Archive for the ‘Servanthood’ Category


Have you ever heard of a honey wagon? It isn’t used to transport honey or beeswax; I can tell you that. When I was a young girl visiting my cousin’s farm, we used to swing high in the chilly night air while shouting out the following ditty:

The night was dark, the sky was blue;
Over the hill the Honey wagon flew.
A bump was hit, a scream was heard,
And Ruth-Ann caught the flying……

Well, never mind what Ruth-Ann caught.

Despite its cute, but facetious nickname, there is nothing appealing about a Honey wagon. In fact, the whole thing stinks —literally—but it is still a necessity, especially in rural areas. Without them, how would we haul away all the tons of manure that are generated from cesspools, pig farms, Porta-Potties and the like?

I was reminded of the Honey wagon the other day when I was reading Deuteronomy 23: 12-14. It instructs the Israelites, and those who accompanied them to, “Designate a place outside the camp where you can go to relieve yourself. As part of your equipment have something to dig with, and when you relieve yourself, dig a hole and cover up your excrement. For the Lord your God moves about in your camp.” How much clearer can it be that our God cares about every detail of our lives? This particular regulation, like every other one in Scripture, benefits mankind greatly.

Of course this regulation provided the kind of sanitation that would be required to keep disease out of the camp, but it also kept the camp livable when one of those strong Sinai winds kicked up, which I’ve read is a normal occurrence there. With that many people, all the air freshener in the world wouldn’t have helped had the Israelites built outhouses; which wouldn’t have been practical anyway, since they were a people on the move.

The Scripture does say that the Israelites were to obey this command because the Lord God moved about their camp. That is true also, but not in a literal sense. The Israelite camp was to be a holy place in every way. I don’t quite understand how human excrement could literally defile the camp, but God gave the instruction, so I don’t question it.

I do, however, understand how sin, could defile the camp. The Lord spoke to the Israelites through the prophet Amos while they were dwelling in Samaria. Because they “oppress the poor [and] crush the needy”, the Lord foretells of their great punishment. Among the many specifics, he tells them, “I have made the stink of your camps to come up unto your nostrils: yet have ye not returned unto me…” (Amos 4:10).

This stink had nothing to do with the stuff that goes into Honey wagons, though. He was speaking of the stench of sin, and that, according to His prophetic word, included oppressing the poor and needy.

This was not just an Old Testament principle either. Scripture often classifies the fatherless and the widow as being amongst the poor and needy. Thus, the Apostle James instructs: Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (1:27).

Dear friends. In today’s world, many are currently facing financial hardship; some are even facing financial devastation. Despite this, I would just like to remind everyone how very seriously the Lord considers the needs of the poor and disadvantaged, and that He expects us to give generously to those in need, despite the world’s economic situation.

Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God which hath been given in the churches of Macedonia; how that in much proof of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality…. But as ye abound in everything, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all earnestness, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also. (2 Corinthians 8:1-2,7).

pencil lady

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When it comes to our thoughts, the age-old saying, “Garbage in, garbage out,” is certainly spot-on. As any gardener knows, however, the opposite is true of composting. It never ceases to amaze me how piles of organic waste, such as kitchen scraps or fallen leaves, can in due time, transform into the kind of rich, fertile fertilizer that causes plants to thrive.

My husband and I have a portable composter¹ that we move about our vegetable garden ever so often. Then, using a pitchfork, we redeposit the material, upside-down, to expedite the composting process. Since there is no bottom on the unit, some of the rich, organic material stays behind. Thus, we effortlessly condition different areas of soil while we wait for our veggie “food” to cook in the composter. This process is very simple, yet effective.

There are additional benefits to composting this way as well. Several weeks ago, we noticed that five new cucmber plants had begun to grow where the composter had last been. Since all of our produce scraps go into the composter, there were  some discarded seeds mixed into the pile. Apparently, the conditions were just right for some of those seeds to germinate. And I must admit, we were quite thankful for this little surprise, given that we were at the point in the season where the other plants had stopped producing; and we hadn’t gotten around to any later plantings to extend the harvest.

