Saturday, July 30, 2011

Eleven Men

We just finished a week of special meetings at my church. Every night but one we had the pleasure of hearing from a missionary we support, updating us on the work being furthered in their field. Then, after they shared, our guest evangelist preached a message each night. He spoke every night from Matthew 28 - the Great Commission - and his sermons were some of the most practical mission messages I've ever heard. Nothing vague or cliche; he was right to the point, challenging and convicting.

I love mission conferences!

Last night, Friday, was our last meeting, and Dr. Bane did something unusual. He began his message by asking for eleven volunteers from among the men in the congregation.

Our church body is not huge, and not everyone was able to come to the meetings, and not everyone there was a man, and not every man was bold enough to volunteer, so - all in all - it took awhile to get 11 men up front.

Then Dr. Bane asked them to face him, and he spoke to us all.

"This is what Jesus had to work with. After his resurrection. He's down to just the eleven, now, since Judas isn't there. Twelve main leaders among his disciples. And at the top of the mount, he commands them to go into all the world and preach the gospel."

Here Dr. Bane began to pretend he was the Lord, walking back and forth in front of his group of 11, and looking them in the eyes.

"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you..."

Dr. Bane looked out at the rest of us. "Can you imagine the conversation as the disciples walked back down that mount? 'We're supposed to reach the whole world? Just the eleven of us? You got any money, brother?' 'No - you?' 'Nope, silver and gold have I none.' 'Well, do you know anybody in high places?' 'I do, but they're all after my head!'"

As Dr. Bane spoke, I sat in my seat and looked at those eleven men.

Eleven men made a smaller group than I thought.

They were so different.

Four grey-haired men. One younger than me. Two bikers. Two very shy men. One very outspoken man. One politician. Two preachers. One builder. One from a medical profession. Some wearing suits. Some wearing polo shirts. Some wearing leather vests. None of them rich. None of them influential in a big way beyond our community.

It gave me a totally new way of looking at the eleven disciples. This is what Jesus had! A unlikely group. A group of very diverse men. A tax collector and a zealot. Fishermen. Farmers, perhaps. One outspoken. Two "sons of thunder." All of them were prone to doubting and bickering amongst themselves.

But when the Holy Spirit gave them boldness and love for God, they were unstoppable. These were the men who preach at Pentecost and 3,000 people were added to the church. These where the men who, as the Romans themselves said, "turned the world upside down."

Sometimes it's good to step back from the mindset of little Bible stories and scripts and tradition, and take a good healthy look at reality.

History wasn't dressed up. It wasn't laid out in neat little scripts for people to act out. It was real life, happening to real people, with a real God making things happen.

Somehow, looking at those eleven men last night, I got excited.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Annoyed...or just making a bad choice?

I've come to the conclusion that there will always be people in your life who rub you the wrong way, or annoy you, or make you uncomfortable. No matter what circles you run in, they will be there.

Because we're all humans, and humans have that nice little characteristic called sinful nature. And so we annoy one another.

But I've also realized that annoyance doesn't come from other people's sinful nature. It comes from mine. Sometimes I get angry when people sin against me, and sometimes I get angry when they haven't done anything wrong. It doesn't really matter whether or not they were in the wrong - I can still be ruffled, see?

It's the same way with the times when I keep my cool. Sometimes people are nice to me and everything's smooth sailing. Other times they are rude, but it doesn't bother me.

The issue is me. Like it or not, I determine my own responses.

But how can one learn to control her responses? Not on my own, that's for sure. The Natural Me goes with whatever emotion springs to the surface at the time. The Natural Me listens to my body, and reacts more snappishly when I'm feeling tired or achey. The Natural Me has only one line of thought, and that's ME. It keeps track of every time my own wishes are crossed, my feelings hurt, my desires thwarted, etc., and reacts with the instincts of self preservation.

