Rise Up, My Love (252): Add Some Dazzle to Your Calendar

Song of Solomon 7:12, “There will I give thee my loves.” Let’s take a few minutes to think about one of the best things a wife can do for her husband in a very practical way to show her love for him. It’s the concept of planning “mini honeymoons,” and it’s been one of the most transforming discoveries of my marriage…drawn from the inspiring example of Solomon’s wife. So, what’s a mini honeymoon, and how does it work?

A mini honeymoon is a time set apart for the wife to whisk her husband away from his normal responsibilities so she can focus on loving him. It can be as short as a twenty-four hour period or as long as a long weekend, depending on what will maximize your husband’s pleasure without causing him undo stress over time or financial concerns. The first and most important aspect of the mini honeymoon is the wife’s attitude. She needs to be committed to doing this not for her own pleasure, but for her husband’s, as her gift to him, thinking of what will best meet his needs and delight his heart.

It is a time apart for the husband to “taste and see” that his wife is good…for them to reconnect and bond…for the husband to enjoy his wife—body, soul, and spirit—and to receive love from her. “There will I give thee my loves.” So, there’s nothing in it for the wives? Oh, yes, there certainly is, although I hope that’s not our motive or focus. As wives, we will be richly rewarded over time by the revitalization of our marriage. I have found (and believe it will also be true for you) a new energy and loyalty in my spouse when I consciously take steps to “give him her [my] loves.”   And, the wife can usually begin by picking the special place for the honeymoon retreat, because the good news is that (at least this is true in my marriage, so hopefully it will be true in yours as well) a husband will go happily most anywhere to spend the night with the woman he loves. (You may have to surprise him or talk him into it the first time, but he’ll probably be asking, “When can we do this again??” before you return if it turns out well, because everyone loves being loved!)

So, to start with, pick any lovely place (relatively close to home) where the scenery is refreshing and the dinner will be romantic…some place that will make you both feel relaxed and open…some place where there’s nothing to make your husband think about other people or work-related pressures, and some place that makes you breathe in deeply and sigh with delight. Have you got such a place in mind? If so, start saving up to pay for it. If not, start asking around for suggestions.

My husband doesn’t usually like us to have to drive more than an hour or two; yours may not care, but try to be sensitive to the amount of time transportation will take. You need to be far enough away from home so that you feel “away,” but close enough so that the travel doesn’t rob you of too much time or make the driver tense. Once you’ve picked your place, find a free time in your husband’s schedule. I have often had to consult with a boss or secretary on this one, but I’ve been amazed at how willing people usually are to help out if given enough lead time.

For surprise getaways, I’ve found coworkers more than happy to help, even taking delight in making the schedule look especially difficult for the time when your dear husband is really going to be “sprung” from duty. (That is never my idea…but often theirs!) Once you have the place and the time, start preparing for the occasion. Notice how Solomon’s wife invited him to be a “fruit inspector.”

This will require a big commitment from you, because your husband will be checking out your fruitfulness! Are you bearing the fruits of love in your life? Are your thoughts in order concerning your husband? If he should “taste and see” the thoughts in your mind, will they be like the refreshing bursts of sweetness found in a pomegranate? How about the discipline of getting back into physical shape (preaching to myself on this one particularly!)? If you want him to be crazy about you the way he was when you were first married…how about trying to look something like you did back then? (I didn’t say we can really look like we did twenty or forty years ago…but we can at least try to look pretty by eating wisely, exercising properly, and dressing neatly.)

Is this too scary? Does it sound too hard? Impossible? If money is the biggest issue, find a friend who will watch your kids for a night and just creatively dress up your house. You could make funny little signs with crayons on sheets of white paper. That doesn’t cost much. Remember, it’s not about money; it’s about loving your mate! Or, perhaps you are saying to yourself, “I haven’t got a chance! I’ve gotten fat, and I feel ugly. All my thoughts are unhappy thoughts and I don’t even feel like I love my husband. In fact, why should I want to do anything for him? He’s a jerk.”