Admiring the healthy, vibrant young plants, I couldn’t help but think of the biblical parable of the sower, from the thirteenth chapter of Matthew. In a nutshell, the parable tells of a man who sowed seeds, some of which fell among thorns and stones and the like. These seeds did not grow to fruition. The seeds that fell upon good soil, however, did. Jesus explained to his disciples that the seed represented the Gospel; and the thorns, stones and fertile ground all represented the hearts of men. Some would receive the Gospel and grow in faith, others would not.

Today, as I watered those growing zucchini plants, another Scripture passage came to mind. The Apostle Paul was admonishing certain members of the church to continue in unity  in Christ, rather than aligning themselves with any particular leader. He likens his ministry, and that of Apollos, to jointly sowing and watering the seeds of the Gospel. “What, after all, is Apollos?” he asks, “And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. (I Co 3:5-7 NIV).

May this passage serve to remind us that all of the Gospel seeds we plant are in God’s hands. He is the master gardener! It is He that makes things grows.

Dear reader, perhaps you have sown seeds that have never come to fruition, so far as you know. Don’t lose hope, even though it may seem your precious kingdom seeds were somehow destroyed, as in the parable of the sower. You just never know where a seed may grow!

Above all, never pre-judge anyone. Sadly, there are certain people groups that have, for one reason or other, been deemed a complete waste when it comes to sowing Gospel seeds –those who passionately adhere to another, ungodly religion, for example. Friends, I trust you have never bought into that lie. Human nature easily assumes that any seeds of truth offered to the proverbial “unreachable” would be hotly discarded. But that judgment is not ours to make. We sow, we water; but it is God that makes things grow!

He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill; That he may set him with princes, even with the princes of his people. (Psalms 113:7-8a).

¹ Simple, portable composter:  Cut the bottom off of a trash can, then drill holes in all sides.  To keep birds and small animals out, top the can with either a lid made of cage wire, or the original can lid with larger holes drilled into it.?????????? This allows moisture  into the can and expedites the composting process.  For best result, make two or more composters so that you can compost in stages.

⇒Disclaimer: My apologies for the following advertisement, if applicable. I would like this site to be an advertisement-free site, but I have to pay a fee for this. I plan to do so in future, but for now, please know that I have nothing to do with advertisements &/or advertisement selection.

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What in the world is “bug dope,” I asked my husband. He laughed aloud at my Midwestern ignorance of the far north. Apparently, bug dope is a real product, though most of you probably know it by its proper description – insect repellent. Bug dope seems a rather odd expression to me. Where I’m from, dope is a bad thing, and you certainly don’t blatantly ask others to pass it to you in public. But there we were, on the shores of Lake Huron, watching an awesome Fourth-of-July fireworks display, and bug dope was the preferred defense against the blanket of tank-sized mosquitoes that were as thick as the smoke trailing in the air.

Bug dope isn’t the only oddity of the north, though. For instance, Midwesterners don’t wear shoes with good “gription” or wear a chuke (touke) when it’s cold outside. Truthfully, I was rather entertained for the first few years of my marriage, learning the peculiar idioms and pronunciations of my “Yooper” husband. He probably felt the same. After all, I had picked up several backwoods phrases along the way, so he had to learn such colorful words as doo-jigger and thingamabob.

Many were the times when my beloved and I were essentially saying the same thing, but I didn’t realize it because of our different vernaculars. He, noting my frustration at not being able to clearly express myself, often reminded me, “It’s just semantics!” He was really big on semantics!

From the beginning, we’ve pretty much shared one brain between the two of us, but it has been a very long time since we’ve had any miscommunications due to language traits. That’s the beautiful thing about intimacy; you really get to know each other –your idiosyncrasies, your thought processes –everything.

And that, dear reader, brings me to our beloved family in Christ. There may be many denominations, but we are all one body: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. (Romans 12:5). That being the case, we should all be pretty much sharing the same brain, or in other words, we should be like-minded; relating to each other at an intimate enough level as to really understand each other.

During the past few weeks, I’ve read several online threads in which believers were arguing over a certain doctrinal issue –and when I say arguing, I mean just that. This should not be so! …there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. (1 Corinthians 12:25).