But I'm not my own! I've been bought with a price. The Natural Me isn't me anymore. Sure, she lives in the same body I do, but she's an unwelcome guest, a claim jumper, trying to pretend she still owns me. The New Amber is a dulas - a bond slave to Someone she loves very much. And that Someone has given her a new heart, which delights to do His will.

The New Amber has only one line of thought, and that's CHRIST. His wishes. His feelings. His desires. She is in tune with His law and love, and is so content in His affection that human kindness - or lack thereof - is of no consequence. Everything is Him, Him, Him.

Oh how I wish I always could live in that! No - what I mean is how I wish I always would live in that! It's a choice, because Christ has given me the power to live in newness of life. So I can....I just don't.

And that, my dears, is a terrible, awful shame.

Thank the Lord He doesn't alter based on my failures!!!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


It's late, and I really shouldn't be posting, but I HAD to share this one recipe with y'all. It's another Amber creation...

Amber's Brownie Sandwiches
(Isn't the name enough to make your mouth water?)

4 (1 oz.) squares of semi-sweet baking chocolate
2 TBS Butter
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup flour (I was somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2...Sorry! It all comes, as Pooh Bear would say, of baking too much without writing down the ingredients as you go...)

Coarsely chop the chocolate. Place in micro-wave safe bowl with butter and bake on high for 1 minute. Remove, and stir until chocolate is smooth and completely melted. Add vanilla, sugar, and egg. Stir until smooth. Add powder and flour, and stir. Add a touch more flour if you think it's too soupy....but it's supposed to be soupy. Like cake batter.

Pour into grease cookie pan, with, I used an odd size. Not a 9x13...smaller...but not a 9x9. ...Can you tell this recipe wasn't planned? Batter should be spread thinly, but not so thin you can see the pan through the batter. Almost, but not quite.

Anyway, bake at 350 for about 10 minutes, or until just barely pulling away from sides of pan. Remove and let cool. Will harden as it cools, until it's stiff, like a cookie or wafer. (But if you over-cooked it, it will be HARD, like rock!) Cut into 1.5" squares.

Making Filling:
2 oz. cream cheese
1 TBS milk chocolate chips
1 TBS powdered sugar

Melt cream cheese and chocolate chips in microwave-safe bowl - about 15 seconds. Do not over cook. Stir until smooth and completely melted. Add sugar. Stir.

Use frosting and wafers to make mini sandwiches. Refrigerate until filling becomes firm again.


Try not to eat too many.

Sorry for the odd directions. But I didn't want you to miss out on a good treat.

And no picture. They didn't last long enough.

I've discovered something....

...I used to think that hype about "caffeine addiction" was nuts.

It's not.

I'm officially addicted to chocolate.

I'm serious.

What should I do? Try to break it? Or feed it?

How 'bout control it? Just bits at a time?

Yeah. That sounds good. :)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Sighting

Today I saw her.

The perfect model of beautiful young womanhood.

The hair I've always wanted - dark brown, perfectly smoothly curled, falling in fat ringlets around a perfectly framed face.

Gracefully curved cheek and jaw line. Delicate brows.

Eyes large and liquid, soft and gentle.

Just a touch of makeup - enough to accent pink rosy cheeks, sparkling eyes, and perfect lips and teeth.

Poise, grace. A cheerful, gentle voice. Not too loud or too soft.

Clothes that were so perfectly appropriate and beautiful that I don't remember what they were, just that they were neat, clean, and made her cheeks pinker.

And her beauty was not spoiled by arrogance, impatience, or fretfulness. She smiled, waited her turn, asked for things politely, and knew how to articulate her desires clearly and honestly.

I stared, and felt humbled. For a fleeting moment, I felt jealous. Then I felt awe. Then I felt jealous again. Then I wondered who she was, and how she had stayed so unspoiled in manner while being so beautiful.

And right now, I'm sitting here thanking God that He blessed me with chance to see outer and inner beauty combined.

It's inspiring.