Hors d’oeuvres: Punchy Pepperoni Minis

With visions of Thanksgiving dinner still floating through our brains, and the Christmas holiday season upon us, I wanted to share a simple but very flavorful idea for you to consider making the next time you’re invited to a party and are supposed to bring some hors d’oeuvres to share. The only limitation of this recipe is that they are best warm, so if you have to travel 4 hours in the snow, cover them with aluminum foil and wait to toast them until you get to your venue!

Pepperoni, Swiss, and Pickle Hors d’ouevres
(Makes 24)

Ingredient list:
1 fresh, long loaf of French or Italian bread
Butter
Onion powder
Garlic powder
Salt
Pepper
Pepperoni slices
(about 6 oz)
Swiss cheese slices (6-8 oz package)
Mustard (regular, spicy, or your favorite)
Pickles (dill, or your favorite)

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

Line your largest cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Slice a fresh, long loaf of French or Italian bread into 24 pieces and arrange on the cookie sheet. Butter well and then sprinkle heavily with garlic powder, onion powder, and lightly with salt and pepper. Next, add a layer of Swiss cheese, then a couple of slices of pepperoni, a dab of mustard, and a pickle.

If the party is at your house, be sure to toast them in the oven immediately before serving them. It will only take about 5-7 minutes, until they start to brown and bubble. (Use the top rack to make them brown quicker.) They’re tasty even when they’re warm, but they’re really delicious piping hot! If you’re going to a friend’s home or a church/other venue, you can toast them and then cover them with aluminum foil and wrap them in towels to keep them warm, but if you have access to an oven, ask the hostess if you can reheat them for just a couple of minutes before serving.

P.S. This also works well if you’re not very hungry and just need a little snack at home!

Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter” (Psalm 74:17). But, I really do enjoy the seasonal changes. Do you? In the Amazon, we were told there were just two seasons: Hot and hotter. Winter has it’s bright, white side! 🙂

Thanksgiving Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father . . . Oh Lord, my Lord, how excellent is your name in all the earth!

Thank you for creating this indescribably majestic world as a home for people—for all people—every person who has ever lived, the ones born thousands of years ago, those who live today, and those who will be born in the future. People I know and love, and the billions I’ll never meet on this earth. Thank you for creating us to need each other. Thank you for telling us to love each other and take care of one another. Help me to be kind and learn how to love the way you love.

Thank you for the beauty of this earth. Thank you for creating the seas—awesome! Powerful. Mesmerizing. Throbbing with power. Teeming with life. Thank you for water in all its forms—warm, moist breezes in the spring and frozen stars of ice falling from heaven as winter sets in. For clouds and rain, for streams and rivers, for our tiny lake, and for lakes so huge they look like oceans. For brooks that gurgle, waterfalls that roar, and waves that pound and lull. I feel like I could sit forever beside the sea, just drinking in the scents and sights and sounds. Thank you for water. Water is life to me. Thank you for the Water of Life, too—Jesus . . . that fountain of eternal life you’ve caused to spring up within me.

Thank you for forming the dry land . . . the unending display of beauty in nature seen in the trees and flowers, and the unending parade of curious creatures. Thank you for the astounding variations in topography, the rocks and rifts. Mountains so remote most of us will never stand beneath their shadow. Trenches so deep we could never withstand the pressure of descending into them. Lava flows that would incinerate us instantly should we attempt to walk on them. Icy polar winds that would freeze us solid in minutes if we dared to face them unprotected. Lord, as frail humans, we can only stand in awe of your creation, and of You, the One who has created such splendor and power for us to contemplate, but who is infinitely greater than everything we can see in the world around us.

Thank you for the seemingly infinite sea of stars above us, too. I look up into the night sky and marvel. Finger play? With your fingers you made the moon and the stars? What must heaven be like? By day, we can see the sun, without which we would all die within hours. How like your Son, through whom all things consist and without which nothing would exist. He is the energy that holds all things together and keeps all things from collapsing! The sun: We can see it, and we can’t live without it, but we can’t look at it, because it’s so brilliant we will become blind if we dare to stare at it. How like You! The glory of your radiance makes it impossible to see You! And yet, you have given us Jesus, the express image of your person for us to behold. God in the flesh for us to have and to hold. God become man, who purged our sins by his own blood so that we could be reconciled to God.