Well, if you’re reading this devotional commentary, you must have—at the very least—either some deep love for the Lord or your husband. If love for your husband is lacking, always remember that the burning core of our lives and motivation is our passion for the Lord. Start by doing what you do for the Lord’s sake. He instructs us to love others with a pure and fervent heart (I Peter 1:22)…and that includes loving our husband! This is a way of loving our husband, even if he seems totally unlovable.

Take the burden on your own shoulders of learning how to love. Do everything as if he were the most wonderful man in the world…as if he were Christ. What would you do for Jesus? Love your husband in that way. Prepare for your honeymoon with that much prayerful ingenuity. Take a few props…some pleasant-smelling lotion for a good massage, some bubbles for the bath tub, an appealing new nightgown (okay, so maybe new lounge pants and tee shirt if you’re a Millennial)…whatever you think would make him feel especially loved and desired.

Make a very conscious attempt to “dazzle” and “fascinate” your mate! (By the way, the husband can do all these same things for his wife; remember, at the beginning of the Song, it was the husband doing all the wooing. Wives will forever love being wooed!) Well, maybe you’re an old hand at mini vacations, but if not, I hope I’ve offered enough suggestions to get your mind turning. Let your own creativity and what you know of your husband’s tastes spark your imagination as you prayerfully plan a mini-honeymoon to live out this verse: “There will I give thee my loves.”

Why Would Anyone Want to Devil an Egg?

Why would anyone want to devil a perfectly good egg? If you don’t like eggs or mayonnaise, then you probably wouldn’t enjoy deviling eggs, but for most of us, a platter of deviled eggs is a truly cheery sight and welcome addition to any potluck or picnic. They’re yummy, inexpensive, bite-sized, and a good source of protein. So, perhaps I should ask, Why wouldn’t anyone want to devil an egg?!

Classic Deviled Eggs:
(makes 16 servings)

8 hard-boiled eggs, cooled, peeled and sliced lengthwise with the yolks scooped out and placed in a mixing bowl. To the egg yolks, add:

2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
1/4 minced onion (or 1/4 teaspoon onion powder)
1 minced clove of garlic (or 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder)
1/4 teaspoon Lawry’s seasoning salt (or your favorite)
Salt and pepper to taste

Mash the egg yolks and mix thoroughly with all the condiments and spices. Gently spoon the filling mixture back into the empty egg white cups, and then sprinkle liberally with paprika. Chill and serve, but don’t let anybody pick on them anymore. They’ve already been deviled enough.Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him” (Matthew 4:10-11).

It occurs to me that eggs are probably the only thing it’s okay to devil.  🙂

What’s the Relationship Between Forgiveness and Repentance?

Forgiveness and Justice: A Christian Approach was written as a tool to help victimized people work through the pain of their injury, specifically as they confront the issue of whether or not to forgive their offender, and if so—when, and on what basis. If you’ve sustained an injury in the past that is still causing emotional trauma for you today, or if you have an old injury that has never healed but you’ve dealt with by consciously refusing to ever think about it again, then this book might be helpful.

That being said, Dr. Maier’s book reads like a doctoral dissertation, so it’s primarily an academic exercise in trying to understand the nature of forgiveness and the interplay between forgiveness and justice…aimed more at the head than the heart and clearly written to provide insight for Christian clergy and health-care professionals as they minister to the spiritual and emotional needs of victims.

Maier begins by refining the definition of “forgiveness,” pointing out that “the overarching meaning of forgiveness is manifesting and sharing redemptive grace.” However, he feels that the basic concept of forgiveness as “letting go of the need for vengeance and releasing negative thoughts of bitterness and resentment,” or “giving up one’s right to hurt back” may be too simplistic, because many people have trouble actually forgiving by that definition.

After exploring the definition, boundaries, and contours of forgiveness, Maier argues that our pattern for forgiveness should be modeled after God’s manner of forgiving us, which includes: “A readiness to forgive, an other-centerd focus, a foundation in the gospel, and a requirement of repentance.”