Firstly, healthy discussions and debates can be very enlightening, useful even; but arguing is very counter-productive and not at all indicative of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. Secondly –and this is the part I find amusing –most of the folks on those threads were essentially saying the same thing; they were just saying it in different ways! But they, in their zeal to prove their own stance to be the correct one, couldn’t see that they were merely locked in a battle of semantics. Had they taken the time to really listen to each other, with loving hearts rather than defensive minds, they would have found that they were basically on the same page. Bug dope vs. insect repellent. Semantics!

My dear brethren, I am in no way suggesting that we succumb to compromise within the church. Nor am I suggesting that all religions, nor all denominations for that matter, are all one body. All roads do not “lead to Heaven!”

I do, however, advocate that we take the time to really listen to each other; knowing full well that we all start our journey of faith from different places. Thus, there may be some ‘language barriers’ to overcome in relating to each other. There may be some strange idiosyncrasies and oddities to overlook, but love and intimacy overcomes all obstacles.

In closing, may I remind us all, myself included, of Jesus’ answer as to which biblical commandment is the greatest:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
–Matthew 22:37-40

“Loving relationships, though necessary for life, health, and growth, are among the most complicated skills. Before we can be successful at achieving relationships, it is necessary that we broaden our understanding of how they work, what they mean and how what we do and believe can enhance or destroy them. We can accomplish this only if we are willing to put in the energy and take the time to study failed relationships as well as examine successful ones. Loving relationships cannot be taken lightly. Unless we are looking for pain, they must not be forever approached in a trial and error fashion. Too many of us have experienced the cost of these lackadaisical approaches in terms of tears, confusion and guilt.”

–Leo Buscaglia, Loving Each Other

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inquisitive girl

The office was very small and plainly decorated; not much for a young child to amuse herself with. While her mother was preoccupied at the reception counter, she fidgeted with the few magazine offerings, but not for long. Obviously the child had a very short attention span; this was due in part, or so it seemed, from her insatiable desire to scrutinize every detail of the world around her.

She carefully inspected the carpet pattern, the two wall hangings and the plants. None of those things enthused her any, and who could blame her? But then, something intangible caught her attention.

Instrumental music began to play, filling the room with the symphonic melody of a classical composition. Wonder filled the young girl’s eyes as she searched the room for its source. Aside from one speaker in the ceiling, there was nothing visible to account for the music –no stereo, no wires, nothing.

“Mama, where is that coming from?” she asked while tugging at her mother’s shirttail. Her mother scarcely noticed. Agitated, the girl yanked harder. “Mama!”

Now her mother was the one who was agitated. “I don’t know, sweetie. There must be a stereo somewhere,” she answered, then quickly returned to the matter at hand.

“But where?” the girl implored. “Where does the music come FROM?”

My heart went out to the child. I really wanted to sit her down and explain things more clearly, to satisfy her curiosity, but being a total stranger, it wasn’t my place to do so. Besides, her mother whisked her away only a few moments later.

I think the main reason I was touched by the girl’s zeal for answers is that she reminded me of myself when I was a young girl. I too had a very inquisitive mind, and similarly, my questions were oft ignored or flippantly dismissed.

What about you dear reader? Have you ever had that experience? I hope not, especially when your questions were of a spiritual nature. I truly hope that every time you had a spiritual question, whether you are in relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, or not, that someone was willing to sit down with you, walk you through the pages of the Bible and answer your question thoroughly from Scripture.

To those of you who are more seasoned in your walk with the Lord, I hope that you are, likewise, ready, willing and able to do the same. Scripture admonishes us to: Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. And that with gentleness and respect (I Peter 3:15 NIV).

Let us remember, also, that after others do receive the gospel message of hope, and join the family of God, they will have many questions and will initially look to other believers for answers. Are we prepared to give them? Pastors are wonderful, but they cannot do all the work; nor should they. It is our responsibility, as believers, to be about the Father’s business as well.

Finally, I want to encourage every person reading these words, whether you have accepted Jesus into your life or not, to read the Bible daily. It does have the answers to all of life’s questions. There is no doubt, with all the chaos and confusion in this world in these troublesome times; we all need those answers now more than ever!

