Contrasting Two Groups of Rebels

Last weekend—perhaps because we unconsciously had Memorial Day, war, and death on our hearts—we watched two movies that, as it turned out, had more in common than I ever could have imagined! Both are based on true events, both involved teams of men who believed they were being heroes, and both groups were on highly illegal missions. However, the outcomes of their actions were as different as night and day!

If you’re like me, you probably have vivid memories of the second event (which occurred just 18 years ago and has changed our country forever), but you’ve probably never even heard of the other (which occurred secretly in 1948). A Wing and a Prayer is a 2015 documentary making public the rogue heroism of a team of ex-World War 2 vets who risked (some gave) their lives to prevent a second holocaust from occurring in Israel when the Brits left the freshly-minted Jewish nation without any weapons to defend their new-found freedom from the planned attacks of neighboring nations.

In contrast, United 93 is a 2006 portrayal of what happened on September 11, 2001, when 13 Islamic terrorists hijacked four commercial jets, killing 2,996 people, injuring over 6,000 others, and causing some $10 billion in damages. It will always be remembered as “9-11.”

Three of the aircraft reached their targets that fateful morning: Two crashing into the heart of the World Trade Center and a third dive-bombing the Pentagon, but because of the heroism of the passengers aboard United 93, that flight never reached its target.

Instead, United’s flight 93 plunged into a field in Pennsylvania, where all the passengers were killed instantly.

Think of the contrasts between these two events! In A Wing and a Prayer, about 13 men (many of whom were not even Jewish but were motivated by compassion) acted in opposition to the law in order to protect the lives of a beleaguered people still grieving the terrible exterminations and terrors they experienced during World War 2.

These young pilots weren’t terrorists, they were trying to protect foreign people from being terrorized. Many of them were not particularly religious; this was not a “holy war.” However, the men took a moral stand against the American government, who was refusing to aid the Israelis for fear of alienating Middle Eastern leaders with whom we were involved in commercial (oil) enterprise. Their punishment: $10,000 in fines per person and the loss of their civil rights.

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed after capture. Wiki. Public Domain

In contrast, the 13 al-Qaeda terrorists were on a mission, not to protect foreigners but to terrorize them. Not to preserve but to destroy. They were not taking a moral stand against wrong; they thought murder and terror was “right!” Their hope of reward? Suicidal death leading to immediate transportation to paradise. No fines, no imprisonment, no punishment, no loss of privileges. But, tragically, the loss of their lives along with those of thousands of others.

I highly recommend your watching the one-hour documentary on A Wing and a Prayer. However, I confused United 93 with Flight 93, which I saw 13 years ago and definitely prefer. Flight 93 has a PG-13 rating and tells much the same story without the terrible language or quite as much blood. So, I guess that’s yet another contrast between two movies!

Last thought, but I’d also like to contrast the Christian and Muslim views on heaven and how to get there. Muslims believe in a sensual paradise filled with pure rivers of water, milk, honey, and wine, where men can take pleasure in beautiful women every day (among other things). Christians believe in a physical paradise but with a spiritual purpose: Worship and fellowship with God and fellow human beings. Jesus taught that in paradise people would not marry but would be like the angels in heaven. The emphasis is not on personal sensual gratification, but on love in its highest and most transcendent forms.

What about how to get to heaven? Muslims believe you can only be assured of going straight to paradise by dying for Allah. Christians believe you can only be assured of going straight to paradise by believing in Jesus, the God who died for us! Muslims hope to get to paradise by being good. Christians know they’ll never be “good enough” to get to heaven, but they trust in Jesus, who was perfect, and who died for each and every one of us, so that we can be reconciled to God by repenting of our sins and putting our faith in the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf.

Want to be assured of heaven when you die? You don’t need to become a suicidal terrorist! Believe in Jesus, and embrace him as your Savior!

Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Shepherd’s Pie for Spring

I know a lot of Christians serve ham for Easter to celebrate being no longer under the constraints of the Jewish dietary laws, and I know lamb is very expensive in America, but if there’s one time of year when I like to splurge, it’s at Passover, which is just before Easter, and is known as “Good Friday” to most of us. Jesus was the Lamb of God, sacrificed on Passover as a “once for all” sacrifice for sins, and I want to celebrate by roasting lamb for my very favorite celebration of the year!

Happily, there is usually some lamb left over, and my favorite way to use up the extra lamb is by making a Shepherd’s Pie. Here’s how:

Savory Shepherd’s Pie
(Makes 8 hearty slices)

Start by preheating your oven to 350°F.


Next, peel and slice four large potatoes and boil them for about 20 minutes in salted water that covers them completely while you’re accomplishing the tasks below. (I’ve drained these potatoes, which are finished cooking and are ready to be mashed.)

In a frying pan, add the following ingredients and saute/simmer until tender:

The leftover drippings and broth from your lamb roast
1 medium, chopped onion
4 large, chopped carrots (there are fewer here because I also used leftover roasted carrots, which I hadn’t added yet)
1 cup chopped celery and celery leaves (I like the heart of the stalks for this)

Next, add all the lamb (at least 1-2 cups) chopped into bite-sized pieces (or shredded).

When everything is cooked until tender and heated through, add:
1 cup frozen peas
1 tablespoon crushed garlic (fresh or dried)
2 teaspoons seasoning salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon thyme

Sprinkle 1/2 cup of flour over the top and stir into the mixture.

At this point, I added some leftover roasted potatoes chopped into bite-sized pieces, but this is optional (although I think it tastes good). For sure you need to add: 2-3 cups of water drained from the boiled potatoes (enough to make a thick gravy). Turn off the heat and keep covered until you’re ready to finish the pie.