Although I believe that Maier’s observations on how God forgives us are sound, I do not believe the Bible teaches that we are to forgive others using the way in which God forgives us as a model. In fact, I don’t think it’s even a possibility! Jesus taught us to pray, “And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us” (Luke 11:4). Do you sense the difference? Jesus teaches us to forgive on the basis of our having been forgiven, but this is not true of God. God has never sinned. God has no need of being forgiven. God does not appeal to any higher authority, because He is the highest authority in the universe! God does not offer forgiveness based on his willingness to forgive those who’ve offended him, although this is exactly the model he sets up for us when Jesus teaches us to pray.

God, as the divine judge, is required to demand justice. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). God is incomprehensibly merciful and ready to forgive. God has an other-centered focus in forgiveness because He is perfect in love and needs no healing or help for himself. God is only able to offer forgiveness and remain just based on Christ’s death as the complete payment for our sin: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). And finally (Maier’s fourth point), God does require repentance for salvation: “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of” (2 Corinthians 7:10).

God, as divine judge, forgives us based on our repentance, but he does not tell us that we are divine judges who must base our forgiveness on repentance. Rather, the Bible teaches, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15). This places the weight of forgiveness squarely on our shoulders and gives no indication that we cannot—or  even need not—forgive if our offender has not repented.

Instead, he urges us to remember that He is the judge, and he will hold each man accountable for his sin: “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth” (Romans 14:4). Paraphrased, I believe this verse means, “Who are you (me…any of us) to judge someone else, because each person is ultimately God’s servant, not ours. God is omniscient. He knows all the facts. He alone can judge with perfect insight and wisdom.

Does that mean that we should forget about justice? No. We have every right to seek for justice, love justice, and applaud justice. We are required by God “to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” (Micah 6:8). However, we are not to take justice into our own hands (unless we are the appropriate, responsible authority, such as in our homes and work places). God and government are ordained as the conduits for prescribing punishment for unjust behavior, and when we are mistreated, we can fight for justice (as portrayed by Esther), but we’re not supposed to take personal revenge on others: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19). Like Abraham, we need to trust, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25).

In my experience, offenders have very little insight into what they’ve done wrong, and if they do repent, it usually seems shallow and inadequate. If that hasn’t been your experience, you’re very blessed! However, I’m acutely aware that this is without a doubt also true of my repentance. I have very little insight into how sinful my attitudes and conduct often are, and when I realize that I’ve been wrong, I’m sure I don’t fully realize the negative impact I’ve had on others.

Therefore, it’s easy for me to feel compassion for others when they offend me, and I often find consolation in verses like: “The heart knoweth his own bitterness; and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy” (Proverbs 14:10).

Well, the book has many helpful ideas and definitely made me search the scriptures to refine my own thinking, but in the final analysis, I believe God does require us to forgive: “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses) Mark 11:25-26. In fact, I believe God calls us to a life of forgiving: “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-22).

Although reconciliation definitely requires repentance on the part of the offender: “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother” (Matthew 18:15), I truly believe that forgiveness is based on, “freely ye have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8), and God is extremely hard on those who are unwilling to forgive: “And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses” (Matthew 18:34-35).

If you find that you have no desire to forgive someone in your life who has injured you, I beg you to pray for the Holy Spirit to give you the grace to forgive and heal your soul, “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” (Hebrews 12:15). An unwillingness to forgive will keep us from experiencing the freedom that comes from releasing all our pain and sorrows to God, who alone is able to redeem, restore, and reconcile our hearts and our relationships. We don’t have to wait for our offenders to repent! If we’re believers, we can forgive based on the fact that Christ has forgiven us. Let’s leave divine justice in his capable hands. This will free us to heal, and who knows? The day may even come when we can be like the good shepherd in Luke 15, who went out seeking for a lost sheep!

Stratford Scenes and Asian Harvest Adages

Stratford, Ontario, on the Avon River, is a quaint and charming city that hosts the Stratford Festival every May-October. It’s the county seat for Perth County, has a population of just over 31,000,  and is reputed as being one of Canada’s best places to live (and retire).  While there, we always enjoy our strolls along the Avon River,  their beautiful Shakespeare Gardens, and the quiet ambience (and restaurants). Today, I’d like to combine some of my favorite photos from our holiday  with a few adages gleaned from An Asian Harvest I hope you’ll take time to ponder!