Thank you for salvation—that whosoever will may come and receive eternal life as a free gift from your hand. Thank You for giving us your Word, the Word of God—a lamp to our feet and a light to our path to guide us through this life. Thank you for your Holy Spirit to brood over us and rebirth our spirits into new life so that we can see your kingdom, sense your presence, and experience your fellowship. Thank you for your Church and the communion of the saints. May your love flow through us to all those around us. May your kingdom come and your will be done all around the world, even as it is in heaven.

I love you, Lord! Thank you for life. Thank you for allowing me to enter your gates with thanksgiving and come into your courts with praise. May I bless your name and be thankful unto you for as long as I live, and into eternity—forever and ever! Amen.

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Hebrews 1:1-3).

This Is the Day I Became Thankful for Tim Tebow

Speaking of giving up our doubts and letting go of our lives to serve God—I was blown away by the inspiring ideas and example of Tim Tebow, which he shares in his latest book, This is the Day.

Maybe you’ve heard about Tim Tebow for the past 15 years, but I literally knew nothing about him until my son (who’s in Christian publishing) mentioned that he’d written a really popular best seller. Since I love biographies, I was immediately intrigued, and when I discovered it was available on Scribd, I couldn’t resist. So, on a recent trip, I listened to This Is the Day: Reclaim Your Dream. Ignite Your Passion. Live Your Purpose.

Before sharing some inspirational insights from his book, let me tell you a few amazing stories about his birth and childhood. Tim was the youngest of five children, born of American parents but in the Philippines, where his parents were missionaries. Tim’s mother contracted dysentery and fell into a coma before she knew she was pregnant, and the medicines used to help her survive caused a placental abruption. The doctors feared a stillbirth so recommended an abortion, but Tim’s parents refused, and today they have a very unique, superstar-healthy son!

As a Christian mother who home schooled all seven of my kids, I was particularly interested to note that the Tebows home schooled all their children too. Among the many unusual honors Tim has received, Tim was the first home-schooled athlete to be nominated for the Heisman Trophy. He also managed to play the entire second half of a game with a broken fibula, which included one play where he rushed for a 29-yard touchdown! That year, he was named Florida’s Player of the Year! Tim Tebow has a string of athletic honors too long to list. To name a few, he is the only three-time recipient of the Gators’ most valuable player award. By the end of his college career, Tebow held 5 NCAA, 14 SEC, and 28 University of Florida statistical records!

Since then, he’s played five years of professional football, started a career in broadcasting, and is now pursuing a career in professional baseball. Even more astounding than his athletic prowess (at least, to me) is his unflinching faith in God and his incredible life of loving others for the sake of Christ through his Tebow Foundation. Tim seems to have unbounded energy for such ministries as visiting men in prisons and his “Night to Shine” program: “An unforgettable prom night experience, centered on God’s love, for people with special needs ages 14 and older.”

I could go on and on, but you get the picture! What’s not to love about someone with a heart of gold, a body of steel, and a will of iron to love Christ and make His love known by serving others?

At any rate, the book was a total “upper” for me from start to finish. If you need a lift or a little bit of inspiration to “reclaim your dream, ignite your passion, and live your purpose,” think about reading This is the Day!

Bits and Pieces of Wisdom from “Timmy” (which is what his family and close friends call him):

“YODO” You Only Die Once: Motto of Sarah, who was terminally ill and wheel-chair bound but somehow managed to go to the Night to Shine prom and dance on her own two feet before dying the next day!

Don’t just show up for the party; be present during the process.

God can take us from the bottom of the barrel to the top of the sky!

Ask God what he wants and be willing to dream God-sized dreams.

Don’t “numb out” on media all the time, or you’ll miss the real world and all the good God has in store for you.

It’s all in the process: Wake up, work hard, and get better!

Don’t let your past define you, but learn from it.

“Clear your mechanism:” Stop. Breathe. Pray. Focus on the present.

“Only a life lived for others is a life worth living” (quoting Albert Einstein).

Transcend the journey: Choose to believe in God and that God can make even our darkest days into light.

“Flip the Script:” Instead of thinking in terms of negative “what ifs,” turn them around into positives to move forward.