We also need peace, despite what is happening all around us. Those who know the Lord Jesus, and trust in Him, have true peace. And where did it come from? From God’s presence, and from His promises; those promises which are found in the Holy Bible. If you haven’t already done so, why not pick up a Bible and immerse yourself in it today.


p.s. As always, if you would like prayer for any reason, I would be honored to pray for you. There is a contact button at the top of this page.

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This morning, while sorting ¹Mount Rushmore (that’s my not-so fond nickname for the laundry pile), it dawned on me that I’m a little weird. Actually, I came to that realization several decades ago. Today’s revelation had more to do with my preference for the dirty household tasks over the clean ones.

For instance, I would much rather wash dishes or fill the dishwasher than put away a load of clean ones. And I would rather sort, wash and hang Mount Rushmore than I would fold it all. I even prefer crawling around in the dirt, tending to my garden, than watering it or putting away all the tools.

That’s pretty much flip-opposite of most folks, who would rather deal with the clean stuff than the dirty. I tried to figure out why I’m wired backwards, to no avail. I’m not sure, but it might be that I simply find the dirty stuff to be more pressing. After all, leaving the dishwasher full of clean dishes is really no big deal, but it stinks to have a kitchen full of dirty dishes –pun intended. Thus, I tend to spring into action more quickly when it comes to the dirty stuff. That still doesn’t explain why I dislike some of those other tasks so much, but until I figure it out, the kids can keep doing them. (This might take a long time, wink).

Then it occurred to me, I’m not wired backward after all; at least not when it comes to the really important stuff –like reaching out to people. Don’t get me wrong, I love my fellow Christians, and I would do anything I could to help them, but they have already been washed clean (of their sins) by accepting the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Revelation 7:9-14) and they are in really good hands -His. I love spending time with them, but being there to help folks who do not know Jesus as their LORD and Savior is often more pressing. Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”(Matthew 9:12).

He modeled this for us when He walked upon earth. Yes, Jesus spent plenty of time with righteous individuals, but it was when He saw the needy and the unclean, that He rolled up His sleeves and went to work. And He bids us to do the same. Consider the words of Jesus to an expert in the law (²Torah):

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Luke 10: 30-37

The expert in the law was a Jewish man and, by implication, the man traveling to Jericho was also. To the Jew, a Samaritan was vile and repulsive. Therefore, the traveler’s act of mercy and compassion was all the more praiseworthy. Not only did he tend to the injured man, he also paid for his continued care.

“Go and do Likewise,” Jesus said. Meaning, we should always go above and beyond in mercy and compassion toward others; especially those in need. Dear reader, the world is full of people who would rather deal with the “clean stuff” than the dirty. And by dirty, I mean someone whose life others deem vile and repulsive, or insignificant at the very least. Will you be the one to do as Jesus did, as the Jericho traveler did, and be moved with deep, heartfelt compassion? I truly pray that you are –that we all are.

¹I call my laundry pile Mount Rushmore because, with a large family, the pile is always roughly the size of a mountain. And I always have to rush to finish the task or else a second mountain appears before I even finish the first.
²The Torah is the Hebrew name for the first five books of the Bible as a composite work. It is called Pentateuch in the Greek.

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My raven-haired beauty was only four years old when she glued her library book to the bed.
I’m still not sure how she found the bottle of wood glue in the first place, but I do admire her creativity in solving what she considered to be a big problem. Of course, I didn’t approve of her method, but I had to smile at her reasoning. She explained, “Liz-a-biff kept trying to take my book. I had to stop her!”

Reading has always been an important part of my children’s lives. They were each given their own library card from the time they were old enough to toddle into the library. There, we spent many happy hours searching for just the right story to fuel their imaginations, and the perfect books to expand their knowledge about science and history, and all the other fascinating wonders of life. You see, their father and I wanted to instill the love of reading, and learning, into our children from a very young age, in the hopes that their love of such would be life-long.

Most importantly, we wanted our children to love God’s Word. They each had their own picture Bible before they could even talk. By the time they worked their way up to the good ole King James, all of our children knew more about the Bible than many adults do. In fact, this same raven-haired beauty once climbed a tree and began preaching to the people on the streets when she was only seven.