“To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.”
~Abraham Lincoln“If God calls you to be a missionary, don’t stoop to be a king.” ~Jordan Grooms  “The greatest missionary is the Bible in the Mother tongue. It never needs a furlough and is never considered a foreigner.” ~Cameron Townsend

“The greatest ability you will ever have is your availability” ~Paul Hattaway, quoting some of the best advice he ever received, from an old man in his church named Bruce.   “The principal danger of the 20th century will be: a religion without the Holy Spirit, Christians without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God and a heaven without a hell.” ~William Booth, 1899  Quotes by  “Do not pray for easy lives; pray to be strong men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be a miracle.” ~Phillips Brooks  “If you give God the right to yourself, He will make a holy experiment out of you. God’s experiments always succeed.” ~Oswald Chambers   “It is an extraordinary power from God, not talent, that wins the day. It is extraordinary spiritual unction, not mental power, that we need. Mental power may gather a large congregation, but only spiritual power will save souls.” ~Charles Spurgeon “It is our duty and our privilege to exhaust our lives for Jesus. We are not to be living specimens of men in fine preservation, but living sacrifices, whose lot is to be consumed.” ~Charles Spurgeon  “Jesus has many who love His kingdom in heaven, but few who bear His cross. He has many who desire comfort, but few who desire suffering. He finds many to share His feast, but few His fasting. All desire to rejoice with Him, but few are willing to suffer for His sake…Those who love Jesus for His own sake, and not for the sake of comfort for themselves, bless Him in every trial and anguish of heart, no less than in the greatest joy. And were He never willing to bestow comfort on them, they would still always praise Him and give Him thanks. ~Thomas a Kempis (1380-1471)   “No one has the right to hear the gospel twice, while there remains someone who has not heard it once.” ~Oswald J. Smith  “The Lord rarely provided my needs early, but He was never late.”~Paul Hattaway   “What matters most to God is my obedience.” ~Paul Hattaway  “If left to flourish, small character flaws grow into large defects which can bring about a Christian’s demise.” ~Paul Hattaway   “I believe the Lord would rather His children attempt things for Him and fail than to never take a risk for His kingdom.” ~Paul Hattaway   “John Stott once warned of the dangers of Christian tadpoles in the Church. Tadpoles, he explained, have huge heads but little else.”   “Many preachers say, ‘Before someone can die for Jesus, they must first be willing to live for Him.’ That sounds logical, but I have discovered the opposite is equally true. Before we are able to live for Jesus, we must first be willing to die for Him.” ~Paul Hattaway   “As I gradually learned the principle that in the kingdom of God, human weakness equals strength and human strength equals weakness, our work became more effective.” ~Paul Hattaway                      “No broken life is beyond repair with Jesus.” ~Paul Hattaway  Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

