May All Be Well With You Tonight!

It’s Christmas Eve, and whether you’re all alone or surrounded by family, my prayer for you is that you will experience the peace of knowing that “All is Well” because Jesus has come to earth to save us. Allow yourself the luxury of relaxing into the majesty of a miracle wrapped in mystery: “Emmanuel!” God with us! He is here. We are never alone! His desire is for us to commune with Him—to allow him to be our Lord and Savior—our God, our heavenly bridegroom, our brother, our eternally unfailing, ever-present companion who lives within us and walks beside us.

This is the One who listens to us and speaks to us. Jesus, born in “Bethlehem” (which means “House of Bread), born as the “Bread of Life”. . . this Jesus invites us to open the door of our heart and allow him in, where we can feast with him and become one with Him and with His Father, our eternal God. Will you take time to contemplate Jesus tonight? Born to save. Died to save. Lives to save! Allelujah!

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”
(Revelation 3:20)

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (105): Go in Peace

As Christmas draws near, do you find yourself feeling a bit overwhelmed by the COVID Grinch? If you’ve got grown kids like me who usually come home for the holidays, you might be anguishing (also like me) over how to ensure that all of your kids feel loved and wanted . . . even if they can’t all be home together. Worse . . . you may have to stay at home all alone. 😦

Or, how about this one? Do you ever find yourself waking up at night feeling anxious but you’re not even sure why? Alan (medical internist by trade) says that generalized anxiety often increases as we age. I’ve read that as many as 25% of senior citizens struggle with diffuse feelings of anxiety. (I think stats on diagnosable “GAD” [Generalized Anxiety Disorder] is more like 10-20%.)

The gloomy thought that we’ll all have quite a struggle trying to keep the COVID Grinch from stealing Christmas only adds fuel to the fires of worry burning in our hearts.

We can’t just all hold hands around the world and sing together to solve our problem, either. No holding hands in 2020, please!

Many times during Jesus’s ministry on earth, he invited people to accept and experience peace: “And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole, go in peace, and be whole of thy plague” (Mark 5:34). Near the end of his ministry, as he was preparing his disciples to withstand the onslaught of evil forces that would be intent on destroying them after Jesus left, he offered them peace: “Peace be unto you” (Luke 24:36, also recorded in John 20:19, 21, and 26).

If we’re not feeling peaceful, how do we get peace? There are some 420 verses that mention “peace,” but I want to share just a handful of the ones that are most helpful to me, and I thought might encourage you too:

Meditating on the words of Christ will bring us peace (and hope): “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Trusting in the Lord’s provision will give us peace: “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).

The humble are more likely to experience peace: “But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace” (Psalm 37:11).

The righteous are more likely to experience peace: “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace” (Psalm 37:37; however, “the end” may not be today!). “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:9). I had a mentor years ago who used to say, “A clear conscience makes a soft pillow.” That dear man died of a heart attack in his eighties and was found sitting in his favorite chair with his Bible open on his lap. I feel sure he died in peace!

Jesus provides peace for his followers: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

The peace that Jesus provides comes initially from knowing that we have been reconciled to God: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

Ultimately, Jesus himself not only provides peace, but “He is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14), “the Lord of peace” (2 Thessalonian 1:2), and “King of peace” (Hebrews 7:2). This is similar to learning that not only does God provide love for us, “God is love“(I John 4:8). To know Jesus is to know peace. If you are a believer (like me) who wants to experience more peace, let’s seek to know Jesus better!

On the other hand, whether or not you’re a believer, I’m pretty sure you want peace—that blissful state of tranquility in your soul. Isn’t that a universal desire for us as human beings? It’s one thing for Jesus to tell us to “go in peace,” but it’s another thing to be able to do that. There are a couple of warnings in scripture that highlight what will increase our restlessness: “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6, ESV). If we focus our minds on the world around us, we will increase our anxiety.

Also, living for ourselves and indulging in ungodly behaviors destroys peace, whereas abiding in Christ brings rich spiritual rewards (like peace): “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5: 18-23, ESV).

Sixty years ago, when my husband was child, he heard the gospel message and always thought that “someday” he’d become a Christian, although he didn’t want to accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior then because it might ruin his fun. “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3). Today he looks back and wishes he’d become a Christian sooner! None of us has a guarantee that we will live until tomorrow, and even if we do live many more years, I believe the day will come when we all wish we’d surrendered our hearts to Jesus sooner!

