Meditating on the Commands of Christ (87): Hear in the Dark; Shine in the Light

Still life is so serene! Don’t you love the early morning hours when sunlight filtering through the kitchen window creates long shadows and illuminates the darkness? “O God, You are my God; early will I seek You” (Psalm 63:1, NKJV). There is nothing sweeter to me than meditating on the Bible and praying first thing every morning . . . listening for God’s voice as He speaks into my heart. It’s like a new sunrise daily that banishes the darkness and floods my soul with light.

Sunrise on the Mexican Riviera

With my soul I have desired You in the night, yes, by my spirit within me I will seek You early; for when Your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness ” (Isaiah 26:9, NKJV). Just as we often seek God’s wisdom to lighten our way, in our passage for today (see below), we’re told that a great multitude of people gathered to hear Jesus speak. Before the age of microphones, I’m sure it would have been difficult for all of them to hear what he had to say without really straining to listen, don’t you think?

Sunrise on the Beautiful Blue Danube River

But, Jesus didn’t want people to simply hear the words he spoke, Jesus commanded them to “Pay attention to what you hear” (Mark 4:24). There’s a big difference between “hearing” and “listening,” right? I used to wonder if some of my children even heard what I was saying when they didn’t respond to me, but I soon realized that about 98% of the time, they “heard,” they simply didn’t “heed!” In this passage, Jesus urges us to pay attention to what we hear in the dark and become lights to brighten the way for others. Are you in the dark, or walking in the light?

But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day” (Proverbs 4:18, ESV, but I really love the KJV better: “But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day“).

If your whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle does give you light” (Luke 11:36).

He was a burning and a shining light: and you were willing for a season to rejoice in his light” (John 5:35; Jesus was speaking of John the Baptist in this verse, but what a commendation).

*Texts for today’s meditation: Luke 8:15-18, “As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience. No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.” Mark 4:21-25; 33-34, “And he said to them, ‘Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.’ And he said to them, ‘Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. . . With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.

The Case for Cabbage: Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Do you love cabbage? It’s one of those low calorie, high vitamin-and-mineral value veggies that we’d all do well to befriend, and right now especially so during the COVID-19 pandemic, because cabbages can outlast a host of other less hardy vegetables.

Annalee Davis’s Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Therefore, when one of my girlfriends posted a photo of her stuffed cabbage rolls and mentioned how it made her house smell great, it really piqued my interest! Although she’s made cabbage rolls for so long she didn’t have a detailed recipe, she told me roughly how she made hers. I measured as I went, and as our own home began to fill up with the wonderful aroma of baking rolls, I knew this was going to be my entry for this Saturday’s recipe contest!

Roasted Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
(Makes 12-14 rolls; Alan ate 3 and I ate 2, so your guess is as good as mine
as to how many “servings” it makes)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Start by preparing 1.5 cups of cooked rice (Brown or white; prepare according to the directions on your package. Don’t overcook it! Shouldn’t take more than 20 mins. maximum.)

Next, prepare the cabbage leaves: In a large cooking pot, boil and lightly salt 2 cups of water. If you have a water boiler for coffee, fill that with 2 cups of water and get that boiling too.

Separate the largest 12-14 cabbage leaves, cut out the tough, white end (where they connected to the head) and add the leaves to the pot of boiling, salted water. Pour the additional two cups of boiling water (from your water heater) over the cabbage leaves, cover, and cook for 3 minutes. Immediately drain and set out the leaves on a clean surface to cool.

In a skillet, lightly brown together:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground hamburger
1 small/medium onion chopped
1 tablespoon crushed garlic (about half that if you’re pressing fresh)
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon seasoning salt (I use Montreal steak seasoning, but suit yourself!)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1.5 cups cooked white (or brown) rice
1 egg

Mix until just stirred together. Nothing has to be completely cooked.

On top of each cabbage leaf, add 1/3 cup of the meat filling.

Roll the cabbage leaves, folding in the edges and turn them upside down in a 11X14″ baking pan. (Some people secure them with toothpicks, and they are neater that way, but you don’t have to do this if you’re careful scooping them out of the pan after they bake.)

Arrange them in the baking dish and pour one can (or up to two cups) of seasoned tomato sauce over the top. I didn’t have tomato sauce, so I used spaghetti sauce, which worked fine; use whatever you have! Some people like tomato soup, although that often has high fructose corn syrup in it. Suit yourself!

Cover with aluminum foil (but don’t let it touch the tomato sauce). Bake for 1 hour at 350°F.