How I wish I would have been raised knowing God’s Word like that! Sadly, I didn’t learn any of it until I was an adult. But, it’s never too late to start. I have now been a student of the Word for over twenty years, and enjoyed every minute of it. I am so thankful that we live in a country that allows us the freedom to read our Bibles without persecution. Tragically, this may not always be the case. It is quite probable that Americans will soon join the ranks of countless others who have been persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ.

If this ever happens, I can assure you that gluing our Bibles to the bed won’t prevent them from being taken away. However, there is something that we can do -starting now. The psalmist said, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (119:11). I pray, dear reader, we would all do likewise. After all, once God’s holy Word is hidden in our hearts, no one can ever take it away from us!

I admit that memorizing Scripture, especially long portions of it, can be hard work–especially for us older folks. Even so, there are few pursuits in life that are more rewarding and beneficial. How then do we start, if we haven’t already? Simple, we can learn from the children on this one.

Have you ever watched a young child recite the words of her favorite story book to an audience of stuffed animals without having to look at the book? She is able to do this because she has read it (or had it read to her) so many times that it became a part of her. And because she loves the story so much, she can’t help but enthusiastically share it.

That’s how we should be with God’s Word. Because the Bible is so much more than just words on a page –it is God’s personal instruction to mankind- we should absolutely love to read it over and over until it becomes a part of us. And, we should care enough about our Holy book that we would rather glue it to the bed than let anyone take it from us.

Dear reader, it would be really silly of me to tell you “Don’t glue your book to the bed.” I would like to encourage you, however, to keep the Holy Bible “glued to your face.” If you’re not familiar with that expression, just ask my raven-haired beauty what it means; she still has a book glued to her face most of the time. That’s my girl!

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Okay I admit it; a few days ago, I almost mixed dried mustard into my pumpkin pie filling instead of ginger.  It’s a good thing I keep a pair of reading glasses in the kitchen and have the good sense to use them.  Otherwise, our dessert would have tasted awful.  At least I can blame my aging eyes for this near-blunder. 

Speaking of nasty-tasting desserts, I will also confess to you that I still hold first place in the “worst cake ever made” category for novice bakers.  Granted, I was quite young when I made that horrible thing, but that error was one of ignorance rather than limited vision. Allow me to explain:

Because this was the first cake I had ever baked from scratch, I was careful to follow the recipe to the letter.   From its beautiful, golden-brown appearance, the cake looked perfect when it came out of the oven. It tasted awful, though.  Words cannot adequately describe how nasty this cake tasted, or how confused I was by the outcome.  What had I done wrong?

Determined that I would not accept such a failure, I decided to toss the cake and start over.  Again, I assembled all the ingredients and followed the recipe meticulously. The flour was carefully sifted, the butter properly softened, the vanilla carefully measured and every ingredient added in order.  Surely, I reasoned, this cake would be better.

Definitely not!

The second cake was every bit as disgusting as the first; I was practically in tears.  With great disappointment, I informed my parents that we were not having cake that night because I was the worst baker on the planet and both cakes were in the trash, where they belonged.

“What did you put in the batter?” they asked.

I explained that I had followed the cookbook recipe and used only the ingredients listed.  I wasn’t sure why my parents started laughing, but they led me into the kitchen and, pulling a bottle from the cabinet, asked if that was the vanilla I used.

“Yes,” I answered, somewhat confused.

More laughs.  “That’s not vanilla,” they explained. “You used liquid smoke in the cake.”  (Unbeknownst to me, we had run out of vanilla.)

To be fair, the label had come off the bottle some time before.  But even if it hadn’t, I didn’t have a clue what liquid smoke was. Apparently, it’s a dark, liquid seasoning that is used to add a smoky flavor to foods. Trust me; you do not want to eat cake which tastes like it just came out of the smokehouse!

