Category Archives: Holidays

Have You Found Messiah in the Passover?

      Yesterday Christians around the world celebrated Easter, and so did we!  The most common Christian traditions are attending church as a family, a special festive dinner together, and an Easter egg hunt, where everyone searches for brightly-colored Easter eggs (usually hard-boiled chicken eggs). . .       as well as various types of candy, in particular, chocolate Easter bunnies!  We enjoyed all these activities, and it was a wonderful time of worship and celebration. However, what many Christians (and Jews) don’t realize is that the day Jesus was crucified—which we call Good Friday—is also the Feast of Passover for Jews. And, Easter Sunday—when we celebrate the resurrection of Christ— is also the Feast of First Fruits.   Did you know that? If you’re like me, you may not have known this, or at least fully appreciated the significance of these facts. Jesus was the Passover Lamb. God provided his own son as the sacrificial lamb, like the ram God provided for Abraham nearly 4,000 years ago to substitute for his son Isaac. The Passover lamb, sacrificed by the Israelites 3,500 years ago on the night before they fled Egypt, looked forward to the time when the Lamb of God would be sacrificed, once for all, to bring each of us from spiritual bondage and death into freedom and spiritual, eternal life. That is the day when Jesus died on the cross.  Messiah in the Passover, edited by Darrell L. Bock and Mitch Glaser, is a landmark reference book for the Church to connect us to our spiritual roots, deepen our love for God, the Jewish people and our Messiah, and to teach us how to “experience the joy of celebrating Messiah in the Passover in our own homes and churches.”

Nearly eighteen scholars contribute chapters explaining the fulfillment of Old Testament patterns in the life of Christ, shedding brilliant light on the symbolism surrounding the life and death of Jesus as the Messiah and giving even more depth to our understanding of communion, which was first established at the time of our Lord’s last supper (which was also the Passover Seder that Jews still celebrate today).

As one outstanding example of what the book teaches: One of the central aspects of the Jewish Seder involves taking three sheets of matzah (unleavened bread) and inserting them in three compartments of a special bag, known as the matzah tash. At one point in the evening ritual, the father (or leader) takes the middle sheet of matzah and breaks it in two. He replaces half but wraps the other half in a white napkin and hides it somewhere in the house. (As a game, the children are supposed to look for it.)   This hidden half is known as the afikoman, which is found and distributed in small pieces to everyone as “dessert” after the meal, but it’s literal derivation is from the Greek and means “the one who has come,” a clear reference to the Messiah. Matzah is a flat bread, made without any leaven (which is symbolic of sin in the Bible). It is also striped and pierced. For Christians, the symbolism cries out so loudly it gives me goosebumps! The three matzahs are perfectly symbolic of the triune nature of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The middle sheet is broken and half of it is hidden. Jesus was crucified and buried. After three days (at the end of the meal), he “comes again” (is  resurrected) and distributed to all. Jesus was like the matzah. He was sinless (without leaven). He was striped (lashed) and pierced (by the nails and sword). He was hidden for three days but then rose again.  His life has been distributed to all who will accept it. As Jesus said at the Last Supper, “And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you (Luke 18:19-20). What a clear message: Jesus was the Messiah, offering himself as the Passover Lamb, crucified on the Passover, and raised again on the Feast of First Fruits. If you are Jewish or have Jewish friends, this makes the Gospel so accessible. May we all find Messiah in the Passover!   Beyond many very scholarly articles explaining the Old and New Testament teaching about the Messiah, there are a couple of chapters dedicated to sharing everything you need to know about how to conduct your own Passover Seder. There are complete recipes for all the most common dishes (I published one for Matzah Ball Soup two days ago), and they give permission to anyone who would like to run off copies of the order of service for their personal use. There are additional resources available at their website:

https://www.messiahinthepassover.com/

Think about it! I hope you get the book and learn more about finding Jesus, the Messiah, in the Passover. Next year, I’m hoping either to participate in a Seder or hold my own! As Gentile believers, I think we’re missing out on a great blessing if we fail to enjoy this marvelous feast that God gave (all of) his children thousands of years ago. Let’s connect with our spiritual roots and begin enjoying the privileges of His communions!

Speaking of the Messiah (and fulfilled in Christ), the Bible records: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

(Last photo shared by my spiritual sister, Elizabeth, from her family Seder. It’s not exactly like the one you can download from  https://www.messiahinthepassover.com/  but serves as a lovely example! Thank you, Elizabeth! Our German daughter, Gerlinde, taught us one of the German Lutheran traditions of sharing a lamb cake to teach that Jesus is the Lamb of God. Next year, Gerlinde and I are hoping to organize a Good Friday Seder for our family as well! Thank you, Gerlinde!)

