Monthly Archives: September 2017

Hearty Three-Bean Chili for Chilly Days

Autumn is the perfect time for a steaming bowl of chili with corn bread…and maybe a salad and apple juice to complement. There are lots of recipes out there for chili, but I’ve developed a brew that’s a hit around our home plates, so if you haven’t settled on a favorite recipe, consider trying this one:

Chilly Day Three-Bean Chili
(Serves about 6)

Add together in a large sauce pan:
1 pound hamburger
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pepper (orange, green, red, or yellow)
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon Montreal Steak Seasoning (or your favorite)
1 teaspoon chili powder
Salt and pepper to tasteCook over high to medium heat until the meat is completely cooked and the vegetables are tender, stirring often to keep anything from buring. Then add:
3 cans of chili beans in chili sauce ( I like having variety in color and taste, so I use three different types of beans, even garbanzo at times, but whatever you like will work fine)
1/2 cup ketchup
1 can of diced tomatoes

1/2 cup water (I use a little water to rinse out the bottom of the cans to get the last bits of sauce, which amounts to about half a can altogether)Simmer everything for at least a half an hour, continuing to stir it every few minutes to make sure nothing sticks and burns on the bottom. The flavor continues to improve with time, so you can turn off the heat, keep it covered, and just rewarm it when you’re ready to eat. This also makes chili a great dish to take to take to a friend, serve at an open house or potluck, or prepare when you’re not sure when your family will come home for supper. (Um hum. My husband was stuck in a meeting for an extra hour when I made this, but it didn’t hurt a thing!)     🙂

Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel” (Proverbs 27:9…and perhaps by hearty soup as well?!)

Learning to Accept~This is Where I Leave You

(-By guest author, Jane Anderson)

It’s been a while now, but I still remember the effect. My breath caught as I heard the title of a new movie showing in theaters. This Is Where I Leave You.

How often has my mind wandered the void of an empty room, sensed the hollow feeling trailing a wave, felt the finality of a closed door? Have you ever spent time with someone you love, seizing every moment before their journey takes them one direction while yours takes another?  You knew the words were coming but couldn’t bear to hear them, “This is where I leave you.”

If you’re breathing, you know the hopeless feeling of saying goodbye, or maybe you avoid the goodbye, choosing instead the softer, “See ya later.” I recently talked to a friend whose youngest child went off to college leaving her with nobody to drop off or pick up at school, no sporting events claiming every weekday evening and a pretty lonely dinner table. There will be holidays and long weekends, but this season has brought new colors to the landscape – not the colors she is ready for.

Four years ago when my grandson joined the Marines we said goodbye to him as he left for 13 weeks of Basic Training. He insisted on no tears and we bravely complied … up until he said, “Well, this is where I leave you.” There are too many events in our life where the only option demands a deep breath and courageous goodbye. Our lives occur in such a blur that looking back we see short vignettes of what used to be. We preserve snatches of remembrances as a salve to soothe our aching hearts in moments when we feel regrettable loss. Life happens when we aren’t looking and we call it memory. We would be wise to honor our present moments and continually ask ourselves, “How do I want to remember this moment?”  Sometimes it isn’t goodbye that rocks our world, but it’s our habits, lifestyle, and what we are accustomed to. Change is inevitable, isn’t it? Just when we feel comfortable, when we seem to be on the right track, at the time we’re most confident and we’ve achieved consistency in our routines – something changes! We can dread change. We can even be afraid of change because we know how it feels. Routine is comfortable, it means stability.  God gives us some insight into how futile it is to dwell on fear of change. One observation is shared in Lamentations 3:19, “Just thinking of my troubles and my lonely wandering makes me miserable.” You know? Life is filled with ups and downs, good and bad, gain and loss. Yes, there is also the dreaded goodbyes. But we choose our attitudes. We can be miserable or we can choose to believe what God said in 1 Samuel 12:22, “The Lord has chosen you to be his own people. He will always take care of you so that everyone will know how great he is.”   We all know someone who has been through change after change in their life yet their faith has not faltered. We admire people who have suffered through fire and emerge with their joy intact. Faced with changes and an uncertain future, what separates the joyful from the joyless? Maybe it starts with believing that change is neither good nor bad, it’s only different. Then deepen your faith and believe that God keeps his promises. Psalm 91:4 says, “He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.