Why? Because Jesus is all that the prophets claimed he would be. About 725 years before Christ was born, the prophet Isaiah made this prediction: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). As we head toward Christmas this year, wouldn’t you love to have this child given by God who was born to govern the world and is all these things: Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace?!!

Oh, please, open your heart to him today, and let him bring peace to your soul!

Texts for this meditation: Luke 24:36, “Peace be unto you” (Jesus to gathered disciples). Also found in John 20:19,21,26, “Peace be unto you.” Mark 5:34, “And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole, go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.” Luke 8:48, “And he said unto her. Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.” I pray that this is true for each of us who read this meditation: May we believe in Jesus, and through that faith find good comfort and peace today and forevermore!

(*For any Christian who is suffering from poor sleep and generalized anxiety, may I recommend memorizing the verses above? I have, and I tend to recite them to myself rather than counting sheep! There’s nothing quite so therapeutic as prayer and meditation for a good night’s rest.)

Psalm 63:5-8, ESV

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
    and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
    and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
    and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
    your right hand upholds me

(P.S.—If you are living well and still experiencing generalized anxiety, consider going to your doctor for a medical exam. It may be that your body chemistry is off and you need some medical intervention. There’s no shame in having a body that is low on serotonin or other necessary components to keep your brain and body functioning well. The only “shame” would be if you could get help but refuse to try, just as it would be a great sorrow to need the Lord’s salvation and refuse it.)

Moist Pumpkin Muffins with Cream Cheese Frosting

Do you know the difference between muffins and cupcakes? Is it possible that cupcakes are just frosted muffins?

Enjoying pumpkin muffins with cream cheese frosting from the Jampot Bakery

It might have to do with the amount of sugar in the mix, and if so, then I’d say the muffins at the Jampot are actually more cupcakes in disguise, and by the time they’re iced, they look and taste like giant cupcakes!

A couple of days ago, I wrote about discovering just how good frosted pumpkin “muffins” really are, so today I thought I’d share my rendition of this spicy autumn treat.

Regardless of what you’re making, the same batter can be used for pumpkin muffins, pumpkin “cupcakes,” (frosted muffins), pumpkin cake or pumpkin bread . . . it all depends on the shape of the pans you use for baking and whether or not you frost them. Pumpkin baked in any shape is just as moist and sweet!

Scrumptious Pumpkin Muffins
(Makes 12-18 cupcakes, 2 small loaves, or one cake)

Preheat your oven to 375°F.
Either grease and flour your pans or line with paper muffin cups

In a mixing bowl combine:
1 15-16-ounce can of pureed pumpkin
1/3 cup evaporated milk (can use cream, whole or even skim milk instead)
2 eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil (can use canola oil, melted butter, or whatever you have)
1 and 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Optional additions: 1 cup pecans or other nuts, or 1 cup dried cranberries or raisins. They’re good plain or dressed up!

Blend until uniformly mixed and smooth and pour into your muffin tins. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the muffins spring back when touched gently in the center. (This is for muffins; a 9X12″ cake pan takes about 25 minutes. Loaf pans take about 50 minutes at 350° instead of 375°.)

They can be served hot out of the oven, but if you’re going to frost them, they need to cool on the counter first.

Cream Cheese Frosting

Combine in mixer:
3 cups confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
1/4 cup softened butter
4 oz. softened creamed cheese
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons milk or cream

Whip in mixer until fluffy, and then spread. The frosting should be quite soft, so if yours is too stiff to spread easily after whipping for a couple of minutes, add another teaspoon or so of milk.

P.S.—This is not the Jampot’s recipe. It’s mine, but it’s pretty close; if anything, it’s a bit fluffier and less dense. These muffins are super moist and store well (up to a week) in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. Or, they can be made ahead for the holidays and can be frozen for a month or two. Just make sure they’re room temperature when they’re served. (In fact, I often touch them up in the microwave for about 5-6 seconds each just to make them seem fresh-out-of-the-oven again, but don’t microwave them for much more than that, or the frosting will melt.)

(I’m not sure if any of mine will make it until the kids come home! 🙂 )

Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name!
(Psalm 97:12)

Great-Grandma’s Peanut Brittle

One of our family “secrets” was the recipe for peanut brittle, which (as the story goes) my mother weasled out of a candy maker in her Coloradian hometown in about 1935 in exchange for a date. (Nothing more; back in those days a first date was usually prim and proper, like my mom.) As it turned out, my mother was too ambitious and left her hometown (and the local confectioner) in order to seek her fortune at the University of Colorado, where she met my dad. However, the recipe for peanut brittle has remained safely in my mother’s recipe box, which she eventually passed down to me.