“Confidence is Key:” If you’re feeling disenfranchised, go back to the Well (God and his Word).

Remember your title: “Child of God.” He loves us! This can give us the confidence we need to reach out to others with the hope we have.

Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God; And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:22-24).

(*All photos found on-line via a google search, most from Wiki Commons or official photos of Tim Tebow.)

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (58): Give Up Your Doubts!

This has been a really difficult week. The father-in-law of one of my sons “died”—from our perspective here on earth, although I am confident that he has been safely birthed into heaven. As Tony said before he left, “I know where I’m going, and I know God does all things well. It’s just hard to get from here to there.” He is now there! How do I know? Because he believed: “I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16:8-11). Tony found and walked the path of life, and now he is experiencing the fullness of joy and eternal pleasures of heaven.

Do you believe in heaven? Probably the most profound questions every person ponders while battling earth’s final headmaster go something like this: “Is there an afterlife? If there is, what’s it like? What will happen to me after I die?” Each of us has to grapple with these enigmas for ourselves. Atheists say there simply is no afterlife, but I’ve heard there are no atheists in foxholes, and I think the contractions we feel as the womb of death seeks to expel us must be more terrifying than any other experience on earth.

I don’t know what you believe about life after death, but may I share with you what the Bible teaches in case you don’t know or haven’t yet decided what to believe? Jesus taught that there is life after death, and that He, Himself, is the way to get to heaven after we die: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26).

So simple, but not easy for adults who have spent their lives trying to be good and find their own way, often without even recognizing their need for a Savior. God gave us the Mosaic Law to test us, and without exception, we all fail. We are incapable of being perfect, of always making the right choices, or of always wanting to be good! Jesus came to earth as God incarnate (“in the flesh,” as a man), lived a sinless life, and died in our place as the perfect Lamb-of-God sacrifice. We don’t have to spend our lives trying to be good enough. We’ll never be “good enough,” but Jesus was. All God asks is that we acknowledge our sinfulness and accept Jesus as our Lord (“master”) and Savior, asking Him to make us new (“born again”—reborn spiritually as a child of God).

Where are you on your journey of faith? Do you believe in God? Do you believe in Jesus? Is it possible that you don’t want anybody becoming your “master” or telling you what to do? But, do you want to go to heaven? If so, please don’t doubt the goodness and love of God! Jesus won’t make you miserable if you surrender your heart to Him. He loves you! He wants you to live a holy (which will make you happy) life here on earth and live forever in heaven with Him.

Have you asked Jesus to become your Savior and Lord, and to bring you safely home to heaven when you die? Jesus wants us to stop worrying about this life—even the most basic aspects of how to provide for ourselves, like food and drink. Jesus invites us to accept his invitation and become part of his “bride,” his Church. Just as a man cares for his wife, Jesus will care for us if we’re willing to entrust our lives fully to him.

Are you still doubtful? Afraid? Too proud to open your eyes and see Love staring you in the face? Death will indeed search for and destroy our bodies, but even the final headmaster has a Master. . . the God of Love who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. If you’re not yet a believer, I beg you to give up your doubts and believe! If you are a believer—well, let’s encourage one another. Let’s not “be ye of doubtful mind” about anything. As we keep our hand in His, Jesus will take care of us, even on our deathbeds. He will provide for us, so that even though it’s the hardest thing on earth to get from here to there, we can have every confidence that we’ll be safely birthed from this life to the next!

Text for today’s meditation: Luke 12:23, “And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.”

(Photo credit: “Come Follow Me” was painted by Yongsung and used by permission of http://Havenlight.com)

Pumpkin Pie Bars

Here’s a new recipe I created since it was my turn to bring treats for our Sunday school class last week. The entire pan was eaten, and several people asked me for the recipe, so here it is:

Pumpkin Pie Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

Pumpkin Pie Bars
(Makes 40 medium-small servings)

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

In a mixer, add:
1 yellow cake mix (any regular size; I used Duncan Hines, but suit yourself)
2 eggs
1 twelve-ounce can evaporated milk
1 fifteen-ounce can pureed pumpkin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon allspice

Spread evenly onto a large cookie sheet pan (mine is 17″ by 11″) and bake at 350°F. for 20 minutes (or until the cake springs back when touched lightly).