I was thinking about this recently after I listened to a young pastor present some rather “contemporary” suggestions for bringing the unsaved into his church. For the most part, his ideas were pretty good. And if the preacher’s vision to reach the lost had been more firmly grounded in Scripture, the outcome would have been very sweet and desirable.   However (without elaborating on the details), I noted that a few of his suggested “ingredients” for successful evangelism were, in reality, a violation of God’s Word. His vision was admirable, but he simply did not have proper understanding in regards to the propriety of his ideas.

We must remember, when putting together any kind of church outreach, that the proper “ingredients” are absolutely vital!

Although our hearts may be sincere and our motives pure, we must always be careful not to unintentionally substitute the sweet “vanilla” of God’s instruction for the (liquid) “smoke” of “cultural relevance.”  True, our well-meaning efforts might produce something that looks really good, but if we have made substitutions in God’s “recipe” for Christian conduct, (even unknowingly), the results will most likely be distasteful to the Lord.

Of course, we do need to earnestly minister to the unsaved, but it is only the LORD who can effectively bring them into the fold.  He Himself said: No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him (John 6:44).   Programs are nice, and preaching is important, but our primary focus should be to fulfill our divine calling to be a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that  [we] may declare the praises of him who called [us] out of darkness into his wonderful light (I Peter 2:9).

Dear reader, let us   firmly resolve to once again raise the church to the standards of holiness she once walked in, that God may be pleased to dwell in His sanctuary as He did in days of old.  Upon doing so, we will most assuredly have the right ingredients to properly minister to those whom the LORD will send.

And that, my friend, is sweet and desirable to the LORD!

 “Once we realize that imperfect understanding is the human condition there is no shame in being wrong, only in failing to correct our mistakes.”                   ~George Soros

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Some post-Thanksgiving tips from an ardent food-stretcher.

Every year, after Thanksgiving, I have a few friends who bring me a very unusual gift –their turkey carcass (that’s what I call the big pile of bones that’s left-over after all the meat has been removed). Granted, bones might seem like a strange gift, but truthfully, I am the one who asked my friends to start saving them for me, and my friends have always been gracious enough to accomodate my odd request. Believe me; I always appreciate my boney turkey treats –and the friends who bring them.

Actually, this little tradition started several years ago when I was searching for ways to stretch our food a lot farther than our grocery budget. I know that many of you already do creative things with your left-over bones (broth), but today I want to veer from my traditional blogging long enough to share some post-Thanksgiving tips with those who might benefit from them.

After I put the rest of our turkey meat into containers and tuck them safely into the refrigerator for the next week’s turkey salad, pot pie, and casserole meals; I tightly wrap the bones in plastic wrap and place them in the freezer. When it’s time for some scrumptious soup–and what better time than a cold December day– I put the defrosted (or frozen) bones, in my boat-size slow cooker (and cover them with water) to prepare some tasty and nutritious broth. Unless you plan to feed a small army, however, you will probably want to use a crock pot and only half the bones).

Next, I open the spice cabinet and throw in whichever seasonings suit me at the moment. These usually include celery salt, basil, parsley, rosemary, thyme, oregano and sea salt. I cannot give you exact measurements, though, because I am one of those “pinch of this” and “smidgen of that” kind of cooks. Just season your broth according to preference. Don’t forget, however, there is an unwritten law that anything cooked in a pot should have fresh garlic gloves tossed in!

Let the bones “cook” until the rest of the meat falls off the bone –and you will be amazed at how much there is. Then, strain the broth and sort through the bones, tossing the meat bits back into the broth. By this time you will have finely chopped some onion, celery and carrots to cook in the broth. I find that chopping the vegetables in the food processor makes for a much better soup than cutting them into bite-sized pieces. After the veggies have cooked a half- hour or so, stir some rice into the broth and let it cook until tender (how much rice you use depends on the size of your cooker and the amount of broth you are making. Add the rice sparingly, though, as it will swell greatly and your soup will turn into soupy casserole otherwise.

Finally comes the best part; about fifteen-minutes before serving, add ™Velveeta cheese, or shredded cheddar, to the broth and let it melt. Obviously, the amount of cheese will depend on how much soup you are making, and how cheesy you want it.

