Archive for March, 2012

I felt like a big, dumb, sack o’ duh when I realized how easy it would be to make gluten free almond poppy seed muffins by simply tweaking our favorite orange cranberry muffin recipe.  My husband loves almond poppy seed muffins, so I was excited to finally make a gluten free version that tastes as good as any boxed mix from the grocery store.  These come together quickly with Pamela’s Gluten Free Pancake and Baking Mix.  However, this mix contains powdered milk, so it’s not dairy free (even though I use almond milk for added flavor).  

2012 Update: Scroll down to the bottom to see the instructions for a Gluten Free Lemon Poppy Seed Muffin variation.  These soft muffins with a delicate crumb remind me of the old Krusteaz muffin mixes I used to make.  So yummy!

Almond Poppy Seed Muffin

2 c. Pamela’s GF Pancake and Baking Mix (or other Bisquick-type baking mix)
1/2 c. sugar
1 T. poppy seeds
1 c. almond milk (although regular milk should work fine)
1 egg
2 T. oil
1/2 tsp. almond extract
Powdered sugar glaze, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Combine baking mix, sugar, and poppy seeds in a medium mixing bowl.  Stir in milk, egg, oil, and almond extract.  Pour batter into 12 greased muffin cups.

Bake 18-20 minutes.  Cool for 5 minutes, then remove from pans and drizzle with glaze, if desired.  I made a little glaze with powdered sugar, almond milk and vanilla, but I thought the muffins tasted fine without it.

Gluten Free Lemon Poppy Seed Muffin Variation:
To make lemon poppy seed muffins, simply substitute lemon extract for the almond extract, increase the sugar to 3/4 c., and use regular milk instead of almond milk.  To make the glaze, use lemon juice or lemon extract instead of vanilla.

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It seems like almost every day there is an editorial in the newspaper from a Christian who is trying desperately to defend God – or rather, his or her view of God and Christianity.  I came across a DVD recently from a Christian scientist who is trying to rally Christians around the cause of defending the 7-day creation theory, claiming that the authority of scripture is at stake if we don’t.  Why is it that we Christians, who know that the truths of the Bible can only be accepted through faith, seem so intent on defending the authority – or our own interpretation – of scripture?  Does God need us to defend him?

In the book of John, chapter 2, Jesus drives out the money changers from the temple, saying, “Don’t turn my Father’s house into a marketplace!” (v. 16).  The Jewish leaders demanded that Jesus prove he had the authority to do this by performing a miracle.  Here it is, a perfect opportunity for God to defend himself.  All Jesus had to do was perform a miracle and they would know that he is the Son of God.  Proof.  The religious leaders wanted it then, and so do we today.  We want to know that we’re not basing our beliefs on a lie.  Before we go against the status quo, we want to be sure that God is real.

So what’s wrong with that?  As rational beings, created in God’s image, isn’t it our duty to thoroughly test our beliefs?  Absolutely!  But our quest for truth should be motivated by our desire for greater understanding of and fellowship with God, not so that we can prove to everyone that we are right and they are wrong.  The Pharisees of Jesus’ day who were demanding proof, loved quoting scripture as a way to make themselves look good and point out the flaws in others.  But before we join Jesus in righteous anger against the Pharisees, perhaps we all (me included) need to take a long, hard look in the mirror.

Do we quote the scriptures on the evil of divorce as a way of ignoring the needs of the single mother in our congregation?  Do we rail against abortion, but refuse to help the courageous ones who choose life?  Do we pride ourselves on tithing, but refuse to help our Christian neighbor who’s struggling to put food on the table?  Oh, if only Jesus would prove that he is God, then it would be so much easier to follow him because everyone would know we made the right choice.  But Jesus isn’t in the business of making himself or us look good.  His goal was, and is, to bring glory to the Father.  When we beat others down by quoting a few choice scriptures in an effort to defend God, destroying opportunities for relationship in the process, are we really following Jesus’ example of doing everything to the glory of God alone?

Christ’s answer to the Jewish leaders’ demand for proof was, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19).  And just in case we didn’t get the reference, John goes on to clarify in verse 21, “But by ‘this temple,’ Jesus meant his body.”  Yes, Jesus gave us proof of his authority.  Death could not claim him.  Christ rose from the dead, conquering sin and death once and for all.  We cannot prove that God created the earth, and yet here it is.  We cannot prove to someone who does not know Christ that he exists, and yet he lives in our hearts.  No argument on earth can destroy him.  He is.

So if God doesn’t need us to defend him, what does he desire of us?  “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself'” (Luke 10:27).

We are loving God with our hearts when we look to the scriptures as our path to a deeper relationship with our God and Savior, instead of as a means to point out the offenses of others; when we pray with the psalmist, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).

We are loving God with our soul when we surrender our desire to be seen as right in the eyes of others, and exchange it for the desire to be like Abraham, whose faith was credited to him as righteousness (Romans 4:3).

We love God with all our strength when we acknowledge to him that we are weak and in need of God’s strength that is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9); when we realize that it is only in his strength that we can live a holy life, not by adhering to a strict moral code.

We love God with our mind when we heed the words of the Apostle Paul, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is” (Romans 12:2, NLT).

We are loving our neighbor when we help those who are in need; when we use scripture to build others up, rather than tear them down.  (That doesn’t mean we never say anything confrontational, but it means that we speak the truth in love, with the goal of restoring fellowship.)  We are more likely to draw our neighbors to Christ through our love than through our persuasive arguments.