Cool and frost with:

Frosted Pumpkin Pie Bars

Cream Cheese Frosting

In a large mixer, add:
8 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup softened butter
8 oz. softened cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
5/8 cup milk

Beat until smooth. Spoon gently into middle of the pan and spread from the middle out toward the edges, making sure not to lift your spatula so that it lifts the frosting off the cake.

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” (Psalm 100).

Weaving Rugs from Rags

Most of us who’ve grown up in church have heard the poem, “The Weaver,” which tells about how God is making something beautiful out of our lives, which we won’t really understand or appreciate in all its glory until we reach heaven.

However, if you’re like me, you may not have had many opportunities in life to actually weave something on a loom, so I wanted to share a little bit about what I learned, not only about the pleasure of weaving a rug from rags, but also about how God weaves our lives.

Bags of scrap material cut into strips

At Ability Weavers, where Cindi, Susan, and I wove our rugs, we were invited to choose as many different types of material as we wanted from a wonderful assortment of fabrics and colors.

After we’d selected our fabrics, Beryl taught us how to wrap the pieces on shuttles. We started by loading 6 shuttles, but it really took much more material than I would have guessed, so I had to go back a couple of times for more cloth!

Each loom had a name. Mine was called “Grandma,” I think because it was one of the original looms. Although the looms were pretty similar, the materials we chose were strikingly different.

I took pleasure in noting that both Susan and Cindi chose materials that complemented the clothing they were wearing (although that had nothing to do with where they were planning to place their rugs)!

Beyond the variations in fabric types and colors, we each got to decide whether or not we wanted a distinct pattern or a more random design. It took us several hours to carefully pass the shuttle through the loom hundreds of times, each time tightening the fabric by pulling (HARD) on the shuttle so that the material wouldn’t unravel.

Something else that surprised me was that we didn’t have to make sure the fabric was always perfectly straight and even. We were told that the twists and turns in the cloth strips just added interest and variation in the pattern and would look just fine when we were all finished. That made the threading process much easier!

I chose three different types of material: upholstery fabric, strips of cloth, and a furry, fuzzy “something” (yarn-like) that I learned later had to be bought special (as opposed to most of the strips, which were cut from scrap materials donated by various businesses).

While weaving, it’s important to keep from putting too much tension on the threads at the end of each line, so that the carpet doesn’t become constricted or misshapen.

As I worked, it was impossible not to consider how the Lord weaves us! You may resent being considered a “rag,” but I do not! Isaiah 64:6 explains it this way: “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” We may think we’re pure and holy and good, but God knows we are not, at least not completely. Not yet, as long as we struggle on this earth. As we are taught in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” If you have any doubts about our capacity as humans to be evil, watch the new 2019 documentary, The Devil Next Door (rated 7.7 on IMDb but not for children due to footage of concentration camps during World War 2). This 5-part series delves into the search by our OSI (Office of Special Investigations) to find “Ivan the Terrible,” the sadistically cruel operator of the gas chamber at Treblinka, Poland, who was responsible for the murder of 850,000 people. Alan and I watched it last weekend, and I think it’s one of the most disturbing documentaries I’ve ever seen. I don’t think any of us appreciate our capacity for evil. I’m sure I do not, but I believe what the Bible says.

At any rate (not to be too dark!), in many ways, God lets us weave our own lives, but if we ask Him to be our master and guide, our lives become a wonderful partnership between God’s Holy Spirit and us! God often gives us a huge amount of freedom in choosing the materials and colors and types of fabric that will go into our lives (although He usually prescribes the dark strands of challenging circumstances). We each have a name (“Grandma” fits me just fine!), and although the process of weaving rags into rugs is very similar, the designs and end results are all completely unique and “original,” not only the texture and color, but the size, the shape, and the patterns. All the while we work, just like Beryl was assisting us and helping us when we got stuck, the Holy Spirit instructs and guides us in the process of weaving our lives. Also, there always seems to be an ample supple of material (grace?), so we can keep going back to the store room for more whenever we run out!

Like weavings, our lives requires hundreds of repetitions, a certain amount of banging and pressure to strengthen us so we don’t unravel with use, but not too much tension, or we’ll end up constricted and misshapen. Strangely enough, the twists and turns in the fabric of our lives only add to the beauty and depth of the final product, and if we understand that as we work through life, it helps protect us from too much anxiety over the need to be “perfect” each step of the way!

