Monday, February 28, 2011

Hot Cocoa Mix: Winter's not over yet!

Photo by Southern Grace Photography
February is almost over, and March is roaring in with it's promise of a lamb-like end. But winter's not over yet. While the evenings are still turning chilly, it's not too late to curl up with a book and a steaming cup of hot chocolate.

Here is a recipe for homemade hot chocolate mix that I have toyed with this winter, perfecting it to my family's taste.

Ingredients:
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 c. powdered nondairy creamer
3 c. powdered milk
1 c. white sugar (I use 1 c. Splenda)
1 3.4 oz. box instant chocolate pudding (I use sugar-free)
1/2 t. salt

Directions:
Put all ingredients in a blender. Blend until combined. Store in airtight container.

Tip: Use vanilla or butterscotch pudding for flavored hot chocolate!

This recipe was updated 11-15-2013 to reflect some improvements I've made. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Safe People: Growing in Discernment

A couple weeks ago, the women in my family started going through Safe People: How to Find Relationships That Are Good for You and Avoid Those That Aren't by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. So far, I have been both encouraged and challenged. Encouraged -- since I am learning that discerning safe from unsafe people is possible. Challenged -- because I want to be growing into a safer person myself.

The goal of the Safe People is to help people pick better relationships:
It deals with the problem of character discernment, a skill that many of us lack. And yet the ability to determine good character in people is one of God's most vital ingredients for our personal and spiritual growth. (11)
Who are safe people? The authors describe them this way:
Safe people are individuals who draw us closer to being the people God intended us to be. Though not perfect, they are "good enough" in their own character that the net effect of their presence in our lives is positive. They are accepting, honest, and present, and they help bear good fruit in our lives. (11)
In the second and third chapters, Cloud and Townsend describe the personality and interpersonal traits of unsafe people. This reference is meant to guide us in our relationships, as well as remind us of who we, as Christians, are called to be. The authors remind their readers that no one is perfect. We are all unsafe at times. But as a rule, these are behaviors to avoid -- in ourselves and in our friends.

Personal Traits of Unsafe People
1. Unsafe people think they "have it all together" instead of admitting their weaknesses.
2. Unsafe people are religious instead of spiritual.
3. Unsafe people are defensive instead of open to feedback.
4. Unsafe people are self-righteous instead of humble.
5. Unsafe people only apologize instead of changing their behavior.
6. Unsafe people avoid working on their problems instead of dealing with them.
7. Unsafe people demand trust, instead of earning it.
8. Unsafe people believe they are perfect instead of admitting their faults.
9. Unsafe people blame others instead of taking responsibility.
10. Unsafe people lie instead of telling the truth.
11. Unsafe people are stagnant instead of growing. 
Interpersonal Traits of Unsafe People
1. Unsafe people avoid closeness instead of connecting.
2. Unsafe people are only concerned about "I" instead of "we."
3. Unsafe people resist freedom instead of encouraging it.
4. Unsafe people flatter us instead of confronting us. 
5. Unsafe people condemn us instead of forgiving us.
6. Unsafe people stay in parent/child roles instead of relating as equals.
7. Unsafe people are unstable over time instead of being consistent.
8. Unsafe people are a negative influence on us, rather than a positive one.
9. Unsafe people gossip instead of keeping secrets.
As these chapters draw to a close, the authors remind people to keep reading the book. Why?
The reason is simple. Odds are, even with this road map of character to evaluate your relationships, you will still choose unsafe people. You will still find the same painful lapses in judgement. You will still suffer in the same ways. 
That's because the problem is often inside us. We have needs, conflicts, and misperceptions that drive us toward unsafe people 'as a dog returns to its vomit' (Prov. 26:11).  
To best deal with unsafe people, we first need to understand what causes us to be unsafe. For the problem is not just outside us, it is inside every one of us. As we'll see,...unsafety finds it's origin in sin. And sin -- as we know -- is everyone's problem (Rom. 3:23).
I don't know anyone who hasn't been hurt by unsafe people. They are all around us, and sometimes inside of us. But that doesn't mean we have to give up. Healthy relationships are possible. We just have to know what we are looking for.