Jesus could have proved to the earthly authorities that he was the Maker of Heaven and Earth, Almighty God, the King of Kings.  Instead, he chose to die on a cross to prove to all of us sinners that God is love.  God doesn’t ask me to defend him, he asks me to love him and allow him to continue demonstrating his love for others through me.

Irony Note from the Author:
I’m aware of the irony that I am using scripture to back up my view that we shouldn’t use scripture as a weapon to prove that we are right.  I cite scripture in my posts because I don’t want to just proclaim my views, I want to make sure that what I’m saying is based on God’s Word.  However, God’s “Word” is the person of Jesus Christ.  My goal in these posts is always to point others to Christ, not to persuade you to think and act like me.  In fact, my daughter mentioned the other day, “Mom, I want to be like you when I grow up.”  I was flattered for about two seconds, then immediately said, “When you grow up, I don’t want you to be like me, I want you to be like Jesus.”  The Christian walk will look different on everyone.  We can be unified as followers of Christ, but have different views and opinions on matters not essential to salvation.  I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, nor do I want others to be my disciple.  My goal is not to get followers of my blog, but to encourage others to be followers of Christ. 

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Parenting Without Regrets

Is it possible to parent without regrets?  Everyone has character flaws and bad days, so I imagine we can all think of times when we wish we had responded differently to our kids.  We recently watched the movie, “Courageous,” which is aimed at fathers.  I challenge any man to watch that movie and not squirm.  The snarky side of me wanted to tell my daughter to ask my husband to dance with her, just to see how many times he’d give in to guilt this week and do it.  (The week’s not over…)  Even though no parent is perfect, I do think it’s possible to make choices that allow you to be your best as a parent and not wallow in the sea of regret.  How?

Live In The Present
I don’t know why it’s so hard for us to be present in our kids’ lives.  If you’re a planner, like me, it’s easy to pass through an entire day preparing for the future (which may not even go according to your plans) and completely miss the adventure of today.  I used to spend hours planning vacations so we could enjoy a magical week together, but I wonder how many magical moments I missed out on during the planning process.  Sometimes we’re so battered and beaten by our mistakes and failures that we let the past define our choices instead of moving forward.  But parenting without regrets means being present with your kids, seizing opportunities to enjoy the fleeting moments of childhood together (which, at our house, currently means shooting each other with Nerf dart guns).

Live Seasonally
Parenting without regrets also means saying no to commitments that aren’t critical for you personally to do – my rule is that if I won’t be missed, I don’t need to do it –  so you can say yes to your kids more.  When my daughter was a toddler, she was constantly asking me to do puzzles with her or play with her, and I would hear myself saying no.  A lot.  I realized that there were things I was doing that I could do after my children are no longer in my home, so I chose to step down from those things and save them for another season so that I could say yes to my kids more.  This season, these 20 years I have with children at home, is already half over.  I can sing in the choir and serve on committees when my children are grown, but I can only build forts with my son and twirl my little ballerina today.

Living seasonally also applies to our kids’ schedules.  I’m a firm believer in only having my kids involved in one or two activities at a time, and spreading out a variety of activities over the course of the year.  There are many wonderful options for children’s activities, but kids don’t need to do all of them all the time.  Being perpetually busy does not make you a better person, it just makes you stressed.  By guarding our time together as a family and making it a priority, we make room in our schedules for spontaneous play and enjoyment of one another, instead of being run ragged by our schedules.  It’s those moments of spontaneous play that bond us together and create lasting memories, but they won’t happen unless we intentionally leave enough room in our schedules to allow them to happen.

Live the Way You Want Your Kids to Remember You
This one concept has had the biggest impact on the choices I’ve made as a mother.  I used to feel guilty about sleeping in and having my kids come and beg me to get up and make them breakfast.  I would imagine them as adults, recalling their childhood mornings to a friend.  I didn’t like the picture I was painting in their memory, but I realized that I could change it.  I began to visualize what I wanted them to remember about their childhood.  I wanted them to remember that their mom got up and made her bed while they were still asleep.  I wanted them to recall seeing me fix breakfast for their dad and give him a kiss before saying, “I love you,” as he walked out the door to go to work.  I wanted them to remember seeing me go straight to the Bible afterward to have my quiet time, knowing that they were always welcome to snuggle with me while I read.  I desired for those snuggle times to turn into discussion times when they can talk to me about their deepest desires and questions.  These images that I visualized years ago have prompted me to make several gradual changes over the years.  The result is that this is how I started my day today (and yesterday, and the day before that).

Live Your Walk With Christ in Front of Your Kids
I used to think that devotional times needed to be private, when no one else is around.  While it’s good to have uninterrupted quiet time with God, I’ve realized that my kids need to see me modeling what Christianity is all about.  They need to see me reading the Bible, praying, tithing, singing a love song to Jesus, and being involved at church.  I need to invite them to help me prepare a meal or pick out items to go in a gift box for someone in need.  They need to hear the stories of God’s faithfulness to us, so that those stories will be incorporated into their story of God’s faithfulness to them.  I don’t know of anyone who regretted sharing their faith with their kids, but I bet there are plenty who regret that they didn’t.

Live By the Power of the Holy Spirit
None of these things can be done in our own strength.  None of it.  It’s only by the grace of God that I’m able to live in the moment, say yes to my kids, make intentional choices that help us live more joyful lives, and share my faith.  If you could fast-forward to the future and listen to your kids talking to their friends about their childhood, what would they say about you?  If the impression you’re leaving is not one you like, I encourage you to ask God what He wants your kids to say about you.  Then ask him for the wisdom and strength to live that life.  With God’s help, you can parent without regrets!

“Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again.  God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful” (1 Thess. 5:23-24 NLT).

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