Happily, without any bribery necessary, I now share it with you!

Golden Peanut Brittle
(serves a bunch!)

Ingredients List:
Granulated sugar
Corn syrup
(blanched, roasted and salted are ideal, although any peanuts will probably work fine)
Baking soda

Cooking Time: the whole process may take as long as half an hour or more, so be patient! This is not a 5-10 minute quickie. This is a labor of eagle-eyed love watching for the perfect moment to finish it off!

Prepare a large, buttered cookie sheet (or a marble slab if you have one handy, although I do not pour it straight onto my granite slab lest is void the warranty, and I suspect boiling hot syrup is too hot for any modern marble or granite non-commercial countertops. The confectioner probably had a 2+” slab of marble like the ones confectioners use on Mackinac Island. The fact is, I put a wooden cutting board under my cookie sheet just to make sure I don’t crack my counter. Boiling syrup is extremely hot.)

In a medium-sized cooking pot, combine:
2 cups white sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup water

Boil to the hard-ball stage (about 260°F. Technically, “hard-ball stage” is somewhere between 250-265 degrees F or 121.11-129.44° C, but I never use a candy thermometer). If you drop a drip into some cold water, it should harden into a ball. (My mom’s recipe talks about “hairs” forming—like tiny strings of syrup starting to harden as they cool in the air.)

I think blanched, roasted and salted peanuts work best,
although in the olden days we used to shell them for ourselves

Immediately add:
2 cups of peanuts and stir over high heat. (My mom’s recipe says “a very hot fire,” but I doubt any of you are cooking over fires in 2020 🙂 .)

This syrup is NOT yet done; keep stirring!

Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the syrup turns a light, golden brown and the peanuts smell like they’re roasting. ***Catching the syrup at the perfect stage is crucial. Too soon and it doesn’t taste or look as wonderful, but you can also burn it if you wait until it’s dark brown, because the candy will continue to cook even after the heat’s turned off. (Use a wooden paddle for stirring so the handle is long enough and doesn’t transmit heat: it will keep you from getting burned.)

Turn off the heat or remove from the heat completely if it’s already any darker than this, and then add:
1 tablespoon butter and stir until melted and blended.

Then add:
1 teaspoon baking soda (but only after your baking sheet is greased and on top of a heat-resistance surface, ready to receive the boiling brittle).

The baking soda will make the brittle boil up and fill with tiny bubbles that will help you keep from breaking your teeth trying to chew it up! However, if you wait very long, the bubbles will disappear, so it’s critical that you just get it nicely foaming and then immediately pour it out onto the cookie sheet.

Peanut brittle on baking sheet

Pour onto your cookie sheet and spread until it’s 1/4 ” thick (almost the whole pan). (Hint: what you don’t pour out will harden immediately in your pan, so don’t think you’re going to be able to go back and scrape anything out later. Make sure you scrape it all out before you start spreading it, and use a well-buttered metal spatula to spread out the brittle in the pan and press it down. It needs to be thin to be easy to eat, I think.)

Peanut brittle with a tiny “hair” (strand) of syrup hardened on the side of the pan

Cool completely and break into pieces. (We tend to start trying to break off little pieces before it even cools enough to break, but watch it, as it’s very hot.)

Let it dry on the counter or in a dry, unheated oven for at least an hour until no heat is remaining before you try to store it. Of course, if your family is like mine, you may be missing a few pieces by the time you’re ready to tuck it away.

Store whatever doesn’t get eaten on the spot in an air-tight container in a dry, cool place, like a basement storage room or a cold garage or unheated porch (if it’s cold outside). Freezing won’t hurt it, but it doesn’t need to be frozen and will stay fresh for a month (although ours never lasts through the holidays). Make sure you keep it dry, because it can get sticky if it’s just sitting out on the counter for a few days absorbing moisture from the air.

The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29). Aren’t you glad that even though there are many secrets in this world, God has revealed everything we need to know in order to live godly lives according to his law?!