Which School and The School for Scandal

So, this week I have kids and grand kids working hard at schools in Greece, Italy, Germany, California, and Michigan…home schools, public schools and private! And, guess what? Even Alan, Joel and I went to school! That’s right; we attended The School for Scandal in Canada. Sounds rather scandalous, doesn’t it?  Well, maybe I should backtrack a little. Jonathan is teaching in Athens, Mike and Grace are homeschooling in Italy, Jon and Gerlinde’s girls are in public school in Germany, Aaron and Carleen’s boys are involved in a private-homeschooling combination called Classical Conversations in California, and my daughter’s daughter has started school here in Michigan. So far, so good, as far as I know, and I hear they’re all settling in nicely at their very different venues. However, I wasn’t nearly as settled about attending The School for Scandal when Alan, Joel, and I went to Stratford for a weekend of plays. In fact, the name turned me off so much that if we hadn’t made a deal that each of us could choose one play, I would have balked big time.  Alan and I both wanted to attend Twelfth Night for sure, which we’ve seen and enjoyed for many years. It has a clever plot, lots of humorous lines, and a happy ending, where all’s well that ends well.  This year’s Stratford Festival (in Ontario, not England…if you look online for tickets, make sure you buy them for the right country! I almost didn’t!) marked Canada’s 150th anniversary, and according to artistic director, Antoni Cimolino, all the theatrical productions were chosen to explore identity issues…how “we prepare our face to the world, deal with our hidden desires or balance our self interests with the environment around us.”  Without a doubt, the humorous confusions of Shakespeare’s comedic Twelfth Night fit the bill perfectly.  Our second choice was Tartuffe, considered by some to be the French playwright, Molière’s, most brilliant creation. The play was a comedic exposé on hypocrisy, specifically showcasing the evil intentions of a self-effacing Catholic cleric. I’m not french, and I’m no expert in what the original language was, but I was woefully disappointed by the script, which had been translated from seventeenth-century French into contemporary English rhymes. I was sitting next to a young playwright from Toronto, who beamed over the cleverly adept translations, but some of them made me cringe. What I thought was going to be light-hearted humor turned out to be pretty distressing and distasteful. On the other hand, our third play, written by Irish playwright, Sheridan (The School for Scandal), which I was most wary of seeing, turned out to be mostly light-hearted fun but with a powerful lesson for all of us pupils: Stop gossiping and start learning true discernment of character! Great lesson! Long thought process short: It’s nigh unto impossible to know what’s really going on inside the brain and heart of someone else. Similarly, it’s nigh unto impossible to know what decisions someone else should make concerning how to school their children.  It’s more than enough challenge attempting to live transparent and wise lives personally. Let’s pray for others and support them, trusting they will make wise choices for themselves and their families. It’s something I learned (yet again) in a very unlikely place: The School for Scandal!

Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”
(John 7:24).

What’s the Cost for An Asian Harvest?

Ready to be blessed and challenged…to have your heart broken but also filled with joy? If your heart bursts with the love of God and you have a passion to share his love with others so that they, too, might experience salvation by faith in Christ, you’ll love this book. Through Paul’s ministry, millions have received Bibles over the past twenty-five years.  Although his story is monumental compared to the quiet, quite insignificant path of my life, I really resonate with his love for Jesus and his desire to share God’s good news, and I’m hoping you will too!

Paul wasn’t just your average kid. He suffered from a loveless home life and was such an underachiever that one of his high school teachers told him his life was “a waste of oxygen.” From his days as a high school dropout in New Zealand and living as a homeless kid hiding out on the top of a public toilet in Australia (in an effort to keep warm and evade vagrancy charges), through his conversion and life of walking by faith, Paul tells his amazing story of grace with humility, candor, humor, and passion.

Some of the low lights include his first job scrubbing toilets, his first “apartment” (chicken coop) with a stench so awful that some of his friends refused to visit, the night he almost died from altitude sickness in the mountains of Nepal, green flies for lunch in Indonesia (and the discovery that mangy dogs served as the family dishwashers by licking the bowls clean), the years of harassment from his exposing a pedophile posing as a minister, and a sudden stroke that left him with only half a brain. Some of the highlights include his challenging romance with the love of his life, all the miraculous ways that God provided for him through the years (despite specific instructions from God that he never ask anyone but God for money), and the great joy of working in his Father’s vineyard so that others may come to know the love of God.

Was it worth the cost? Paul says, “I have been the beneficiary of a completely lopsided exchange. I handed Jesus my futile existence, and in return He gave me a life of purpose and fulfillment…If all the pain and struggles we endured were necessary to open the doors to fruitful service for Jesus, then it was all worthwhile, and those experiences have proven inconsequential compared to the overall plan of God in my life.”

I will very gladly spend and be spent for you” (2 Corinthians 12:15).

I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields;
for they are white already to harvest
” (John 4:35).

 

 

 

Rise Up, My Love (251): Pomegranate-colored Glasses

“Let us see…whether the tender grapes appear, and the pomegranates bud forth” (Song of Songs 7:12). In this verse, the bride is urging her husband to come and see how things are going, but really, she already knows! We can tell this because in the next verse she describes what they will find, even revealing that she has already stored up some special treats to give him. So…why is she entreating him to come out with her? I think she is asking her husband to come out and “check up” because she is prepared and eager to prove her love for him. She wants to surprise him with what she’s done to please him. Frankly, it sounds like she’s planned a “mini honeymoon trip!”