You can preview Safe People here.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Surprised by Hope: N.T. Wright recalls the Kingdom

Tonight I turned the final pages of N.T. Wright's Surprised by Hope, in which Wright examines the center of the Christian hope -- the resurrection.  The journey through the text was stimulating and perplexing, exhilarating and humbling. Wright's message was challenging at times, as was his strikingly British prose. His argument, though, was incredibly smooth.

What does it mean that Jesus was raised bodily from the dead? Where is Jesus now? What happens when Christians die? Wright answers these questions and many others, drawing from scripture, Jewish history and the first century context of the New Testament. To my mind, crowded as it has been with Medieval Dantean imagery, Enlightenment charged Platonic philosophy, and Romantic sentimentality, Wright's answers were indeed surprising. And yet, as passage after passage of seemingly ambiguous scripture suddenly made sense, I found myself wanting to dance with joy -- or was the feeling hope?

In Surprised by Hope, Wright reminds his readers that, as Jesus said, the Kingdom of God is at hand. In fact, it has come, inaugurated by the first-fruits of the resurrection -- Jesus Himself. As Christians, we are living in a new paradigm, a new reality where Jesus is Lord of Heaven and Earth. As Adam was created to image God in the old world, so those who are baptized into the new Kingdom are recreated to image God in the new world. We are carrying out the restorative Kingdom work Jesus began before His ascension to the Father. One day He will return and complete the restoration of the entire cosmos. The New Jerusalem will descend from Heaven, and the saints will dwell with God. Until then, we contend with sin and death -- but only as a defeated powers, resting in the assurance of the blessed, surprising hope we have in Christ.

And as Wright explains in the final chapter, the language of this Kingdom is love.

The point of 1 Corinthians 13 is that love is not our duty; it is our destiny. It is the language Jesus spoke, and we are called to speak it so that we can converse with him. It is the food they eat in God's new world, and we must acquire the taste for it here and now. It is the music God has written for all his creatures to sing, and we are called to learn it and practice it now so as to be ready when the conductor brings down his baton. It is the resurrection life, and the resurrected Jesus calls us the begin living it with him and for him right now. Love is at the very heart of the surprise of hope.

You can preview Surprised by Hope here.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Love Speaks

Help
Cries my mind and my heart as my feet pull me down
The path of pretend
I don’t want to go anymore

Stop
I beg my feet
No love is at the end
Only speechless quiet

Fly
But where?
Cries my heart as my mind searches the stark forgotten unknown
All the words say that this way is not and I know it is not

Reality
Is what it has and hasn’t ever been
Hasn’t it?
It is but isn’t and I’m not sure
It never was

Safe
It is and has always has been
That motive hiding behind peace and prayer has led me here so many times before and leads me now

Stay
Another Word whispers
Turn aside to what is and rest and embrace

Hope
I feel it vanishing, slipping as I remember how I gave truth and got pain, sorrow, hate – loss

Wait
I cry Come back and take my hand and wrap my trembling fingers in your strong ones
I sob admitting all is blank and vague and without category and full of fear and
Though I’ve tried I always come back to this well-worn  path of smiles and fear and silence

I am lost again -- show me the Way

Listen
Love speaks

I repent.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Super Bowl Snack: Whole Grain Chex Party Mix


It's Super Bowl Sunday -- and what goes better with the Super Bowl than Chex Party Mix? Here is the recipe for a "healthier" version I cooked up this afternoon.

Ingredients:
8 cups Wheat Chex® cereal
1 cup mixed nuts
1 cup woven wheat crackers (like Triscuits)
1 cup whole grain cheese crackers
1 cup pretzels (this is the only real "cheat" carb-wise)
6 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder

Directions: 
Combine first 5 ingredients in a baking dish. Melt butter. Add sauce and seasonings. Toss into dry ingredients. Bake for 1 hour at 250 degrees, tossing every 15 minutes. Cool. Enjoy!

You can view the original Chex Party Mix recipe here.