Corned Beef and Cabbage: Traditional St. Patrick’s Day Dinner

Many of us with a little Irish heritage like to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day every March 17th with a special dinner of Corned Beef and Cabbage, which we’ve grown up believing is a very traditional Irish dinner. (However, my daughter-in-law, Gerlinde, who grew up in Germany but with an Irish mother, had never eaten it before I served it the other night, so perhaps it’s not as traditional as I thought! 🙂  )   Nevertheless, it’s become quite traditional in America—from the East Coast to Hawaii—so I thought this might be a good week to publish our home brew in time for St. Patrick’s Day.  Corned beef can be roasted in oven and is great when smothered with caramelized onions.  However, the most common method is to boil it.  Some folks prefer throwing out the salty broth for fear of preservatives  (check with  your local butcher to see how it’s been brined if you’re concerned), but corned beef can be made simply by being heavily salted and isn’t necessarily full of other preservatives.  Personally, the old-fashioned stew is our family favorite:

St. Patrick’s Traditional Corn Beef and Cabbage Stew
(Serves 6-10, depending on how many children or adults you’re serving!)

2.5 to 3 pound corned beef brisket (with a packet of seasonings)  Add the packet of seasonings and  bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 2 hours (or use an instant pot for a much shorter period of time). You can drain the water off at that point and refill the pan until the corned beef is covered again (which I don’t personally do). Either way, the next step is to add veggies:6-10 potatoes
1 pound carrots
3-6 whole onions
1 cabbage chopped into 6-10 chunks
Then, add more seasonings (whether or not you’ve drained the water and refilled the pan):
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Lawry Seasoning Salt
1 teaspoon caraway seeds

1 teaspoon parsley
2 bay leaves
(If you drained the water, add another teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon dill seed)
Bring to a boil again and simmer for another hour. If you have some fresh bread and  butter to go along with it, you’ve got a hearty meal fit for any Irish American …or probably anybody else. Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you!  🙂

“For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth. The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known thy truth” (Isaiah 38:18-19).

The Art of Life

How is your January coming? Have you noticed that it takes a certain amount of leisure to be meditative and creative? I have to confess that between all the marvelous company (beginning November 21 and lasting into January, which made me extremely happy but exhausted) and a strangling cold that wouldn’t relinquish its grip until Alan and I went on a two-week cruise through the Panama Canal (where we rested in healing, sunny, 82° sea breezes)…until these past two months came and went, I’ve been so focused on living that there’s been precious little time for meditative reflection or writing. Have you also noticed how valuable it is to take a step back from your daily routines every once in a while to gain perspective and recalibrate your spirit?  During our break, I was encouraged by these words from Leonardo da Vinci: “Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer, since to remain constantly at work will cause you to lose power of judgment…Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance, and lack of harmony or proportion is more readily seen.”*  Isn’t that the truth…not only for the creative genius of a Renaissance man, but for the creative art of making our lives a work of beauty and goodness?   I’m well, refreshed and ready to begin anew. Here is my first offering…a little poem that came to me while enjoying this peaceful Pacific sunrise last week:

Light

I long to write a poem:
Simple.
Elegant.
Filled with God.

Even more, I long to be a poem:
So filled with light that all are drawn to the Light.
So beautiful that those who draw near are also warmed and filled.
So deep that even eternity will not end our unity.

If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
(1 John 1:7)

 Jesus prayed, “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me” (John 17:23).

(*The three middle photos weren’t taken in Central America but from a different vacation, with our two youngest sons, while visiting da Vinci’s residence in Amboise, France known as Clos Lucé.)

All I Want for Christmas is…What??

