lord, O ye mighty, give unto the Lord glory and strength.
Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name;
worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
The voice of the Lord is upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth:
the Lord is upon many waters
(Psalm 29:1-3).

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (4): Repent and Believe the Gospel

In the book of Mark, Christ’s first public imperative: “Repent” was coupled with a second command: “Believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Sounds simple, and it is for some people, but for others, faith in the gospel seems nigh unto impossible. Why? Well, until a person repents—humbly examining himself, admitting to sin, feeling saddened by his failures, and wanting to change—he probably feels satisfied with his life as it it and perceives no need for help or the good news of the gospel. Is that where you’re at? If so, faith will come very hard for  you.

The first time I heard the gospel, I was overjoyed! To think that God created me (even thinking that God existed was novel), loves me with an everlasting love (as He loves all of us), and came in the person of Christ to die in my place for my sins (yes; by age twelve it was easy to recognize that I was a sinner in need of a Savior) . . . well, that was absolutely good news of great joy, and I felt like I had wings on my feet as I practically flew up the aisle to receive Christ as my savior when the invitation was given. I’ve been overjoyed ever since and have never for one minute regretted becoming a child of God that night fifty-five  years ago!

On the other hand, one of my profound early memories of sharing my joy with others was one night passing out gospel tracts with the young people from our church. We lived in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and would sometimes go down to the Soo Locks to share our faith with the many tourists who came to watch the locks operating. We usually walked down the sidewalk from Ashmun St.(the main street in our little town), passing out pamphlets and engaging tourists all along the Locks Park, and then on our way back, we’d cross the street and pass out tracts to tourists visiting the shops, restaurants, motels, and bars across from the locks. One night, someone very drunk was literally thrown out of a bar onto the street right in front of me as I was walking by. I hurried to help him up and then asked if he’d like a gospel tract that explained how he could become a Christian.

“Why would I want to do that?” he slurred.

“Well, because God loves us and wants to help us! Jesus came to save us from our sins,” I answered enthusiastically.

He hardly looked at me as he stumbled off, mumbling loudly, “I don’t need nothin’ cause I’ve never sinned.”

I was dumbfounded, but he was oblivious! Until we repent, we won’t see a need to believe. On the other hand, those of us who are willing to face the fact that we intentionally do things wrong sometimes: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), believe that the good news that Jesus died in our place so we can receive forgiveness for our sins and be reconciled to God is the best news ever! Forgiveness for sins and the gift of eternal life is better than a cure for cancer or hearing that we might live forever here on this earth (which will never happen, and could you imagine how awful that would be . . . growing older and feebler year by year but never able to die?)!

So, if you ever get to the place where you’re ready to admit that you’re not perfect, would like God to forgive you for your sins and make you his child, guiding you through this life and giving you the gift of eternal life . . . then I pray that you will believe in Jesus! As Jesus taught: “Repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15).

What exactly do you need to believe to be saved? Paul explains it this way in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”   Most people believe that Jesus was a real person who lived two thousand years ago and died by crucifixion. The hard part is to believe that Jesus rose again from the dead. There are some great books dealing with evidences for the resurrection, such as Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell and The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. (If you need a list, just ask me.) During the first few centuries after the death of Christ, the church fathers wrote what is commonly known as the Apostles’ Creed, a concise statement of what is pretty much universally accepted as the basis for the Christian faith:“I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.” Another ancient creed from the fourth century that has almost universal acceptance is the Nicene Confession:

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.” (— Episcopal Church Book of Common Prayer (1979), The Book of Common Prayer(PDF). New York: Church Publishing Incorporated. 2007. pp. 326–327.)                          I hope this helps, and I hope you come by faith to Jesus!

“And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears,
Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief”
(Mark 9:24).

Squash and Apple Bake (with a Caramel Flair)

Last weekend, my lifelong friend, Brenda, had us over for the evening, and she made a scrumptious dinner (as always) which included a memorable autumn side dish that was the perfect blend of fruit and veggies with a hint of caramel sauce. Brenda said it was from a Betty Crocker cookbook she’d received for a wedding shower gift (nearly 50 years ago). Over the years, her treasured recipe book completely fell apart, and today she only has two pages remaining. This recipe is on one of those two. She says the only variation from the above recipe is that she uses cinnamon instead of mace, and recently, she’s found that she can find butternut squash already cubed at her local grocery, which saves her a lot of time and effort!                Here’s what it looks like when it’s still warm from the oven, and here are the happy dinner guests who enjoyed it with me! Thank you, Bren!