Let’s discuss first the most important, spiritual ramifications, but then afterward let’s consider a practical way of living out this concept as an expression of wives loving their husbands today. What are the fruits which the bride entreats her husband to inspect?   “Let us see…whether the tender grapes appear, and the pomegranates bud forth.” The fruit of the vine we’ve already discussed at length in this book. This is the fruit that develops in our lives and character as we abide in his Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, humility, and self-control…fruit which enables us to have the meek and quiet spirit necessary to properly nurture new spiritual babes that are birthed into this world.

The Lord assured us: “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth much fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you” (John 15:16). It is our privilege and delight as believers to abide in the Vine and experience the abundant life that he has planned for us…a life of fruitfulness, contentment, and blessing…a life of becoming like Christ and bringing others to Christ…a life of asking for and receiving fruit that will remain through all eternity.

And what of the budding pomegranates? As we’ve discovered from earlier research, the pomegranate was considered the choicest of fruit, and meditative commentators suggest that the succulence hidden in the labyrinth of ruby red fruits is like minds filled with orderly rows of precious truths about Christ. Whatever else the Lord may have in mind…certainly if our lives are overflowing with fruit and our minds are filled with Christ—what could be any more a delight to the heart of God?

Think about the individual seed cells in a pomegranate. Each seed is enveloped in a crystal clear, ruby red liquid bursting with sweetness. If we could see all of life through such a filter (if thoughts of the crystal-pure, blood-red love of Christ could so filter our vision)…well, that would be seeing life through rose-colored glasses, now wouldn’t it? This, I believe with all my heart, is precisely what the Lord desires for us.

As Madame Guyon said while languishing in a French prison for writing a spiritual commentary of The Song of Solomon some four hundred years ago, the stones in her prison walls seemed like precious jewels, so sweet was her fellowship with Christ! Now there was a woman who saw life through the rose-colored glasses of Christ’s love…whose mind was like a pomegranate…who truly lived out what she learned from her meditations. What an inspiration and example for the rest of us! So, the bride urges her husband to come and inspect the progress of springtime renewal in his land…and Spirit-time renaissance in his wife. “There will I give thee my loves.” There will I give you all that I’ve prepared for you, and thereby you will know just how indescribably precious you have become to me. Ah, Lord God, may our lives be so with you today!

 

Making Jams: Fun for Profit

Well, perhaps not for commercial profit, but certainly for personal profit, since you can make jam for a lot less than it costs to buy it (if you buy the fruit on sale at peak season), and you can be sure that homemade is fresher and more wholesome, particularly when contrasted with jams that contain preservatives or a lot of sugar.  For instance, in the last two weeks, I’ve caught a sale on raspberries for $.77 for 6 oz., another on 6 oz. packages of blackberries at 2 for $1.00, and quarts of strawberries at 3 for $5 (all nicely under $2 per pound). Without much work, I now have a winter’s supply of berry jams—some “canned,” some stored in the refrigerator, and some in the freezer—with enough to give away too. I don’t take a very conventional approach, and I used three different methods, but let me tell you what I did, and if you don’t already have a tried-and-true method, I hope it will inspire you to experiment!  I always keep one shelf in one cupboard for a stash of glass bottles with lids, which I use for food storage (on the theory that glass is better for my family than plastic, and—of course—the jars are free, since I just wash up empty glass jars left over from foods I’ve bought from the grocery store). Actually, canning jars with lids are my favorite (since they usually seal nicely without much effort), but you can use any jar with a lid that seals securely. I’m going to tell you what I did (and like), but I’m hoping this just inspires you to try making up your own recipes to get just the right tang, sweetness, and consistency for your own personal taste!

First, start by washing and drying 4-6 small jars and lids. Make sure you have the right tops and that they fit snugly, with no dents or flaws. Set them on top of a cutting board (or other surface that can take a lot of heat).