Quintessential Pumpkin Pie

How was your Thanksgiving . . . or are you prepping for a feast today or tomorrow? I know some of our loved ones are celebrating tonight, and I’ve heard a lot of pretty unconventional menu plans (like Pad Thai and mac’n’cheese), since making a big turkey dinner for two or three isn’t as much fun as cooking for a bunch!

We had our youngest and his bride with us, which gave us incentive to have our usual feast, and having four cooks working together in the kitchen made it super special and very fun!

As I searched back through my blogging recipes to make sure I’d “covered all the bases” for how to make an American-style Thanksgiving dinner, I realized that I’ve never written up how to make pumpkin pie! So, here’s my recipe, which is pretty much the standard, classic pie, although my new daughter-in-law commented that she really liked the flavor, as sometimes pumpkin pie can taste a little bland. I think having enough sugar and spice is key! 🙂

Quintessential Pumpkin Pie
(Serves 8)

This recipe can make 2 nine-inch pies, but I didn’t think we’d eat them, so I made one eleven-inch pie and saved the extra filling to make pumpkin muffins later. Because there’s no leavening in the mix, the filling can be refrigerated for up to a week.

So, step one is to make one or two pie shells, depending on how many people you’re going to have for dinner. Here’s my recipe for one 11-inch pie crust:

Fluted 11″ pie crust

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine:
    2 cups flour
    5/8 cup Crisco (or other vegetable shortening; I ran out, so I chopped up cold butter instead)
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/3 cup very cold water.
  2. Mix in your blender until a ball forms. (If it doesn’t, add just a little more water, about a teaspoon at a time, until it does.) Roll out after sprinkling a little flour on top of the counter and your pastry, so that it won’t stick to the rolling pin. I always roll the crust out on top of some saran wrap so I can get it off the counter and into the pie plate in one piece, but you have to flip the crust over so the saran ends up on top and can be pulled off. Also, if the saran slides around, put a few drops of water on the counter underneath the wrap to make it stay in place.
  3. Arrange the crust in the pan, flute the edges, and prick some holes in the bottom with a fork

Besides eggs, sugar, salt, and flour, these are the ingredients that you’ll need to assemble. Start by preheating your oven to 425°F.

In a large blending bowl, add:
One 29-ounce can of pumpkin
Two 12-ounce cans of evaporated milk
1.5 cups sugar
3 eggs
1/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix until well blended, and then pour into the pie shell until near the top, where the fluting begins. Reserve the rest in a sealed quart- sized jar for future reference. (Or, you can use the entire amount if you’re making two 9-inch pies.)

Place in the oven which has been preheated to 425°F. for fifteen minutes, and then turn the temperature down to 350°F and continue baking for another 45 minutes. (Unless you’re making 9″ pies; if that’s the case, then you only need another 33-38 minutes.) The pie is done when the crust and top are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out fairly clean.

To be the truly quintessential pumpkin-pie eating experience, it needs to be served warm and topped with an ample supply of freshly whipped cream . . . and some steaming cups of coffee and/or tea. I hope you enjoy this as much as we do!!

Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
    Serve the Lord with gladness!
    Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the Lord, he is God!
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
    and his courts with praise!
    Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the Lord is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations.

Encouraging Thanksgiving Thoughts

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you have a wonderful time of feeling and expressing thankfulness for all the blessings in your life today, whether or not you’re able to get together with the family and friends you’d normally be seeing. As COVID spiked in Michigan, our plans dwindled from four of our children and their families coming home, to three, to two, and finally to just one, but we are extremely grateful to be able to meet with our youngest and his new wife. We could have been all by ourselves!

Or could we? Actually, even if no one could visit our home, we would never be alone. After all, what it Thanksgiving Day really about? It’s about expressing thankfulness for all our blessings! And, who is the One who has given us every wonderful gift we possess? “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). Our circumstances may change. Our friends may not be able to join us due to the shadow of COVID. But, God our Father never changes, and He is always with us!

Furthermore, at the root of thanksgiving is grateful fellowship, and as we learn in 1 John 1:3, “truly our fellowship with with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” Even if you are all alone this Thanksgiving, I hope your day is filled with praise to God for his abundant blessings in your life! Chief among my blessings is the gift of eternal life, which God has given us through faith in his Son, Jesus: “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40). If you have never surrendered your heart and life to Jesus, this Thanksgiving Day would be the perfect time to do so! (Not sure how? Click on the “Coming to Christ” tab at the top of this page for more details.)