But wait, there’s still more. If you used only half the bones, you can repeat the broth process later for some other delicious foods. I prefer to make the larger batch of broth in the slow cooker then pour at least half of it into canning jars to store in the freezer. If you choose to do the same, be sure to leave at least one-inch of space at the top of the jar for the liquid to expand as it freezes. (You can freeze this soup after it is finished, but the better option is to freeze only the broth and finish the soup on the day you will be eating it.)

Now what to do with that extra broth? On a day when you need a very simple, no-fuss meal, simply pour a jar or two of defrosted broth into your crock pot with one or two bags of ™Reams egg noodles and let the crock do all the work. (If you froze small batches of leftover turkey as well, throw some of that in there too.) Can you say delicious?

By now, you have probably stretched that Thanksgiving day bird into at least six budget-friendly meals. And you might even have extra broth for some good old-fashioned turkey & vegetable soup or other recipes that call for chicken/turkey broth.

If you are blessed with awesome friends like mine, ask them to toss their turkey bones your way. You can make quite a few quarts of broth with just one turkey carcass. If you are like me, and spend half your life in the kitchen, you can use a pressure canner and can the broth. But freezing the broth works well too. I recommend the canning jars because the broth freezes well in them and stays fresh for a long time.

I could throw a few more ideas your way, but Thanksgiving is just a few days away and I’m sure you are busy; so I’ll wrap this up with a final thought:

Although we all enjoy the holidays, they can leave us feeling drained and weary. But life goes on and so must we. After all, there are plenty of people who need us, whether they realize it or not. I would just like to encourage you, dear reader, that when you are exhausted and feel you have nothing left to give; you still have a great deal more to offer.

There is an important lesson to be learned from those after-dinner turkey bones; although they appear stripped and useless, they are still sufficient to feed the hungry through the hands of a wise cook. In the same way, you  may  feel completely depleted, but if you place yourself in the hands of our wise and  loving LORD, He will multiply what little you have in order to “nourish” the lives of others; you need only be a willing vessel.

And he [Jesus] said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

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photo credit: alatoni.com

Black olives may not please everyone’s palate, but my family –half of us, anyway– devour them like candy. In fact, whenever we have a build your own pizza night, my daughter’s pizza is usually black when she pops it in the oven due to serious olive overload. I can’t say I blame her; I’m one of the other olive lovers.

You can only imagine how elated I was the first time I realized my relatives, who lived in Phoenix, had several black olive trees growing in their back yard. “Go ahead, eat as many as you want,” my cousin told me.

Anxiously, I bit into the first one with great expectation. But I spit it out with disgust. Unbeknownst to me, those pleasant-looking fruit are bitter enough to turn your teeth inside out –until they are cured in lye, that is. Yes, I said lye.

Do you have any idea how hazardous lye can be? It can cause chemical burns, scarring, blindness, or respiratory failure; and probably even death under certain circumstances. Yep, that sounds like the kind of substance we need to treat our food with (Uh- NOT). I was stunned further to learn that manufacturers use lye to treat several other foods as well. But let’s talk about olives for a moment.

Did you know that olives are really good for our bodies? Not only do they contain a fair amount of iron, vitamin E, copper (an essential mineral) and fiber, they also have phytonutrients,  the organic components of plants which promote human health. Olives are said to:

 Contain antioxidants to fight disease.
 Have anti-inflammatory properties.
 Help decrease high blood pressure.
 Reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
 Lower bad cholesterol.
 and more

It really boggles my mind that something as caustic as lye can take the bitterness right out of the olive fruit. What astounds me even more is that the caustic attacks of other people can take the bitterness right out of us.

How? First we must understand that “The building of character is the most important business of life. It matters little what works a man may leave in the world; his real success is measured by what he has wrought along the years in his own being…. True character must be built after divine patterns…” J.R. Miller, 1894

Jesus Christ is our divine pattern. What did he teach?

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you, and persecute you (Matthew 5:44).

Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which spitefully use you (Luke 6:28).

More profound still,  while Jesus Christ, who was falsely accused, was being led to Mount Calvary to face an unjust crucifixion, he demonstrated for us the most noble of character:

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth (Isaiah 53:7).