Mouth-watering Blackberry Jam

48 oz. fresh blackberries
1/3 cup water (just enough to keep anything from burning before the berries and sugar break down and melt)
1.5 cups sugar
1 package (1.75 oz or 49 g) fruit pectin (for making jam)
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Heat in a heavy saucepan, stirring faithfully and pretty often until all the berries break down (which takes quite a while for blackberries), the sugar and jello totally dissolve, and the jam starts to thicken slightly. It took me half an hour on medium-low heat, but I’m quite sure it will depend on how hot your stove is, the type of pan you use, and how juicy your berries are, so go by the changing consistency rather than just time. It’s a pretty subtle but distinct difference, but it’s not “thick” at all, just no longer watery.  Once the jam is done, ladle it out immediately into the dry glass jars, almost to the top. When you actually can jams, you have to leave a little head room (like 1/2  inch), but I fill the jars almost to the top, which makes them more likely to self-seal. Make sure there are no traces of jam that will keep the jars from sealing properly, and then screw on the lids as tight as you can. Afterward, give the tiniest turn to the left just so air can escape if need be. When I do this with canning jars, almost all of them seal on their own within an hour, just left on the kitchen counter.  Any jars that don’t seal must be kept in the refrigerator to preserve them, or else you can open the tops and add a layer of sealing wax, but I’ve stopped doing either the official canning (which darkens the jams and I suspect causes loss of nutrients) or the wax. Suit yourself but please don’t sue me if you get sick. In my experience, you’ll see mold if anything is amiss, so you’ll know there’s a problem. Of course, if you’re willing to give up some refrigerator space and share with your friends, you won’t have any problem finishing it all off before it goes bad.   🙂

Rich, Ruby-red Raspberry Jam:

48 oz. fresh raspberries
1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 large package (6 oz) raspberry jello

An alternate method for making jam is to use flavored jello (gelatin) instead of pectin, and I actually prefer it. I’ve found that one large package of jello replaces one package of fruit pectin, tastes a bit brighter (without needing to add lemon juice), and is less expensive (particularly if you catch it on sale!).  Follow the same instructions as for blackberry jam. However (of course), take particular care not to let it cook too long, or the jam will darken! If you do it just right, your jam will continue to be bright red, even after it’s finished and on your bread!

There are many recipes for making jam, but in the end, it depends on your taste. I started out with equal amounts of berries and sugar, reduced the sugar, switched from pectin to jello, stopped canning…etc! My theory is that cooking should be a growing, learning process whereby we develop our tastes and improve our nutrition as we go!

Unbelievably Yummy Strawberry Freezer Jam

If you haven’t already discovered this world-class jam, try making freezer jam:

Step One: Clean and mash 4 quarts strawberries. Place in large mixing bowl.  Step Two: Pour 1 cup boiling water in a separate bowl, to which you add:
1 large package of strawberry jello
1 large package of orange jello
Stir faithfully until all the jello has dissolved in the boiling water. Set it aside to cool a little. Step Three: Combine 1 package fruit pectin for freezer jam (1.59 oz) and
1.5 cups sugar. Mix the pectin and sugar together, add to the mashed berries, stir thoroughly, and allow to rest on the counter for 15 minutes

Step Four: Add the tepid (not hot or cold) jello solution to the freezer jam mash. Pour immediately into bottles or plastic containers for the freezer. (If you’re using glass jars, make sure you do give at least 1/2 inch head room so the bottles don’t break when the jam freezes. Actually, I don’t think there’s an issue with plastic for freezing; the problems come with heating plastics. Theoretically, there shouldn’t be any problem with freezing jam in plastic containers.)

Step Five: let the jam rest on the counter for half an hour before storing in the refrigerator or freezer. This jam is quite a bit softer than regular jam, and if you don’t like the consistency, try adding another 1.59 oz. of freezer jam pectin. Also, some people like more sugar, so you could try adding another package of jello. If you don’t like the results…try, try, and try again!!

(P.S.—The recipe for cooked jam also works well with blueberries or any other type of berry. Whatever you happen to have on hand and like to eat!)

O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” (Psalm 34:8)

 

Wildfires: Lord, Teach Us to Pray!