Life is a contact sport and sometimes we really get beat up. Sometimes tightly gripping what we had in the past only creates defeat in our present and trouble in our future. We need to let go – to relinquish what was. We need to say, “This is where I leave you.” Believe the words of Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

New perspectives don’t magically materialize, nor do problems evaporate. There will always be changes we disagree with, challenges we can’t wish away.  Our tender hearts will be broken by the dreaded goodbye; we will lose parts of us we know we can’t live without, but in these times we must trust in the God that is bigger than all our terrifying problems and wider than the hollow left vacant by changes we didn’t want.  I’ve heard that the Bible commands 365 times to “Fear not.” That’s a command, not a suggestion. We know from 2 Timothy 1:7 that “God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.” God didn’t give us a fear of failing, or fear of change, or fear of loss. Be courageous. Focus on what you have, not on what you’ve lost. Capitalize on what you can do, not on what you cannot.

 So this is where I leave you.

2 Corinthians 13:11, “Good-by, my friends. Do better and pay attention to what I have said. Try to get along and live peacefully with each other. Now I pray that God, who gives love and peace, will be with you” (Contemporary English Version).

(Amen, and thank you, Jane!)

Even in Crisis

(Used by permission of a young friend awaiting her wedding day, Debbie R.)

I’ve been wanting to write down some of my thoughts from these past couple weeks, but I’ve always found writing to be a difficult thing for me. For anyone who knows me, I’m not a writer, I’m a… yeah, that’s right, a talker. Been teased about that my whole life, but here I go…

Since my surgeries two weeks ago I’ve had a hymn from childhood and a few verses continually on my mind.
“The love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell. It goes beyond the highest star and reaches to the lowest hell…

O love of God, how rich and pure! How measureless and strong! It shall forevermore endure – the saints’ and angels’ song.

Could we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of parchment made; Were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade; To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry; Nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky.

O love of God, how rich and pure! How measureless and strong! It shall forevermore endure – the saints’ and angels’ song.”

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:35‭, ‬37‭-‬39 ESV

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:8‭-‬11 ESV

Life certainly took a turn a few weeks ago when I got sick. There I was just six weeks from getting married and so excited to get all the final pieces together and just finally marry my love, mi vida, the man who is God’s best for me.

And then it happened; the realization that I had to go in to emergency because something was terribly wrong. After a couple days of tests and switching hospitals, we heard some of the hardest words to hear a doctor say, “We have to do surgery.” At this point I hadn’t eaten in days and had gone below 100 pounds. I looked completely out of it, but I still remember so much of what was going on around me. I remember starting to think about the fact that I was really, truly going to go through surgery again. After ten years, it was happening again. While my very first surgery was also an emergency, this one was different. The surgeon didn’t know what he would find when he opened me up. “What is gonna happen? I’m in a different country; I don’t have my doctor here.” I had this feeling of, “I really might not make it. Surgery is surgery after all.” And then a sense of overwhelming peace came over me. God makes no mistakes. His word will accomplish it’s purpose. If I went to sleep in surgery and woke up in the presence of my Creator, that would be in His plan. And I would be glad. But God, in His mercy guided the surgeons hands in painstakingly untwisting the tangled intestine they found. And when I woke up I was instead in recovery and shortly later saw the faces of those I love. God’s purpose for me here is not finished yet. And I am glad.

