Category Archives: Holidays

Reese’s Dessert Bar Mix – Stick with the Cups

Reese's no bake mix, box
Reese’s no bake mix box. I didn’t notice the print under the “no bake” words . . . my bad.

My husband LOVES Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, as do many others, apparently, since they are number two in overall candy sales in the US.   So when I saw Reese’s Dessert Bar (no bake) Mix on an end cap in Target recently, I decided to try it.  My husband was quite excited about it too, but after having made the mix, and after all of us have tasted these bars, two out of three of us agree that Reese’s Peanut Butter cups are simply better (in more ways than one).  More on that later.

Value?

But what of the value?  The mix I bought is made in a very small card-stock “pan” that is provided in the box (see the above photo).  I didn’t realize this when I bought it, simply thinking that–like all other box mixes I’ve experienced–it was to be made in an 8″x8″ pan.*

Continue reading Reese’s Dessert Bar Mix – Stick with the Cups

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The Christmas Spirit: “What Men Live By” by Leo Tolstoy

The 1885 short story, What Men Live By by Leo Tolstoy (Russian, 1828-1910), in times past was much more well-known and even acted out as Christmas-time plays.  I have a wonderfully illustrated little hard cover copy from 1954, published by the Peter Pauper Press (PPP), but the entire text can be read online at The Literature Network (What Men Live By).  Below, I provide a synopsis of the story with some Christian and biblical commentary, although Tolstoy himself prefaced it himself with passages from 1 John (here are two of the six):

“We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love
the brethren. He that loveth not abideth in death.” 3:14

“Whoso hath the world’s goods, and beholdeth his brother in need,
and shutteth up his compassion from him, how doth the love of God
abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither
with the tongue; but in deed and truth.” 3:17-18

Continue reading The Christmas Spirit: “What Men Live By” by Leo Tolstoy

Game Over Videogames CEO: I love you (RE Thanksgiving Memo)

Thanksgiving Background
Happy Thanksgiving to All – by which we mean, all those in the Upper Class in America. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If there’s any hope for America, it’s in people like David Kaelin, the President and CEO of Game Over Videogames.  He wrote a memorandum to his employees regarding the Thanksgiving holiday and it ended up being posted at Boycott Black Thursday, a Facebook page.  It is almost impossible to read the small image there, but an enlarged copy can be seen at a Nice World thread:  Black Thursday/Friday.   I’ve written it out here for your Thanksgiving joy, and as a reminder that there are still people in business who think of their employees as humans (that is, a thing that has thoughts and needs other than those of a robot) and are not afraid to say what they think of certain employers.

Continue reading Game Over Videogames CEO: I love you (RE Thanksgiving Memo)

Easter message from Pastor Abedini, imprisoned in Iran

Saeed Abedini with one of his children.  From http://beheardproject.com/saeed#sign
Saeed Abedini with one of his children. From http://beheardproject.com/saeed#sign

The following is posted at the ACLJ website, where you can read many different articles about Pastor Saeed Abedini’s imprisonment–his current unhealthy condition, President Obama’s response, how his family is doing, etc.–and sign a petition for his release (this link takes you to a separate site where you can learn about Abedini’s case as well).  You may think that these petitions don’t do any good when directed at a country like Iran, but, recently Abedini wasn’t being treated for his illnesses and international outcry did cause the Iranian government to at least move the pastor to a hospital bed.  Abedini wrote this message from the hospital.

Happy Resurrection Day.

On the Eve of Good Friday and Easter I was praying from my hospital room for my fellow Christians in the world.  What the Holy Spirit revealed to me in prayer was that there are many dead faiths in the midst of Christians today. That Christians all over the world are not able to fully reach their spiritual potential that has been given to them as a gift by God so that in reaching that potential, the curtain can be removed and the Glory of God would be revealed.

Some times we want to experience the Glory and resurrection with Jesus without experiencing death with Him.  We do not realize that unless we pass through the path of death with Christ, we are not able to experience resurrection with Christ.