While hurricanes are flooding America’s southeastern seaboard, over 100 wildfires are devastating America’s northwest, and it’s now one of the worst years in U.S. history for acreage burned! I was praying yesterday with three women from California and Washington state, where smoke and heat are making it hard to be outside in some areas. My brother, who lives just east of California’s Bay area, said his thermometer read 114° a few days ago and was over 100° for several days, although it’s now “cooled” down to the 90°s. Yikes! Don’t you wish we could somehow take some of the drenching rains from the east coast and deposit them as showers of blessing on the west coast to stop the fires? There are so many horrible situations around the world where we cannot change what’s going on, but I know the God who can. What? Is God that powerful? Yes! “Ah Lord God! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee” (Jeremiah 32:17). But…could it be possible that the fires and hurricanes are actually fulfilling God’s word? Yes again. Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps: Fire, and hail; snow, and vapours; stormy wind fulfilling his word…” (Psalm 148:7-8).

I know from the book of Job that righteous people can (and do) suffer, but I also know the Bible is full of admonitions for people to return to him after they have forsaken his word and his way, which is what we, as Americans, have been guilty of doing. Unprecedented epidemics of pornography, drugs, alcohol, and other addictions are running as rampant as forest fires, destroying our homes and families. We’re being flooded with hurricane-force winds of ungodly cultural changes, where our morality has turned black into white, exalting as good what God’s word condemns as evil.

God’s word is clear to us: “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:1-2). America is on fire and is being flooded morally and spiritually. Could it be that God is using the fires and floods we see physically as a merciful reminder to us to turn from our sins and repent?

I’ve been listening to a wonderful series by Jim Berg, called Quieting a Noisy Soul, and one of the things Jim teaches is that God is merciful!  However, true mercy is “rescuing us from our miserable condition,” not giving us whatever we want! Anyone who is living apart from God’s love and laws is in the most miserable condition of all, because they are separated from God and without his eternal life.

God’s word calls us to repent and come to him: “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7). There is a way to recover from addictions…and it starts by turning to God for help: “Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death” (Psalm 68:20 NIV).  “And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart” (Jeremiah 24:7).

Are you in need of a Savior? “I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour” (Isaiah 43:11). God can do what no one else can do for us! He can send showers of blessings on the West Coast and turn away the hurricane from the East Coast. Even better, He is also able to cure us of our addictions and teach us the truth so that we won’t be “carried about with divers and strange doctrines” (Hebrews 13:9). There is no one else who can, which is why I say with King David, “In him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence” (2 Samuel 22:3).

If you’re in need of spiritual counseling, you can contact me at my email address as a last resort (my name written out as one word—kathryn w armstrong—via gmail), although I would also like to encourage you to find a trustworthy, godly pastor or Christian counselor who lives in your area and with whom you could have better contact.

If you’re interested in joining with me in prayer for ourselves and our nation, please feel free to join our weekly on-line prayer group, which meets every Thursday at noon (EST). You can access it here:  https://aqueductproject.org/prayer-center/

(then, after you’ve opened the above link, click on the link within it that says:  To enter the Prayer Center and to join a live video conference call, please click here.) Here is more information on the next one:

Thursday, September 14, 2017, at 9:00–9:30am, (UTC-08:00), Pacific Standard Time
To determine the time of this service in your local time zone, click here.
Prayer Leader: Mary DePuy

If you’re interested in learning more about how to pray, please join us in a weekly seminar on prayer, which is occurring at noon (EST) every Monday for the next 9 weeks. Information and how to access it can be found here:

https://aqueductproject.org/prayer-seminar/

Here is more information on the next prayer seminar:

Monday, September 11, 2017:
Prayer in the New Testament
Lecturers: Matthew Dereck and Jonathan Armstrong

In this first official class period, we will introduce the spiritual discipline of prayer as the proper beginning point for theological study. “Theology” means “God-speech,” and we must learn to talk with God before we can learn to speak properly about God. This session looks into Jesus’ prayer life and his seven prayers recorded in the Gospels.

(Let me know if you have any trouble accessing these resources, and I can try to help you figure it out. It’s pretty easy, but I had trouble the first time, too, so I know it helps to have someone “walk you through it.”)