Serve piping hot. Annalee was visitng with friends in Hungary where they served cabbage rolls with sour cream, so she says she always serves them that way. I used Greek yogurt instead (given the current COVID crisis and no sour cream on hand). One of the beautiful things about cooking is that most recipes are very adaptable and forgiving!

Annalee often serves hers with the rest of the cabbage sauteed with caramelized onions, which I tried and is marvelous!

By the way, Annalee Davis is also the author of the book He Left, God Stayed, which I reviewed a few months ago:

If you’ve been left and are feeling the sting of tragic loss, please consider looking into her very helpful and comforting book!

Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5).

(I also ended up serving mine with a little toasted whole-grain bread, fresh apples, and sparkling grape juice on another occasion. It’s delicious any old way!)

German Apfelstrudel (aka: Some of the World’s Best Apple Strudel!)

As a child, Alan’s favorite dessert was apple pie, and even now if there’s apple pie or apple strudel available, one of us usually tries some. We’ve had apple strudel so many times we imagine we’re connoisseurs, but in all the world, we’ve never tasted apple strudel anywhere that we think is as good as our daughter-in-law Gerlinde’s (who’s from Germany and very practiced at this specialty).  Today, I’m going to do a show and tell (with two dozen photos), explaining just how to make some the world’s best apple strudel!  🙂

Authentic German Apfelstrudel (Apple Strudel)
(I’d say it could serve 12-24, but the 8 of us polished it all off in a day!)

50 g butter
200 g all purpose flour
1 pinch of salt
75 ml lukewarm water

Strudel dough:

Melt butter in a pot. Put flour in a bowl. Mix butter, salt, lukewarm water with a mixer. Boil water in a small pot, pout out the boiling water and dry it out completely. Then put the dough in the hot pot, close the pot with a lid and let stand for 30 minutes.

About 1 kilograms apples (any that are good for pies, like MacIntosh or Honeycrisp)
90 grams butter
100 grams sugar
Generous sprinkling of cinnamon (about 1 teaspoon per strudel ±)

Preheat the oven to 350° F
Prepare baking tray by lining it with parchment paper

Filling:(this will make two strudel)

Peel the apples and cut into small pieces. Melt butter.

Divide the dough in two pieces. Prepare to roll out the dough on a thin dish towel that has a pattern. (Gerlinde told me you know it’s done when you can see the pattern through the dish towel…can you see the butterfly?) Sprinkle flour on the dish cloth to prevent the dough from sticking to it. Roll out each peace of dough into a rectangular shape.                                  Spread the liquid butter on the dough.  Then add the apples on top of the butter.
Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon on top of the apples.        Close up the dough, using water to make the dough stick to the sides.    Use the dish cloth to transfer the strudel to the baking tray with the dough seam facing down on the tray.                                             After you’ve made both of the strudels,                   brush them with a mixture of one egg and a little milk. Bake for approximately 50 minutes or until the strudel is golden brown and you think the apples are soft.  After the strudel is baked, take out of oven and let cool, or serve warm.  You can sprinkle powdered sugar on top of it. (We served it with ice cream and whipping cream, although it’s also superb by itself.)  Enjoy!  🙂

How sweet are thy words unto my taste!
yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
” (Psalm 119:103).