We want to have a good and successful marriage, career, education and family life (which is also God’s desire and plan for our life). But we forget that in order to experience the Resurrection and Glory of Christ we first have to experience death with Christ and to die to ourselves and selfish desires.

Jesus said to His Disciples:  “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24)

This means that we should not do things that we like to do (that God does not want us to do) and to do things that we do not like to do (but God wants us to do) so that He may be glorified.

So in addition to spending our days and night in doing the works of faith as described above, we should also transform our dead faiths into living and active faiths through the resurrection of Christ which is an active and constructive love that is effective.

In conclusion, let us resurrect our Dead faiths to living faiths by first dying to our selfish “resurrected” self and experiencing the cross of Jesus. Then we are able to experience the Glorious resurrection with Christ.

A Glorious life with Christ starts only after a painful death (to self) with Christ.

We will start with Christ.

Pastor Saeed Abedini
Prisoner in the Darkness in Iran, but free for the Kingdom and Light

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John Lennox on the Resurrection: why Hume, Dawkins, and others got it wrong

John Lennox, Oxford professor and Fellow in Mathematics and the Philosophy of Science, concisely gives us compelling reasons why two widely used anti-resurrection arguments don’t make much sense:   Hume’s and Dawkins’ on “no possibility of miracles,” and the more widely scoffed-at “empty tomb” claims by the first Christians.

What amazes me, as it astonishes Lennox, is that anyone can rationally affirm and adhere to the 18th century philosopher Hume’s argument against miracles, which says that:  miracles go against the laws of nature, therefore they don’t exist.  We study nature and have found  laws of nature by observation, but we can’t rightly claim that something doesn’t exist or won’t happen just because we know of such laws.  What is even more odd is that Hume didn’t actually believe the Laws of Nature were necessarily always uniform:  “He famously argues that, just because the sun has been observed to rise in the morning for thousands of years, it does not mean that we can be sure that it will rise tomorrow.  This is an example of the Problem of Induction: on the basis of past experience you cannot predict the future, says Hume.”  If this is so, then “if nature is not uniform, then using the uniformity of nature as an argument against miracles is simply absurd.”

In his usual clear style, CS Lewis points out how easily Hume’s argument can be refuted (as quoted by Lennox):

If this week I put a thousand pounds in the drawer of my desk, add two thousand next week and another thousand the week thereafter, the laws of arithmetic allow me to predict that the next time I come to my drawer, I shall find four thousand pounds. But suppose when I next open the drawer, I find only one thousand pounds, what shall I conclude? That the laws of arithmetic have been broken? Certainly not! I might more reasonably conclude that some thief has broken the laws of the State and stolen three thousand pounds out of my drawer. One thing it would be ludicrous to claim is that the laws of arithmetic make it impossible to believe in the existence of such a thief or the possibility of his intervention. On the contrary, it is the normal workings of those laws that have exposed the existence and activity of the thief.

After making some thoughtful points, Lennox concludes:  “When a miracle takes place, it is the laws of nature that alert us to the fact that it is a miracle. It is important to grasp that Christians do not deny the laws of nature, as Hume implies they do. It is an essential part of the Christian position to believe in the laws of nature as descriptions of those regularities and cause-effect relationships built into the universe by its Creator and according to which it normally operates. If we did not know them, we should never recognise a miracle if we saw one.”

Lennox goes on to use biblical passages to flush out the truth that people at the time of Christ, and earlier, didn’t easily believe miracle stories either.  They knew how nature worked and what was unusual or seemingly impossible.  Therefore, their ancient witness is just as valid as if you or I saw Jesus resurrected.  Lennox also discusses the real importance of female witnesses to the resurrection.  Please see his article for the full discussion of certain anti-resurrection arguments used by skeptics, and the thoughtful responses he provides.  And, have a joyful Easter!

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Prophecies fulfilled, others set in motion, at Jesus’ birth

Christmas gift box icon on old paper background and pattern
A slightly altered version of a saying floating around the internet.