After the potatoes are cooked, tender, and drained, most of the liquid, but perhaps not all, will go into the gravy mixture. Then, pour off any remaining fluid, leaving about 1/4 cup potato water in the bottom of the pan with the potatoes. Then add:
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt and whip in a blender until really fluffy and light.

Empty all the meat and veggie mixture into your biggest pie plate (mine is an 11″).

Arrange the mashed potatoes like whipping cream with high peaks on top.

Dot the top of the pie with about 2 more tablespoons of butter cut into chunks and then sprinkle liberally with coarse (or regular) salt.

Bake in the oven at 350°F. for 30-45 minutes, until the tips are turning a golden brown. (The higher up in the oven, the faster it will brown on top.)

Really, shepherd’s pie is a meal in itself, although I served it with warm garlic bread, grilled egg plant, french-style beans and steamed asparagus. You can serve it with anything or nothing, but I hope however you eat it, you’ll enjoy it as much as we do!

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1:29, ESV).

(Speaking of Jesus:) “He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12).

Festive Lamb Stew

Do you like roasted lamb? I don’t serve it nearly as often as roasted beef, because it’s more expensive, but a good lamb roast (and lamb stew made from the leftovers) can be a very festive addition to holiday menus.First: roasted lamb: Choose a size that is about twice what you’d normally serve for your dinner, sprinkle heavily with your favorite seasonings (mine are minced garlic, onion powder, Montreal steak seasoning, salt and pepper) and fill up the pan with potatoes, carrots, onions, and 2 cups water. Cover and roast in the oven at 350°F. for 2.5 hours or until very tender.

Festive Lamb Stew
(Serves 6-8…or about as many as you served for your original lamb dinner)

Chop up the remaining lamb, potatoes, onions, and carrots into bite-sized chunks. Pour all the broth from the bottom of the roasting pan plus 1 cup of water into the cooking pot. Add:
1 cup cooked or frozen corn
1 cup cooker or frozen peas
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt (I like Lawry’s, but whatever you like is best)
1/2 teaspoon crushed basil
1/4 teaspoon crushed oregano
1/2 teaspoon red curry powder
Salt and pepper
to tasteCook it over medium heat until everything starts to simmer. Reduce the temperature to low and continue simmering for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom. Add 1/3 cup flour and stir until you have a light, smooth gravy for the stew. Taste test it again and adjust the seasonings if needed (salt and pepper).     Serve it up as a meal in itself, or possibly with a side salad and garlic bread.

The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together” (Psalm 34:3).

Pączki and a Recipe for Cookie Monsters: Dealing with Holidays

paczki-4-packDid you celebrate Fat Tuesday? I’m not sure why, but in Grand Rapids (which has Dutch roots), the traditional special treat are pączki (pronounced “punch key”). My guess is that this yummy tradition has drifted west from Detroit’s once large Polish community, Hamtramck. fat-tuesday-breakfastThis year for the first time, we enjoyed pączki for breakfast on Fat Tuesday.  Pączki are amazingly delicious, deep-fried doughnuts filled with fruit or custard. malasadas-in-kauai-hawaiiPączki have been a Polish delicacy since the Middle Ages, and they are similar to American bismarcks, German berliners, or my much loved Portuguese treat (which we’ve found only in Hawaii): Malasadas. paczkisHowever, pączki may be even richer; they often contain eggs, sugar, yeast, milk, fats, a touch of alcohol and are glazed or sprinkled with sugar. One theory on the development of this tradition was that the Christians were using up their stores of special ingredients before beginning the Lenten fast.

Which brings me to Ash Wednesday. Did you celebrate Ash Wednesday?  I think Ash Wednesday has some similarities to the Jewish Yom Kippur, the “Day of Atonement.” Both holy days focus on personal reflection, repentance, and the need for atonement through the sacrificial blood of a lamb (the Lamb, for Christians).  Recently I noticed afresh what the signs of true repentance are while reading the New International Version of 2 Corinthians 7:10-11: Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.That’s a weighty list, and I’ve been continuing to examine myself so that I might experience more true repentance over sin.  brothers-and-sonDoes true repentance mean that I am in a constant state of mourning and can never enjoy life? Not at all! Many Christians observe a 40-day “Lenten Season” in which we fast from something we normally enjoy in order to focus more on God and identify in some small way with the sufferings of Christ, but that doesn’t mean we fast forever or never celebrate holidays! Thankfully, the Lenten fast culminates in remembering the death of Christ on Good Friday and ends on Easter Sunday, when we celebrate the resurrection of Christ: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).party-time-for-small-boy I hope you’re able to observe times of fasting as well as times of feasting, because God condones both.small-boy-opening-cardOn Saturdays, I’ve been sharing recipes, and this week I want to share a recipe for one of our favorite treats, although I have to admit I served it before Lent started and won’t be serving it again until after Lent is over!cookie-monsters-for-dessert                                             Chocolate Chip Cookie Monsters

Bake big chocolate chip cookies (your favorite recipe) and place in individual bowls.

Add a scoop of your favorite ice cream

Top with hot fudge sauce. If you don’t have any on hand, here’s a great recipe:

1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter (oleo works but doesn’t taste as good)
1/3 cup milk (you can use cream, but milk works fine)
2 T. (tablespoons) dark cocoa powder
Pinch of salt (optional)

Throw all the ingredients for the hot fudge sauce in a pan and cook until the soft ball stage, stirring faithfully so nothing sticks on the bottom. Allow it to cool slightly so it’s good and thick, serve it up with your favorite ice cream, and be sure to put plenty of whipping cream on top (plus a cherry or whatever your kids love). Enjoy, but don’t overeat!  🙂  chocolate-chip-cookie-monstersCharge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17).