Recovery in the hospital after the surgeries wasn’t easy. There were ups and downs. The biggest low was hearing the surgeon say that an October 7 wedding was too soon. But I was fine. I talked with Wilmer and we decided to postpone it for December 2. Emotionally I was handling everything incredibly well. What happened to the extremely passionate person who overreacts to literally everything? Well, let me tell you something. These past few months have been difficult for me. Little things with health and wedding plans and legal paperwork for getting married in Colombia had been hitting me left and right. I would get so frustrated and at times even mad at God for how things were going. And yet, with everything God had it in His control and proved His faithfulness to me in these smaller things one after the other. He was preparing me for what was coming next. And because He did, I could trust Him and I knew of His love for me. I could only be grateful that He spared my life.

My uncle just wrote me very encouraging words this morning, “Nothing is wasted nothing is by accident all by His design to draw your real heart into His … run for Him and never stop.” Are you running for Him? Are you drawing close to Him? Are you living every single day of your life for Him? Please don’t wait for a crisis to happen to realize what is important in life. God has you here for a purpose. Share the love of God to those around you. Don’t waste your life. And ultimately, God’s purpose for you is to conform you into the image of Christ. Let Him do it; don’t resist it. The road can be tough at times, but it is so SO worth it. He will never leave your nor forsake you. He who promised is faithful.

I hope you have been encouraged by these words. I write them with love for all of you in my life. Thank you so much for the prayers, the encouragement and the visits. Thank you to my fiance, who though hasn’t said any vows to me yet has proved to be there “in sickness and in health.” A huge thank you to my parents who have always been there for me, took turns spending the nights with me in the hospital, asked questions and made sure they knew everything that was going on, and who have loved me more than words can express. Thank you to my brother, Mark, for also taking turns being with me and spending some nights in the hospital. Thanks also to my boss, Shawna, who spent one night with me to give my parents a break. And lastly, to the surgeons, doctors and staff at Hospital Universitario Nacional de Colombia for their expertise and care. (Thank you, Debbie, for letting me share your story! May the Lord bless you two with a long and fruitful marriage…soon!!! 🙂 )

Please Share With Us!

I’ve noticed that our fellowship of Summer Setting readers includes members from around the world representing  many different nations and occupations, including ministers and those retired from ministry, students, professionals, moms and dads, and many people who are writers, poets, or otherwise enjoy writing. Every once in a while, someone writes to ask if I ever accept essays for my blog written by others, and I want to assure you, the answer is a resounding: Yes! If you’re a reader and have something you’d like to share, please send it to me!

The parameters are:
1.  The material needs to be true to the Bible and hopefully inspired by the Holy Spirit’s work in your life.
2.  Submissions can be any length, but unless it’s a short poem (which can work fine), most posts are between 250-600 words.
3.  If you have a photo (or photos) to illustrate, please include them.
4.  Because the goal of Summer Setting is to uplift and encourage people in their faith, it would be ideal to have a scripture verse that relates to your topic. If you can’t think of one, I’ll try to come up with something appropriate.
5. Send your text and photos to me as an email. (My address is my entire name written out as one word [kathrynwarmstrong] at gmail.) I’ll proof it and send it back to you for your approval. We can work together until we’re both happy.  Interested? Please don’t be shy! Take up your pen and share with our fellowship! The mysterious Body of Christ is both local and universal, and as such, we can all minister to each other without degrees or credentials! It’s not who we are, but what the Lord is teaching us!!

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16).

Rise Up, My Love (253): Ever Wondered What Mandrakes Are?

Song of Solomon 7:13 “The mandrakes give a smell.” What in the world are mandrakes? They are only mentioned six times in Scripture: once in this verse and five times in Genesis 30:14-16, where Rachel bargains with her sister Leah, exchanging the privilege of sleeping with their husband Jacob for the mandrakes that Leah’s son Reuben found in the field. Why all the fuss about mandrakes, and what are they?

For a starter, it’s inconceivable to me that a woman would exchange a night of physical intimacy with her husband for anything! I believe God intended marital expression to be sacred and beyond price, as intimated in chapter 8: “If a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be condemned.” How would you feel if your spouse “hired” you out for a bunch of whatevers?