Ever since Donald Gardner was wishing for “two front teeth” when he composed “All I Want for Christmas”  back in 1944, the idea of thinking about what we personally want for Christmas has been a popular part of  America’s Christmas culture.  When our children were young we used to have a music ministry, and I think the broadest smiles we ever got from an audience occurred when our youngest—who was indeed missing his two front teeth that Christmas—sang the song as a solo.                                             What do you want for Christmas?
If you could reduce all your hopes and dreams to one big wish, what would it be?  I noticed that over the past thirty-two years, the name “All I Want for Christmas” has generated more Christmas movies than any other single topic. In 1982, a Happy Days episode told the story of a little girl who wished for her mother to make up with the girl’s estranged grandmother.  In the 1991 movie by the same name, a brother and sister’s ardent wish (and plot) was to get their divorced parents back together. In the  2007 version, a little boy enters a national “All I want for Christmas” video contest in the hopes of finding a new husband for his widowed mother. (We watched this one, and it’s really cute! In fact, if you’re looking for a sweet, romantic comedy this December, I think this one is a family-friendly winner!)In the 2013 version,  All I want for Christmas is a playful tale about a lovely young lady who meets Santa’s helper, “St. Nick.” You might be able to guess what she wishes for…  The 2014 All I Want for Christmas features a  young boy who wishes for a different set of parents…and learns that money isn’t everything!           This year’s edition (2017) is about a little girl who wants a pet dog. All this to say, although people may sing about wanting two front teeth for Christmas, the enduring theme over the years concerning what people really want revolves around relationships, restoration, reconciliation…about loving and being loved. After all, isn’t that what all of us want all the time? But, isn’t Christmas supposed to be about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ? Shouldn’t we be giving birthday gifts to him? What do you suppose Jesus wants? The Bible teaches us that Jesus wants the same thing all of us want: Love, reconciliation, and unity. He wants us to love God and be loved by him! God began by loving us. He sent his son Jesus to earth to live a perfect life and die in our place so that we can be forgiven for our sins, be reconciled to God, receive eternal life, and have a wonderful love relationship with him. This Christmas, can you give Jesus the gift he’s longing for? He wants you! He wants you to believe in Him, to love him, and to trust Him always. In the last prayer recorded before his death, Jesus expressed his heart’s desire: I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:23, ESV).  If you want to give Jesus a gift this Christmas, how about giving him the gift of your love and devotion? By the way, have you heard that God also has a gift for you? If you feel estranged from God, please know that he’s offering you a chance to reconcile: For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). If you haven’t received his gift yet, it is my prayer that this Christmas you will!


A Race to the Finish Line

My oldest son’s family (with four boys) are arriving one week from today for Christmas, and this is the room where they usually sleep on the pull-out couches.     What do you think? Am I ready for company? No, I don’t think so either.   😦 We’ve been trying to update our 30-year-old kitchen because our laminate counter tops were worn through and showing spots of white and the drawer hinges had been replaced so many times that the company no longer sells replacement hinges! I realize that Christmas is the wrong time to redo your kitchen, particularly when you’re expecting 24 people to visit, but when we started this project (6 months ago), they said it would take 6-10 weeks. Wrong! But you know, sometimes the only way out is to just keep trekking, so that’s what we decided to do! After all, eating out of the frig off the floor is over-rated! I can totally recommend the guy who’s doing our remodeling. The timing had nothing to do with him (had to wait on the cabinets to arrive, and then the order was incomplete, etc.). Jeff is doing an impeccable job (just for the record).  Unfortunately, he needs foot surgery, so he’s been working long hours to try to get things in shape for us so that I have a functional kitchen for the holidays. The counter tops and new sink will take another month. On top of that, he’s trying to do some extra things that somehow didn’t get into the contract. The lady at the store said, “Oh, he can put in temporary counter tops for you!” but failed to put that in the contract, and of course, I failed to realize that she failed to put that in the contract (along with various other necessary items, such as the strainers for the sink [whatever those are] and the supplies to convert our new range from propane to natural gas)…which Jeff is going to try to do for us (although he’s never done it before), because the company who is supposed to do can’t until after the holidays, and I need a stove!!     So the dust is flying and the living areas are pretty much a disaster area!                            Will Jeff be able to finish before the company arrives?  If so, will I be able to get the house put back together so we can eat at the tables?  (BTW, how in the world did I accumulate so much stuff in just 45 years?) I’m not sure the answer to any of those questions, but I’m praying it works out! Have you noticed that doing things “right” almost always seems to take a lot longer than we think? It generally costs more as well. There are hidden expenses (not just financially, but emotionally and spiritually)…all sorts of things we need that we didn’t know we’d need, not to mention human errors in communicating and planning. Still, God calls us to keep moving forward, doing the best we can and praying for help! I’m believing this is going to work out… somehow, and I hope that if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by life this holiday season, you will also keep looking up and trusting God to see you through!

“The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the Lord. (Proverbs 21:31)

 

Ending Well and Getting a Fresh Start

        Our refrigerator has been sort of the epicenter of family and friend lore. If you’ve sent me a photo of your family in the last few years, it’s probably here! It also serves as a bulletin board and place to display the grand kids’ art work,             and when the children visit, they definitely check to see what’s up! Now, I should explain that we bought this refrigerator used 25 years ago when we first moved into Tanglewood Cottage, and it was definitely in need of replacing. Therefore, it was the first thing to be changed out.However, I have a whole section on  my blog dedicated to “The Pictures on my Fridge,” and every picture means a lot to me!  So, before I let them touch my refrigerator, I lovingly peeled off all the photos and placed them into a coffee table photo album to keep the memories alive! The shiny, new refrigerator (my first “new” frig in our 44 years of marriage) has made me stop and think about the coming year. 2018 will be a shiny, new year… full of possibilities, but without any pictures hanging on it yet. What shall we do? First of all, I certainly don’t want to neglect my family and friends, and I want to finish this year well with the loved ones who are depending on me here at home. Sadly (because I’m so limited and our kitchen is an updating disaster area for the time being), that means I won’t be doing much blogging between now and mid January, although I’ll try to keep my recipes and Song of Solomon meditations going (and anything else as time allows).