P.S.—Stay tuned next Saturday! Larry’s wife, Kari, was at a medical meeting and couldn’t make it for dinner, so Larry (in the middle of this photo) brought us some mouth-watering date bars that his mom used to make. He says he will let me share his mother’s recipe this coming week. ALSO, if you have a family favorite that isn’t easily accessible on allrecipes.com or current cookbooks—or you’ve developed a recipe that you love and would be willing to share, I’d happily include it sometime! Just send me “your favorite” with some photos to kathrynwarmstrong at gmail.com. Also (as some of you have cooking blogs), if  you want to send me a link to your blog, I’ll share that along with your recipe!

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful” (Colossians 3:15).

The 15:17 to Paris

This Sunday is Veteran’s Day, and if you haven’t seen The 15:17 to Paris, I wish you would. It’s a thrilling, very inspirational PG-13, 2018 account of what happened when Ayoub El Khazzani, armed with an AKM assault rifle and 270 rounds of ammunition, opened fire on the Thalys train #9364 running from Amsterdam to Paris at 15:17 on August 21, 2015 with 554 passengers aboard.  One of the unique aspects of this movie is that director, Clint Eastwood, allowed the heroes to play themselves, as well as many of the real-life train crew, medical response team, and policemen!

In particular, the film follows the lives of a group of three life-time friends who had all met as kids attending Freedom Christian School in Fair Oaks, California: Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler. As they grow up, they keep connected, and eventually the trio heads out for a three-week trip around Europe while Stone is stationed in Portugal with the U.S. Air Force, Skarlatos has just returned from a deployment in Afghanistan, and Sadler is a student at Sacramento State University.  After visiting Rome, Venice, Munich, Berlin, and Amsterdam, they make a rather last-minute decision to catch the 15:17 train to Paris,  and “just happen” to be aboard when the terrorist opens fire.  Mark Moogalian, an amazingly courageous fifty-one-year-old American-born professor, was the first responder to confront the gunman, risking his own life in an effort to save his wife and the rest of the people from disaster. However, it also took every ounce of bravery, training, expertise, and loyalty of the three devoted friends that day to thwart what could have been a terrible mass murder. As Isabelle Moogalian later stated, her husband was a hero, but also: “Thankfully we had the … military guys on the train. Otherwise we’d all be dead.” For their valor, the three heroes (and Chris Norman, a British businessman who joined the fight), received the Legion of Honour from French president François Hollande—which is the highest French order for military and civil merits—as well as other high honors from the U.S. Army and Belgium. Although the film hasn’t received much critical acclaim and only got a 5.1 IMDb rating, but I think it was an A+ story that was beautifully done. I wonder if part of rating had to do with our political climate, which downplays the valor of our soldiers, or is biased against anyone trying to cut into Hollywood business. I hope not. Regardless, it’s a great story with a great message, which is that we all need to take care of each other, even when it hurts!  According to Wikipedia, “All three men are described as sharing “a deeply religious background and a belief in service to their community.” This comes out in the movie, particularly with Spencer Stone, who quotes the Prayer of Saint Francis several times.

I want to thank our military for defending our country, and I am also thankful for military personnel around the world who defend the cause of liberty, justice, and peace for their citizens and throughout the world. Good government is a gift!I’m also grateful for Christians who risk their lives so that others may live.

May The Prayer of Saint Francis be our prayer too:

“Lord make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy

“O divine master grant that I may
not so much seek to be consoled as to console
to be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to eternal life
Amen”

And he [Jesus] said to them all, ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it‘” (Luke 9:23-24).

Ancient Message about Media That’s Perfect for Today (aka/How to Live Without Fear of the Future)

Have you voted yet? If not, I hope you get out there and cast your ballot! One of the greatest privileges of a democratic republic is the right to be involved in making political decisions, and as tensions rise over which way is going to be “the best way,” every person’s vote truly does make a difference.