That preposterous and degrading deal aside (an insight into the petty selfishness of our human nature, since we’ve all fallen prey to the temptation to exchange our souls for some trite pleasure from time to time…), let’s go back to the use of the term “mandrake” in Solomon’s song. The word translated “mandrake” is the Hebrew duda’im. It is consistently translated as “love apple” in the The Interlinear Bible and as something which induces love in Brown-Driver-Brigg’s Hebrew and English Lexicon (1).

In the final analysis, no one knows for sure what these “love apples” were, but the top two choices for “preferred guess” are either what we commonly call “may apples” today, or the Mandragora. May apples are common throughout temperate regions. In fact, we have colonies of them in our woods. In the spring each plant sprouts into a leafy one-foot umbrella with a single white blossom sheltered underneath, which becomes a yellowish, edible fruit about the size of a nutmeg in late May or June. The flowers have a very mild but pleasing scent, although the children and I have never found it perceptible from the path…only by studied trial. Also, may apples are edible but not especially flavorful, certainly nothing exotic or gourmet like the morel mushrooms that also sprout up in our woods about that time! It’s inconceivable to me that Rachel would have found anything in May apples compellingly attractive enough to tempt her to sell her husband’s affection!

On the other hand, the genus Mandragora has six species still common to the Mediterranean region which were used in antiquity as addictive aphrodisiacs. The Mandragora is a poisonous, perennial member of the potato family (Solanceae) (2).  It has tuberous roots that look almost like clusters of large grapes, and according to the World Book Encyclopedia(3) , these roots were often used as “narcotics, anesthetics, and in so-called love potions.” It is said that these mandrakes had a “very distinct and agreeable odor” and that “among the Arabs it was called both ‘the servant of love’ and the ruffah eshaitain or ‘Satan’s apples’ (4).”

It is conceivable to me that such a potent and powerfully addictive plant could arouse the passionate demands demonstrated in Rachel. In the Song of Solomon, there is no hint of evil or inordinate passion. The verse only mentions, “The mandrakes give a smell,” and perhaps the proper interpretive amplification of this comment might be, “It is the time for sharing love. Can’t you tell? Even the air is filled with the scent of love!” This is a good thing, and love should be everywhere about us. That is the bright and positive side of a good relationship.

On the dark side, perhaps this verse should cause us to reflect for a minute on our desires. Is there anything in our life that drives us…that controls our behavior…or is threatening to do so? Is there anything so powerful in our lives that we would choose to pursue it over pursuing time with our Lord and our spouse? Any person, any pass time, any passion? I find myself from time to time feeling the heavy hand of temptation luring me toward some lust. It can be something as simple but almost universal as the temptation to overeat. It can be the subtle pleasure of spending money on myself for something I want but don’t need. It can be the idle enjoyment of a wasted hour when there was much work to be done. It can be the deadly draw toward fascination with any man who is not my husband. The world, my flesh, and the devil conspire to surround me with temptations and lusts that are as powerfully addictive and attractive as the ancient mandrakes.

I wonder, are we being tempted by any mandrakes in our lives today? Don’t be driven to trade your spouse’s affection for a handful of “mandrakes,” whatever they are. What attractive scent is arousing passion in you? Food? Money? Leisure? Sex? Don’t trade your soul or your spouse’s love for a pot of poisonous (but narcotic) pottage! If there is good, find it, and let it arouse right desires. Eating is good; just don’t overeat. Money is good; just don’t overindulge. Leisure is good; just use it to restore rather than debilitate. Sex is good; just make sure that it’s with your mate! When the scent of mandrakes in your life is arousing you, learn to say, “Rise up, my love, and come away with me! Let me give you my love, and all the good things I’ve prepared for you!” Live for your Lord, and if you’re married, live joyfully with your spouse. (1) Brown, Francis, D.D., D. Litt. The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. 1997, 188 (cf. pg. 188,“love-producing…as exciting sexual desire”).
(2) The Encyclopedia Americana.  Danbury, Connecticut: Grolier Inc., 1995, 227.
(3) The World Book Encyclopedia. Chicago: World Book—Childcraft International, Inc., 1980, 103.
(4) Paige Patterson, Song of Solomon (Chicago:  Moody, 1986), 111.
(Photos from Wikipedia)

Crispy Crab Cakes

Do you love crab cakes? If you enjoy seafood, then you might like crab cakes. I don’t serve them often, because crab meat is very expensive, but every once in a while I catch a sale and splurge.