The Sound of Music’s Sweet Salzburg

The Sound of MusicAfter watching an enthralling rendition of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical, The Sound of Music, in Stratford last weekend, it occurred to me thatAustria I’ve never written a post about Salzburg, Austria, which is the idyllic setting for this immortal tale of love based on the memoirs of Baroness Maria Von Trapp.  Reboarding the Sound of MusicAlan and I visited Salzburg while on a river cruise of the beautiful Blue Danube aboard (can you imagine?) a lovely riverboat named The Sound of Music!    🙂   Salzburg AlpsSalzburg is on the border of Germany,  nestled in the foothills of the Alps Mullner Kirche. Salzburg along the Salzach River, Man on Golden Globe. Salzburg and it’s actually the fourth largest city in Austria…a thriving, modern metropolis.Climbing up the Salzburg Fortress However, their “Old Town” city center is still romantically quaint. Salzburg Architecture It’s a UNESCO Heritage site filled with filled with baroque architecture, Salzburg Christmas Decorations and even in the chill of November, it was bright… with Christmas decorations! Sacher Hotel. Salzburg copySalzburg is probably best known to AmericansGardens of Mirabell Palaceas the backdrop for The Sound of Music,Gertraudenkapelle. Salzburg and we visited some of the favorite sites from the movie, Sound of Music. Where children were playing such as the gardens where the children played Abbey where VonTrapps hid. Salzburg and the cemetery where the Von Trapps hid from the Nazis.Christian Doppler Plaque However, Salzburg is also famous as the birthplace of Christian Doppler
(physicist who first described the “Doppler effect”) Mozart's Home. Salzburg and Wolfgang Mozart, who to this day remains one of the world’s
most prolific and enduringly popular classical composers. Mozart Ball. Mozartkugel In fact, Mozart is such an icon in Austria that you can buy Mozartkugel
(“Mozart Balls”…dark chocolate, marzipan, and nougat)
as easily as you can buy a Tim Horton doughnut in Canada!Inside St. Peter's Basilica. Salzburg One of the highlights of our day was stopping to pray
at the magnificent St. Peter’s Basilica Alan at lunch. St. Peter's Abbey and then enjoying an incredible luncheon at the famous St. Peter’ Stiftskeller, St. Peter Stiftskeller. 1200 years old!where they’ve been lavishing hospitality on people for over 1,200 years!  St.Peter's 803 ADActually, it’s the world’s oldest restaurant, established in 803 AD,  Nockerl which is more than 1,000 years older than America’s
Ye Olde Union Oyster House in Boston (just to put things in perspective). Cafe Sacher Yet another highlight was teatime at the world-famous Sacher Hotel, Kathi eating Sacher Torte at Sacher Hotel where I couldn’t resist trying a world-class “Sacher torte”Apple Strudel (although Alan couldn’t resist the world-class apple strudel…
second only to our daughter-in-law Gerlinde’s!) Salzach River. Salzburg Makartsteg Just outside the Sacher Hotel is the Salzburg Makartsteg, which spans the Salzach River and is lined with lockets to commemorate great loves. Locks on Salzach River Bridge Sadly, Alan and I hadn’t brought along a locket, but as I examined these cherished treasures, I couldn’t help but think of Sister Maria. Abbey in Salzburg Did you know that she really wasn’t in love with Georg when she married him? Salzburg FortressBeneath the gauze of Hollywood romance Mirabell Palacewas a woman who married out of a sense of duty. Birds flocking in Salzburg She was angry with God on her wedding day, but later wrote in her memoirs: Salzburg from the Fortress “I learned to love him more than I have ever loved before or after.” Roses at Mirabell Palace I think that’s  astounding…and an even happier endingFustung Hohensalzburg(given the reality of her situation) than what’s portrayed in the musical. Gardens outside Sacher Hotel. Salzburg, Austria I also think Maria’s testimony holds out hope
to anyone who’s struggling in their marriage. Roses at St. Peter's AbbeyGod can bless perseverance with true love. For anyone who’s willing! Sound of Music Lake near SalzburgNow the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart,
and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned” (1 Timothy 1:5).

P.S.—Someone who read this pointed out to me that today is Julie Andrews’ 80th birthday…so it’s an especially good day to commemorate this love story!  🙂

Cruising on the Beautiful Blue Danube

IMG_7536Alan and I just returned from a week of cruising along the Danube River from IMG_7192Nuremberg, Germany, Budapest to Budapest, Hungary, IMG_7507 stopping along the way to tour the marvelous medieval city of Regensburg,IMG_7902 the Melk Abby in Austria,IMG_7736 Salzburg (home of The Sound of Music—this is where the von Trapps hid), ViennaVienna in Austria, IMG_8144 and the gorgeous countryside near Bratislava in Slovakia. Sound of MusicWe traveled aboard a river cruiser poetically named The Sound of Music, DSCN8875and every afternoon they served tea and cakes in the lounge. We were huge fans! IMG_8080 During the days we enjoyed spectacular views along the Danube River DSCN8988or toured fabulous palaces full of treasures! IMG_8255By night we were treated to delightful classical entertainment (like this night of concert, ballet, and operatic highlights in Vienna), IMG_7572 and at other times we enjoyed lively traditional folk music or other fun. DSCN8885We made a lot of new friends and learned so much…IMG_7324tried lots of yummy new (and old) treats and had many memorable experiences!IMG_8976 I took a couple thousand pictures and hope at some point to share in more detail, IMG_8979but I’m still (very slowly) trying to recapture our trip on the Baltic Sea, IMG_8008 so recounting our trip to the Danube may be a project for the winter months IMG_9122after Christmas while I’m snug at home but in the mood to reminisce about IMG_7513warmer days. Meanwhile, I wanted to share just a few highlights from the trip. IMG_8895Truly, we live in an amazing world, and I am so thankful to be alive!

“You have…clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!”(Psalm 30:11-12)