Christmas is such a secular holiday anymore that a person is made to feel like they’re offending someone if they unselfishly wish someone a “merry Christmas.”  Instead, it’s all about having “happy holidays” or enjoying “the season” (my Christmas cards for this year say that . . . but what “season”?  Winter?  The season of blessing retailers with books in the black?).  It’s gotten so strange that some claim that you don’t need Christ in Christmas.  That makes sense . . . nowhere.  I’m surprised that calling it simply “the giving season” hasn’t caught on, akin to the calling of Thanksgiving “turkey day.”

I’m not complaining so much as noting the secular trend, in full swing now, to eliminate Christianity from public life.  Christmas, however, gives us the opportunity to enlighten people about God’s word, possibly more than any other holiday.  When it comes to Easter, people need to accept the New Testament witness regarding Christ’s resurrection.  With Christ’s birth, however, there are prophecies from the Old Testament (or Tanakh) that are pretty clear, and, there is no good reason to think the prophecies weren’t written centuries before Jesus was born.  These prophecies are from the books of Isaiah and Micah.

First, and no doubt very familiar, is Isaiah 7:14.  With verse 13 for context:  “Then Isaiah said, ‘Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also?  Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.'”  This prophecy is announced as fulfilled in Matthew 1:22-23.  Here it is in context (Matthew 1:20b-23):

“an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).”

Some critics like to point out that the word “virgin” is not specifically used in Isaiah, but, in the historical and cultural context, a young unmarried woman (a translation of the word used) meant the same thing as “virgin.”  It’s an odd criticism in any case, since, what else would God have meant?  Would an unchaste girl getting pregnant be any kind of sign from God?

Another criticism, and one without merit, is that the book of Isaiah may have been altered later.  There is no end to such criticisms of the Bible generally.  However, Isaiah is consistently viewed as ancient by scholars, even if some moderns like to imagine that it was written by two or three authors during three periods (the youngest being from about 400 BC).  More importantly, the birth prophecy is in the early part of the book, universally believed to be written in the 700s by Isaiah.  Regarding complete authenticity of the writings, a confirmation came via a Dead Sea Scroll of the entire book of Isaiah.  This scroll is from about 150-125 BC.  Having confidence in the authenticity and the ancientness of Isaiah, we can enjoy the related prophecies in Isaiah 9 (1b-2, 6-7):

“. . . in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful[,] Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.”

There is another prophecy, from Micah 5 (2 & 4), that is quoted in Matthew and is therefore considered fulfilled.  As written in Matthew 2:6:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.”

The book of Micah was written about the same time as Isaiah was.  There are more prophecies regarding Jesus Christ, of course, some fulfilled and some yet to be.  You can view some of them in a linked list at Prophecies Jesus Fulfilled.

Wishing you a warm and love-filled Christmas, I also leave you with a couple of songs for you to enjoy:

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear  (simple and traditional; Bruce Crockburn)

Oh Holy Night (Josh Groban)

Sources:  (1)  NIV Archaeological Study Bible (Zondervan 2005), pp 1055, 1115, 1477.   (2) Rational Steps to Belief in Christ

The Wonderful, the Why, and the Fulfilled Prophecies of Christ at Easter

Happy Easter everyone!  Or, if you don’t like to call it that, Blessed Resurrection Day!  Thank you Lord for all that you did and are doing!  Here is a link to a very informative and I’d say concise treatment of the meaning of, and verses relating to, Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.  The web site it’s on is distractingly and annoyingly messy (to me, anyway), but hey . . . it’s meant as a basically informational site for pastors, I guess.

Link: The Crucifixion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus

Lent, the Rich and Poor in Orange County, and low-income housing

 

The average prA Place at the TAbleice of a home in Orange County, CA, where we live is over $646,000 (the average for CA as a whole is over $345,000).  This simply floors me.  You cannot be low income and really live in this county, yet there are poor everywhere.  The gap between rich and poor is amazing.  There are homeless in the plazas I walk to, along the sidewalks and in McDonald’s (and there are a great many that hang out at the library a bit farther away) and some have died in these places recently.  I have more than they do, by far, and we are low income.  So what are all the wealthy here doing?  Surely many must be millionaires here for the average price of a home to be over half a million dollars.