The only downside of elections is the aftermath of unwanted results. The elective process is better than a hostile coup, where the new government kills or imprisons their opponents, but I know anxiety over “what ifs” surrounding today’s elections is causing a great deal of stress.In that light, I’d like to share with you the perfect “Election Day”t message, totally à propos for today, and one of the best messages I’ve ever heard at our church. It was given by our pastor, Jim Samra, who is slowly working his way through the book of Isaiah, and Sunday’s passage “just happened to be” on Isaiah 8, after King Ahaz hired the Assyrian army to defend Judah from Samaria and Syria (despite the fact that the Lord told King Ahaz that He [God] would deliver them).

In verses 5-6, God warned that because the people and their “bad” leader, King Ahaz, had failed to trust in God—who is like a gently flowing river—to protect them, God was going to allow the Assyrians (the very people Judah hired to protect them) to sweep over them like a devastating flood (verses 5-8; the entire passage is listed below). However, in the midst of the battle, God would actually rescue those who trusted in him, “for God is with us” (verses 9-10).

Today, we find our country in a similar position— a place of jeopardy, not only because of bad leadership, but also because of our personal and corporate failure to rely on God to solve our problems, relying rather on technology, programs, alliances with other countries, drugs, education, money, etc.

Just as God did in the days of King Ahaz, so He gives us some warnings today:

1. Don’t follow bad leadership or the masses (:11)
2. Don’t worry about conspiracy theories (:12a Sound familiar?)
3. Don’t fear what other people fear (:12b; and doesn’t our country seem fearful?)

Instead, God gives us several principles to help us live without fear of the future:

1. Fear only God (:13-14a; I’ve heard that “fearing God” means to reverence Him, to trust and obey Him). God will either be a sanctuary for us if we trust him or a
“stone of  stumbling and rock of offense” if we don’t (:14b-15; see also 1 Peter 2:8).
2. Focus on what God says, not what the media has to say (:16-22; talk about appropriate for today!!). It almost made the congregation laugh, but it’s true! Notice verses 19-20: “19 When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? 20 Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.” Jim pointed out that the correct plural of “medium” is not “mediums” but “media.” As believers, we should be testing everything against God’s Word and finding our answers through prayer, not allowing the media to define reality for us or telling us how to interpret events. 3. Fellowship with other believers and wait on the Lord (:16-17). Instead of spending all our time listening to and fretting over what we see and hear via the media, concentrate on repenting from our personal failures, loving others, and waiting on God (through prayer) to deliver us. God alone can turn darkness to light, and He does promise to deliver us if we put our trust in him (:10,17-18). Here is the complete passage from Isaiah 8:

5The Lord spoke to me again:

“Because this people has rejected
    the gently flowing waters of Shiloah
and rejoices over Rezin
    and the son of Remaliah,
therefore the Lord is about to bring against them
    the mighty floodwaters of the Euphrates—
    the king of Assyria with all his pomp.
It will overflow all its channels,
    run over all its banks
and sweep on into Judah, swirling over it,
    passing through it and reaching up to the neck.
Its outspread wings will cover the breadth of your land,
    Immanuel!”

Raise the war cry, you nations, and be shattered!
    Listen, all you distant lands.
Prepare for battle, and be shattered!
    Prepare for battle, and be shattered!
10 Devise your strategy, but it will be thwarted;
    propose your plan, but it will not stand,
    for God is with us.

11 This is what the Lord says to me with his strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people:

12 “Do not call conspiracy
    everything this people calls a conspiracy;
do not fear what they fear,
    and do not dread it.
13 The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy,
    he is the one you are to fear,
    he is the one you are to dread.
14 He will be a holy place;
    for both Israel and Judah he will be
a stone that causes people to stumble
    and a rock that makes them fall.
And for the people of Jerusalem he will be
    a trap and a snare.
15 Many of them will stumble;
    they will fall and be broken,
    they will be snared and captured.”

16 Bind up this testimony of warning
    and seal up God’s instruction among my disciples.
17 I will wait for the Lord,
    who is hiding his face from the descendants of Jacob.
I will put my trust in him.

18 Here am I, and the children the Lord has given me. We are signs and symbols in Israel from the Lord Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion.                                        “The Darkness Turns to Light”

19 When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? 20 Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn. 21 Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. 22 Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness. P.S.—If you’d like to hear the entire message, it can be accessed here: http://calvarygr.org/sermons-resources/

Also, if you’re looking for a church family and live in the Grand Rapids area, please consider joining us at Calvary Church: http://calvarygr.org/