Still, I know we’ll all struggle a little with sadness over missing the fellowship of family and other loved ones today, so I thought I’d share some inspiring bits of wisdom to help cheer us all up and set our hearts on being thankful today. God bless you!!

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” (1 John 1:1-4).

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (102): The Case for Communion . . . Even Online??

What’s the point of the Christian practice of communion? Jesus instituted it the night before he died, and he commanded his disciples, “This do in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). For Jesus and his disciples, it started out as the celebration of the Passover feast—the time when Jewish people remembered their rescue by God from slavery. On the night of the first Passover, God instructed each family to sacrifice a lamb and apply its blood to the top and sides of the doorway leading into their home, and then they were to eat the roasted lamb in preparation for their journey out of Egypt (where they had been slaves) into the freedom of “The Promised Land,” Israel. God warned everyone living in the land of Egypt that he was sending a Death Angel to kill the firstborn in every household, but if the angel saw blood from the sacrificial lamb over the door of any home, he would “pass over” that home and not kill anyone inside.

The Last Supper by Tintoretto, 1594. Public Domain

So, Jesus was celebrating this annual feast with his disciples, but the commemorative feast was also Jesus’s “last supper,” because the next morning he was to be sacrificed as the “Passover Lamb” . . . the one prophesied by John the Baptist at the beginning of his ministry: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Jesus was crucified on a cross, and blood from his wounded head and outstretched arms would be the perfect fulfillment of the blood being applied to the top and sides of the door.

In order to help his disciples understand all the imagery from the Passover, and how it was going to be fulfilled in his sacrifice on the cross, Jesus instituted what we now know as “communion,” “The Lord’s supper,” or the most ancient term— “Eucharist” (from root words meaning “gratitude for God’s grace”).

The Last Supper, by Carl Bloch. Public Domain

So, after the main part of the Passover meal was over and Judas had been dismissed, “Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’” (Matthew 26:26-28).

The Last Supper by Peter Paul Rubens, 1631-32. Public Domain

Jesus was teaching his disciples that his sacrifice—being the lamb of God—was a once-for-all-time sacrifice that would never need to be repeated again. After Jesus was crucified, there would never need to be another Passover lamb slain. All that anyone would need to do in order to be delivered from the slavery of sin and be set on the path to “The Promised Land” of heaven would be to accept Jesus’s blood as the perfect and complete fulfillment of the Old Testament law.

The Last Supper by Dieric Bouts, 1420-1475. Public Domain

From that night forward, Jesus was providing a “New Testament” for his disciples—both those with him that night, and for all who would come in the future: “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” What did he mean? The last Passover was the last time a lamb would need to be slain. This same meal was also the Last Supper, but it was the first time Jesus was introducing a new testament and a new covenant. Instead of a lamb, in future, Jesus asked all his disciples to remember his death on the cross with a simple feast of bread and drink.

Last Supper, mosaic by Sibeaster, 2008. Public Domain

Now, there are several interpretations of what Jesus meant when he said, “This is my body . . . this is my blood . . .” Some early Christians were terribly persecuted because the rumor went around that they were cannibals—eating the literal body and blood of Christ. Even today, there are those who believe in “transubstantiation” (the bread is mystically transformed into the literal body of Christ), “consubstantiation” (the bread is mystically infused with the actual presence of Christ’s body but is both bread and body), and those who believe communion is a memorial where the bread is symbolically and metaphysically Christ’s body but not literally. Whereas the first two groups believe communion is a sacramental means of receiving grace, the last group believes the Eucharist is an ordinance of thanksgiving, commemorating the fact that saving grace was received at the time of first believing and accepting Christ’s sacrifice.

The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, 1490’s. Public Domain

I personally believe that the bread and juice are symbols, just as Jesus was not literally a lamb, but metaphorically. However, I may be wrong. When we all get to heaven, I’m sure Jesus will go to the chalkboard and help us understand exactly what he meant. Meanwhile, the most important things to remember in the present are:

  • Only those who apply the blood are saved; all others were lost. The testament was only fulfilled by those who accepted the blood of Jesus as the testator: “For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator” (Hebrews 9:16). And, Jesus said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many” (Matthew 26:28). Jesus died so that all can be saved, but only those who accept his sacrifice will be saved.
  • All who are believing disciples are called to practice communion, and in so doing, remember Jesus’s sacrifice: “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).

Are you a believer? Are you practicing communion? I know that during this COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a lot of confusion about the efficacy of celebrating the Lord’s Supper as corporate, online experiences, but let’s remember Jesus’s teaching: “Do this in remembrance of me.”