One of my girlfriends suggested that I re-post some of my earlier blogs that people seemed to enjoy a lot. That didn’t feel quite right to me, although if you’ve got some free time and are interested in any particular topic, everything I’ve written for the past almost 10 years is still recorded, and if you type a subject into the “Search” bar on the top right-hand corner of this blog, it will bring up posts that touch on that subject. I have to admit, though: The fact that I won’t be able to write much frustrates me and makes me feel like a failure! Does that ever happen to you? You have more to do than you think you “should,” so you feel like a flop? Take heart! God’s priorities are different from ours. He makes things much simpler than we do. God doesn’t measure success in productivity, but in living right and loving well: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8, ESV). If ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well” (James 2:8).

Meanwhile, I pray that God will bless and guide each of you during this holiday season. May you find joy in anticipating the good things God has in store for you this coming year, and may you fill up your days with fruitful service and a host of happy memories from loving well and being loved!

 

 

Chocolate-covered Sea Salt Pecan Toffee (If You Love See’s…)

My oldest brother has been spoiling our family with a big box of See’s chocolates as a Christmas gift for the past 25-30 years, which is a super highlight of the seasons’ taste treats! In fact, I practically have to hide the box and wait until all Christmas comers have arrived before doling out the delectable chocolates. About seven years ago, our son Jonathan and his wife moved to Spokane, Washington, which is one of the locations where they actually make See’s chocolates, and you can go to the shop and pick out your favorite flavors. After many taste tests, Alan and I both decided that their California brittle crunch was our top choice, and so I started trying to figure out how to reproduce them at home.  I’ve come up with my own recipe, which isn’t exact (I think they use almonds, and I’ve used pecans roasted with sea salt…and mine aren’t as crunchy), but they definitely melt in your mouth and disappear from the platters fast!

Chocolate-covered Sea Salt Pecan Toffee
(makes about 5 dozen pieces of candy)

In a large cooking pot add:
1/2 cup water
2 cups granulated white sugar
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 pound butterBring to a boil, stirring often to keep the candy from sticking. Make sure all the sugar has dissolved.  While the toffee is cooking, heavily butter a large cookie sheet and place it on a wooden cutting board. Also take this time to grind up 12 ounces of pecans into very small pieces. (This in not quite ground fine enough, but do not turn it into a totally consistent powder).  Lower the heat to a simmer and continue cooking until the “medium soft-ball” stage (about 300°F), where a drop of syrup placed in cold water forms a chewy ball. (If you take your fingers and gather the syrup out of the cold water [see below], it should form one medium soft ball.) *Note: I use a metal spatula to stir and scrape the bottom of the pan to make sure nothing sticks or burns. This will probably take about 10-15 minutes. Once the syrup has reached the medium-ball stage,turn the heat down to low and add the 12 oz. chopped, roasted, salted pecans. (Those nuts on the right are a better consistency than those on the left.)                                  Stir them until they’re completely mixed in.  Add 1 teaspoon baking soda, stirring gently until it’s thoroughly mixed. Let the mixture start to rise… then remove it from the heat and pour it directly onto the buttered cookie sheet.  The next part is a little tricky. Let the pan cool until it can be cut, but not until it’s completely cool. This takes about 25 minutes.  When the toffee can be cut without immediately losing its shape, cut it into small pieces. (I do 9 lengthwise slices by 7 wide, but do them however you want!)  Microwave  24 oz. chocolate chips and 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a bowl for 2 minutes.                                               Remove from the microwave                                               and stir until smooth.  Take a toothpick and make a tiny dot where each cut begins and ends around the entire perimeter of the pan,                                             then spread the chocolate                                              evenly over the entire pan.  Let it cool about 10 minutes, and then run your knife gently along the same tracks. The chocolate won’t be hard yet, but that’s okay. It still prepares the way for even pieces when it’s completely cooled. Depending on where you cool your candy, it may take an hour or two before the chocolate is completely cool without being so hard that it breaks into  uneven pieces. At that point, take a knife and cut along the same lines one last time. If you’ve done it right, when you remove the candies, they should come out in neat pieces. (However, bigger pieces of nuts can make things a bit uneven, as you see above.) it’s not an exact replica of See’s candies (which are entirely enveloped in chocolate, BTW), but it’s close enough to make us smile and saves mega bucks over trying to buy See’s!  I hope you and your loved ones enjoy them. They do make great Christmas gifts and are popular at Christmas parties or the office.We will rejoice in thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners: the Lord fulfill all thy petitions” (Psalm 20:5).