I just got done looking over a property that we’re trying to buy through a low income housing project.  Only one unit is available, and it is farther away from where we work than I’d like . . . but seeing how the prices are only going up now, we should take it if we happen to be chosen to buy it.  Who knows how they decide that . . .  The average price for a home in the city in which it is in – though it is on the boarder of an even poorer city – is almost $426,000; if you can believe it, the average one year ago was over $100,000 less (hurrah for economic recovery???).  I think, honestly, that the price for the low income home we’re trying to get is too high.  I think the bank owns the whole property or something, and is asking “market value,” but providing loans that are not normally available.  I’ll find out tomorrow.

Anyway, I come to this after reading the short introductory chapters of A Place at the Table: 40 Days of Solidarity with the Poor (by Chris Seay).  Our church is using this book this Lenten season.  I don’t know why most nondenominational Christian churches do not emphasize fasting at all.  Some will talk about it and encourage people to do it, but this is somewhat rare from my experience.  The new church we’re going to is affiliated with the Evangelical Covenant Church denomination. It’s not Catholic-related by any means (they emphasize Christ’s church in the world, and de-emphasize themselves, more than any church I’ve attended), but they observe Lent.  Christ fasted for 40 days before His public ministry began, and He said that His followers would fast after he ascended, so I don’t know why we don’t emphasize it more.  Anyway, reading this book and considering its messages, is humbling.

It says in here that there are 2.2 billion children in the world – and guess how many live in poverty? – almost half, 1 billion.  Also, stunningly, a child dies every 15 seconds for lack of clean water to drink.  Drink clean water and thank God for all He gives us.  The book, and our church, suggest eating simply for Lent and giving the difference of what we would normally spend on our food to the poor.  I hadn’t thought about it much yet, but I’ll see what we come up with.

Christian (Christmas) Poems X: Shaw, Auden, Eliot

657685 sotck.xchng juliafMARY’S SONG

By LUCI SHAW

Blue homespun and the bend of my breast
keep warm this small hot naked star
fallen to my arms.  (Rest . . .
you who have had so far
to come.)  Now nearness satisfies
the body of God sweetly.  Quiet he lies
whose vigour hurled
a universe.  He sleeps
whose eyelids have not closed before.
His breath (so slight it seems
no breath at all) once ruffled the dark deeps
to sprout a world.
Charmed by dove’s voices, the whisper of straw,
he dreams,
hearing no music from his other spheres.
Breath, mouth, ears, eyes
he is curtailed
who overflowed all skies,
all years.
Older than eternity, now he
is new.  Now native to earth as I am, nailed
to my poor planet, caught that I might be free,
blind in my womb to know my darkness ended,
brought to this birth
for me to be new-born,
and for him to see me mended
I must see him torn.

In The Poetic Bible, C Duriez ed. (Hendrickson Pub.s 2001), 113.

___________

AT THE MANGER MARY SINGS

By W.H. AUDEN

O shut your bright eyes that mine must endanger
With their watchfulness; protected by its shade
Escape from my care: what can you discover
From my tender look but how to be afraid?
Love can but confirm the more it would deny.
Close your bright eye.

Sleep. What have you learned from the womb that bore you
But an anxiety your Father cannot feel?
Sleep. What will the flesh that I gave do for you,
Or my mother love, but tempt you from his will?
Why was I chosen to teach his Son to weep?
Little One, sleep.

Dream. In human dreams earth ascends to Heaven
Where no one need pray nor ever feel alone.
In your first few hours of life here, O have you
Chosen already what death must be your own?
How soon will you start on the Sorrowful Way?
Dream while you may.

In The Poetic Bible, C Duriez ed. (Hendrickson Pub.s 2001), 112.

___________

JOURNEY OF THE MAGI

By T.S. ELIOT

‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kiking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

In The One Year Book of Poetry, P Comfort and D Partner, compilers (Tyndale House Pub.s 1999), December 28 & 29.