Texts for this meditation: Matthew 26:26-29, “Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” Mark 14:22-26,And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God. And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.Luke 22:14-20, “And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

Roasted Turkey Made Simple

I was surprised to learn that there are lots of folks who’ve never roasted a turkey and are a bit distraught because they aren’t “going home” for the holidays, where the family matriarch usually does the honors . . . and they’ve never roasted a turkey before! Because of my hip surgery, my daughter and several daughter-in-laws offered to do all the cooking for us this year, although none of them wanted to take responsibility for the turkey. As it turns out, three days ago Michigan’s governor shut down all hopes for big family gatherings for Thanksgiving this year (no more than two households together), so we’re having to totally rethink our strategy for the holidays. BUT, in the midst of all this, I thought it might be time to write about roasting a turkey, which is much easier than you might think!

Okay, so all sorts of chefs have all sorts of magic tricks for how to make the perfect turkey, including deep-fat frying, rotisserie, and a plethora of specialized turkey roasters . . . basting tricks, etc. However, I’m here to tell you that you can make a beautifully golden-brown, juicy, delicious turkey using nothing more than a simple roasting pan and a few herbs.

Here’s what I’ve done for the past 45 years, and it works just fine. Sorry I don’t have photos today, but I’ll try to add some after I roast this year’s turkey. Maybe you can send me some photos from what you did. 🙂 Please do!! I will say—there are now 35 of us (including children and grandchildren), so my husband carves the turkey into two large plates of dark and light meat, and we eat buffet style, so I don’t have any photos from Thanksgivings past to make your mouth water. However, I guarantee that anybody who has an oven and a roasting pan can make an excellent turkey, so don’t be intimidated if this year COVID concerns have left you on your own to be your immediate family’s chef extraordinaire!

How to roast a turkey

First, shoot your turkey. If you don’t have any in your neck of the woods, come on over to our place. We’re pretty much overrun.

Actually, I’m kidding (of course), not about being overrun by turkeys (this is a typical view out my front window) but by having to catch and kill you own. Instead, buy a fresh or frozen turkey already prepared for roasting at your local grocery store. If it’s just your family, you’ll probably want the smallest turkey you can find, or you’ll be eating leftovers ad nauseam. Rule of thumb is one pound of turkey per person.

Okay, so here it is, step by step:
#1. Make sure your turkey is defrosted. You can do this by leaving a frozen turkey in the refrigerator for several days. Rule of thumb is 4-12 pounds 2 days; 12-16 pounds 3 days, 16-20 pounds 4 days, 20-24 pounds 5 days, and more than that . . . it could take up to a week. BUT, never let a turkey sit out on the counter to defrost or you might end up with food poisoning. Turkeys defrost from the outside in, so the outside could be full of bacteria before the inside ever defrosts. The night before I intend to roast my turkey, I submerge the (hopefully mostly) defrosted turkey in my kitchen sink (still wrapped and waterproof) and fill the sink with ice water.
#2. The day of: Preheat the oven to 350°F.
#3. Remove the wrapping, the neck and/or any bag of organ meats that may be in the cavity. Either throw them out or wash the organ meats and put them around the edges of the roasting pan. Wash the turkey completely with cold water. Remove any metal, plastic, or strings used to keep the turkey in position. (Some people like to keep the strings, but I’ve found from experience that the turkey will look just fine with no strings attached.) The only thing you should NOT remove is the little plastic round ring (which is a thermometer) placed in the breast. This will pop up when the turkey has been properly roasted (at least in theory).
#4. Arrange the turkey in your roasting pan, breast-side up, and add two cups of water to the bottom of your pan. The next part is personal taste, but you’ll want to add seasonings. I’ll tell you what I do, but suit yourself! Everything is optional, so if you don’t have something, you don’t need to spend $30 just to get all the right herbs and spices, but spices do keep well and are good in all sorts of dishes. I add (roughly, for a large turkey; the point is to sprinkle the seasonings all over the top and sides of the turkey):

1 tablespoon Lawry’s seasoning salt (sprinkling all spices and herbs evenly everywhere)
1 tablespoon of crushed rosemary (fresh if you have it is especially wonderful)
1 tablespoon crushed thyme
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon sage
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon crushed basil
1 teaspoon parsley (or fresh sprigs chopped up)