If you haven’t tried them, here’s a recipe that I’ve developed and like a lot. They turn out crispy on the outside but fork tender, and seem to be a hit with the home team.

Crispy Crab Cakes
(serves 4)

Add together in a mixing bowl and stir gently by hand until all the ingredients are blended but the crab meat is still chunky:16 oz. of crab meat or one 16-0z. can of crab
1 cup fine bread crumbs
1 egg
1 teaspoon Worchestershire sauce

1 teaspoon A-1 sauce1 teaspoon dijon mustard (with horseradish if you like it)
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 finely minced small onion
Salt and pepper to taste
(but don’t taste it with the raw egg…so maybe just a light-medium sprinkling of both) Form into 8 soft patties and fry in two tablespoons of butter on medium heat, flipping after about 3-4 minutes on each side. Once you start frying them, dinner will be ready to serve in 6-8 minutes, so hopefully you’ve already planned and prepared the rest of your meal to be done at the same time! Crab cakes are quite filling, even though they’re not very big, so unless you have a super appetite, two per person with a few sides might be sufficient.

PS—Much as Alan has always enjoyed seafood, lately he’s developed an allergy to shellfish, so I think our crab cakes last week might be our last! I didn’t realize you can like something for 50 years and then suddenly develop a dangerous reaction to it, but if you ever feel any tingling or numbness in your soft palate after eating something, check with a doctor! You may have developed a food allergy that you didn’t know about!  😦

Behold, I will bring it health and cure, and I will cure them, and will reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth” (Jeremiah 33:6; sometimes a “cure” is no longer eating something, even if it’s something we love!).

Autumn Joys: A Few of My Favorite Things

Today is the first day of autumn, 2017…a day that has never been and will never come again. I’ve been thinking a lot about all the tragedies occurring in America and around the world this year. Sometimes it seems almost sacrilegious to speak about the blessings during such a time of hardship, but then I remember that it’s often in the midst of suffering that we’re most acutely aware of the everyday blessings that we usually take for granted. I’m going to list a few of my favorites, and I’d love to hear you share some of yours as well!   Now that it’s autumn, it’s dark when I wake up, but among my favorite everyday blessings are hearing the birds sing and watching the sun rise while Alan and I read the Bible and pray together each morning.      I’m also extremely grateful to be living in a clean, dry, safe, snug home.  I’m thankful for food and water and electricity. Millions are without right now in the Americas and Caribbean, and billions are chronically without worldwide.   I am thankful for the spiritual bread of life and the water of life, Jesus. Beyond all this, I find myself wrapped up in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, which is better than a velvety fleece around my shoulders, and I am a child of our heavenly Father, who has his arms outstretched to whosoever will come to Him in faith. I am thankful for the privilege of prayer! God invites us to come to him like a little child and promises to care for us and answer our prayers.  I’m thankful for my husband and children and grandchildren. I’m thankful that we love our Father and we love each other. I’m thankful for family and friends, both those far away and near.  I’m thankful for the golden warmth of the sun by day and the silvery glow of the moon and stars by night. I’m thankful for the seasons…for snowflakes in winter and soft green grass in summer, flowers that bud and bloom in the spring, and leaves that flame and fall in the autumn.  God has created a world of beauty, mystery, light, and darkness, and I’m thankful for it all, knowing that God is good and is working everything “together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?

10 I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.

11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

12 I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.

13 And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.

14 I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him (Ecclesiastes 3:1-14).