Why would the Son of God allow Himself to be beaten, spat upon, and ultimately murdered, without speaking one word in His own defense? It is because our Heavenly Father had a plan. Jesus Christ, our LORD and Savior, was absolutely perfect as both man and God. But with His every word and action, Jesus gave us a pattern of how to live so that we might be perfected into His own image.

However, we are mere mortal men and we fail. Sometimes we allow the unjust actions of others to cause bitterness deep within our hearts. It is in times like these, I believe, that God allows caustic men and women to “crucify” us so that we may be “cured” and our fruit (the fruit of the Spirit – Galatians 5:22-23) may be sweet.  And more importantly, so that this sweetened fruit may then be used as a catalyst to help heal the spiritual diseases of others.

Dear reader, the next time you or I encounter a caustic, abrasive person, let us remember the words of our precious LORD and pray for him (or her). And in so doing, may he or she see the character of God through us.

In closing, I offer this final thought; relationship battles can often be won through peace– I wouldn’t lie.

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My nephew, who recently joined the Marine Corp, is now sporting a tattoo which covers his entire right side. It reads: Semper Fidelis. While I am certainly not a fan of tattoos, I was curious to know what those words really mean. I’ve heard the abbreviated term Semper Fi a few times, but honestly, I couldn’t imagine why a simple military motto would be so important that anyone would want to cover one-quarter of their torso with it. Turns out, it isn’t just a simple motto.

Semper Fidelis is the Latin term Always Faithful. Although this popular motto has been commonly used by various peoples and entities since at least the 1500’s, it was adopted by the Marine Corp in 1883 as an absolute way of life. To the Marine, Semper Fidelis is a lifetime commitment to always remain faithful to their mission, to each other, to the Corps and to our country, no matter what. “It is not negotiable. It is not relative, but absolute.”

However, I believe the motto is rooted farther in antiquity than the sixteenth century. I can easily imagine a young (Latin speaking), first-century lover pledging himself to be Semper Fidelis to his darling. The Roman scholars would have been Semper Fidelis to their studies, and the truly devout, Semper Fidelis to their God (or gods).

In fact, few people were as Semper Fidelis to his God than the Apostle Paul. We know that Paul spoke Hebrew, Greek and probably Aramaic, but being born a Roman citizen almost guarantees that he spoke Latin fluently as well. Therefore, he most likely rallied some of his fellow (Roman) believers to obey the call of Semper Fidelis in regards to the tireless work of spreading the Gospel. Whether he used the actual phrase Semper Fidelis or not is inconsequential. What matters is that he avidly taught the principle. For instance, he instructed the Corinthian church to be firm in purpose, resolute in faith, and industrious in service, through the following charge:

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord (I Corinthians 15:58).

In other words, he instructed them to be a Semper Fidelis Servus (servus meaning servant or slave), working tirelessly for their master, Jesus Christ. In fact, this call to diligent, faithful servanthood is so important that it is taught throughout the pages of Scripture. Similar to the Marine’s creed of faithfulness, the Christian makes a commitment to be always faithful to their mission- to those who don’t know Jesus as Lord- as well as to their brothers and sisters in Christ, and to the Kingdom of God. Like Semper Fidelis, “It is not negotiable. It is not relative, but absolute.”

The difference is that our commitment to be unconditionally faithful is not borne out of military conditioning (though we are soldiers in God’s army). Our desire to be a Semper Fidelis Servus is the direct result of our great love for our Heavenly Father and for our fellow man. And the good news is (for me anyway), that we don’t need to tattoo our flesh in order to proclaim our faithfulness to God because that is something others can see quite clearly.

May I remind you, dear reader, you may be the only Bible that some folks ever read. Are you giving them a clear “picture” of God’s love, mercy and compassion through your faithfulness? If so, may you one day be blessed to hear your precious Heavenly Father say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant… enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:21).

Postscript: my desire today is to share with you my thoughts on Semper Fidelis, not tattoos. I don’t personally care for them (actually, I hate them), but I am in no way attempting to impose my beliefs on you. Seeing my nephew’s tattoo about faithfulness simply reminded me that God has written His law on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33) and our faithful obedience to Him speaks much louder than words, or pictures.

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