#5. Cover completely (hopefully with the top of your roasting pan, if you have anything large enough; otherwise you can use aluminum foil, but make a little tent out of it so the foil doesn’t touch the skin of the turkey or you’ll pull off the skin when you take off the foil).
#6. Roast in the oven. Rule of thumb is 13 minutes per pound of meat if you haven’t stuffed the turkey and 15 minutes per pound if you have. My husband (an internal medicine doctor), after seeing a few patients who’d gotten food poisoning from turkeys, stopped letting me stuff my turkeys, so now I always make the turkey dressing like this:
#7. Remove the turkey from the oven after the thermometer has popped up and the turkey’s turned a golden brown. If you have a meat thermometer, insert it into the thickest part of the thigh and consider it done when it registers at least 165°F (and looks golden brown). Let it rest for 15 minutes.
#8. Either serve it on a platter and carve it at the table (which is by far the most attractive but least practical way to serve your turkey), or you can carve it up and serve the meat on a platter or two. There are definite advantages to both approaches!

Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving,
and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms
” (Psalm 95:2)

Psalm 95

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;
    let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
    let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the Lord is a great God,
    and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
    the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
    and his hands formed the dry land.

Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
    let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
For he is our God,
    and we are the people of his pasture,
    and the sheep of his hand.
Today, if you hear his voice,
    do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
    as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
when your fathers put me to the test
    and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
10 For forty years I loathed that generation
    and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart,
    and they have not known my ways.”
11 Therefore I swore in my wrath,
    “They shall not enter my rest.”

Salute to our Veterans

Since the first celebration of Armistice Day at the end of World War 1, Americans have been commemorating the sacrifice of our noble military personnel each year on November 11.

Because I wasn’t from a military family and had no close personal friends in the military, I didn’t have the depth of appreciation for what Veterans Day represented until one of my sons joined.

My son is a dentist, but he’s served in many difficult places, including Iraq and in South Korea, where his base was within walking distance of the DMZ (the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea).

Over the years, he’s worn a lot of different hats, and this past summer he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. (However, this hat was from ten years ago!)

Alan and I always try to keep in touch with Mike’s family no matter where in the world they are, but due to COVID shutting out Americans from his current location, we had to miss the birth of their last child and a special trip we had planned to see the Passion Play in Oberammergau with them. This is a very small sacrifice compared to the horrible losses that many families suffer, but isolation and separation from home and family are two of the many sacrifices that every military family makes.

So, in honor of my son and all military personnel, I just want to say,
“Thank you for serving!”

Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due;
custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.”
(Romans 13:7)

May God keep you in his care, and may you walk with Him.

Gourmet Hot Chocolate from Scratch

One of the joys of chilly autumn days is having a cup of steaming cocoa, don’t you think? When I was a child, cocoa was always made from scratch, and I can remember being entranced when my oldest sister started working at a restaurant where they had special packets of hot chocolate mix you could add to boiling water! I loved stirring it all up and finding some bursts of flavor where I hadn’t taken time to mix it all up thoroughly . . . and the last thick, sticky slurp of chocolatey sludge that invariably settled to the bottom of the cup.

Sixty years later, it occurred to me that there may be a generation of people who don’t know how simple and easy it is to make hot chocolate from scratch. It’s cheaper, more nutritious, almost as easy, and avoids additives and preservatives.

All you really need are milk, sugar, and cocoa powder!

Hot Chocolate
(per serving)

Add in a saucepan:
8-12 oz milk (depending on the size of your cup)
1 teaspoon of cocoa powder
2 teaspoons sugar (You can add more or less, depending on taste; if you’re diabetic or dieting, hot milk with cocoa powder is actually a pretty good drink in its own right.)

Heat, stirring often until all the sugar has melted, the milk is starting to bubble at the edges (but don’t let it boil), and the cocoa powder has been blended in (which may require systematically smashing the resistant bits against the sides of the pan with your spoon or using a whisk).

Now, most of the time, this is sufficiently delicious, but if you really want to be gourmet (as my youngest son often does), melt in 2 tablespoons of special dark (or semi-sweet) chocolate chips and stir until completely blended.

Pour into a cup and top with:
1 marshmallow (or many minis)

Gourmet Hot Chocolate

If make it especially festive (and compete with the finest restaurants without having to go out or spend so much money), then top with whipping cream and drizzle with chocolate syrup.

Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter.”
(Psalm 74:17)