Anyway, it was such a good experience that I’d love to do it again sometime and am already dreaming of other places where I could “use” another rag rug. Oh, it also occurred to me that each rug was made for a special, unique purpose. Cindi made hers to go beside a bed; Susan is going to place hers at the foot of their stairway, and mine is going to be a table runner for our dining room. God has a special purpose in mind for each of us. Isn’t that a happy thought?

The Weaver

“My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.
Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.
Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned
He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.”
(Authorship disputed but public domain)

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee” (Psalm 139:14-18).

The Birthday Club: Time to Stroll Lowell

Do you have trouble finding time to get together with your friends no matter how much you want to be together? I’ve found that “time” has gotten to be more of an issue than ever before. Who would have guessed you get busier as you get older? I remember my father joking after he retired that he needed to go back to work so he could take a week off. Thirty years ago, I just thought it was funny. Now, I know what he meant!

Nevertheless, six weeks after the fact, Susan, Cindi, and I met up for a “Stroll through Lowell” (Michigan) to celebrate my birthday!

We started with coffee and tea at the new coffee shop, Brody’s Be (actually in Ada, the little berg next door to Lowell).

Brody’s Be was inspired by Brody’s mom, who opened her heart to make room in this world for the developmentally disabled, starting with her Down Syndrome son.

It was a great place to fill our cups and souls, remembering again how God can bring joy out of sorrow and goodness from grief.

Lowell is a little community about eighteen miles east of Grand Rapids, and it looks like it’s straight out of a Hallmark Christmas movie! (They have a Christmas Parade coming up on December 7th that looks like it’s going to be a really fun event.)

Lowell has all sorts of cute shops on their Main St., and although I didn’t think I had anything on my “Wish List” as we wandered about, I quickly found several items that I’d actually been wanting but hadn’t taken time to track down in Grand Rapids, such as some blue netting for my orchid plants and a Christmas Advent calendar. Springrove Variety also has great prices on their spices. Believe it or not, this tiny 5&10 cent store saved me both time and money! Who would have thought?!!

After just enough shopping to get a flavor for the town and whet our appetites, the girls took me to the Flat Iron Grill for lunch. Definitely excellent food, and the company—as always—was unparalleled! 🙂

However, we were apparently taking a tour of all the best eateries in the area as well as enjoying the shopping, because “the best” in desserts (according to hearsay Susan had learned) was to be found at the Sweet Seasons Bakery, which is renowned for providing cheesecakes for certain celebrities in town.

I tried their pumpkin cheesecake, and it was wonderful . . . definitely worth attempting to imitate!! (I’ll work on it!)

Of course, no party would be complete without cards or gifts, and I got both!

Among several thoughtful and useful gifts, I particularly enjoyed the children’s book Cindi gave me, called Miss Rumphius (because, she said, it reminded her of me). I know my grandchildren are going to love this book about a librarian who travels the world and scatters flower seeds!

“A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature.”

Susan found “the perfect” card that says it all. What would the world be without friends?

Ability Weavers: Weaving with a Purpose

We finished our stroll through Lowell with a four-hour craft project, making handmade rugs and table runners. I hope to tell you more about our experience weaving, but for today, I want to share that this weaving shop, “Ability Weavers,” is another not-for-profit ministry borne out of the love of a mother for her autistic daughter with a heart to provide meaningful employment for people with disabilities.

Honestly, I was blown away by the commitment of these two families in caring and providing for their disabled kids. Beryl (in the photo above) was a pharmacist who gave up her career in order to start a business where her daughter (and others with special needs) could have work, respect, and hope. They pay more than minimum wage and provide an opportunity for many young people to contribute to society by making beautiful rugs. Isn’t this brilliant? Praise God for mothers who sacrifice themselves and choose to invest their time and energy in their children and communities!

One last sidebar, and I’ll quit, but I’m halfway through reading Kisses from Katie. Oh, wow! If you want to read a wonderful (true) story of love for those in need, read this! It will break your heart and make your day! Talk about using time well and living with the purpose of loving others!

The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.”
(Psalm 9:9)