Salt & Light

I often wonder what being a Christian looks like to outsiders, and I guess that opinion can vary depending on who the person has been exposed to.

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So many variables play into the way a person sees anything really. If you’ve had daddy issues or been in an abusive relationship, you’re more likely to not trust men in general. But then again, you may have a strong desire for male approval. Depending on how you were raised, you may prefer to be in control or be led. No matter the case, each person responds in their own way, with their own expectations, triggered by past experiences. Your personality type, gender and priorities factor greatly into how you react or respond to life’s journey.

I became a Christian when I was 9 years old. When I say I became a Christian, I mean that I “asked God into my heart”. To me, this means that I suddenly realized that I was a sinner (as much of a sinner as a 9 year old can be), and I accepted the gift of Christ dying on the cross in my place because I was a sinner. Did I understand what that meant? Sure. I understood salvation. I understood that the only way to get to heaven was through Jesus, and that without Him, I was lost. I got saved one night after a “Heaven’s gates, Hell’s Flame’s” play. If you don’t know what that is, don’t YouTube it because it will scare the Hell out of you- literally. I was afraid of going to Hell. In fact, I prayed many times that God “save” me when I was young because I was afraid that maybe I didn’t do it the right way. I mean God forbid that I die suddenly by falling off the jungle gym and go straight to hell because I didn’t pray the right way!

I became a Christ follower much later in life. What’s the difference, you ask? Allow me to explain this first hand. You become a Christ follower when you SEE God. No, I’m not explaining a supernatural experience, nor have I drunk any Kool-Aid lately. Perhaps a better way of putting it would be that your eyes are OPENED to God, and what He’s about. When you feel His grace and you “Let go and let God”, you free yourself of YOU, and there’s more room for Him. See, when your life is committed to God, you are aligned with His plan, and His plan is perfect. Always. As Christians, we seem to make it more about what we’re supposed to do, when He has already done what needed to be done. By doing this, we are limiting Christianity and God’s vision.

We also limit ourselves. I had a moment with God the other day. One of those “eye-opening” moments. I was praying to God about a person whom my heart was hurting for- An atheist, who had openly shared with me their views on their existence. Someone who politely listened to my viewpoints, and even politely responded that it was ok that I believed the way I did. I was particularly praying because I KNEW God had put this person in my life for a reason, but I was scared. Scared of saying the wrong thing and jeopardizing the slightest chance of them considering kicking the tires of Christianity. I was scared of the consequences I would face for confronting this person about their beliefs. Now a days, you never know what will happen when standing up for Christianity. But God calmed my fears and helped me understand (through prayer) that the consequences of this world are not His consequences.

Even going to Hell is not His consequence- it’s your choice. Consequences existed the moment a choice was made. When Adam and Eve deliberately sinned in the garden, they created consequences for actions. From that point on, we had a choice.

The point of this post, and what God has laid on my heart, is that we can’t just become a Christian for a “Get out of Hell free” pass. We also cannot become a Christian because we seek comfort- that’s essentially worshipping an idol. Being a Christian isn’t rainbows and roses. You will go through hardship, and you will be burned. The difference is- you can count on being a part of God’s plan and know that He will not harm you (Jeremiah 29:11).

I heard the most remarkable statement from my Pastor Sunday, and I will never let myself forget it. It fits perfectly into this story:

“If the only purpose to being a Christian was to go to heaven, then God would take our lives the moment we became one”.

I’m challenging myself this year to actively minister to at least my little world. I can’t be a perfect example of a Christian, but I can point you to a God who is perfect and wants you to be a part of His story. If you want to join me in this “Salt and Light” challenge, please let me know and I will personally pray for you.
Please, please, PLEASE pray for my friend, the atheist. Pray that God tugs at their heart. I don’t feel led to pursue them, but I truly believe God will open another window for me to share with them. I’m thankful to have planted the seed that I did, but it’s going to take more. It’s going to take God.

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What is Love?

My viewpoint on love has changed many times as I’ve gotten older. It’s comfort, it’s that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you’re with your significant other, it’s a verb or action, or better yet, it’s a reaction. There’s several Bible verses that talk about love, the most commonly used one is probably 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:

Love is patient, love is kind.
Love does not envy,
is not boastful, is not conceited,
does not act improperly,
is not selfish, is not provoked,
and does not keep a record of wrongs.
Love finds no joy in unrighteousness
but rejoices in the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.

        Obviously, according to 1 Corinthians, loving someone requires some sort of action. It’s more than just saying, it’s doing. But still, we can FEEL love, so it can’t be 100% action, can it?

Let me begin by saying something that most have you have heard often (whether you’ve grown up in church, or you go twice a year)- God sent his only son to earth to die for our sins so that we do not have to be separated from Him. I want to take a moment to dissect that statement- because if you have not seen the love of God, the previous statement means NOTHING to you. Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin is death. When Adam and Eve chose to disobey God in the garden of Eden, they chose the death penalty. They separated themselves from God, and because we are descendants of them, we are cursed in the same way. But God chose to send His son to take the penalty- death, so that we can spend eternity with Him. This act was the ultimate display of love. Thus, love comes from God (1 John 4:7 Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God).

        Ok, so how do we love? To me, the Biblical description of love is putting someone else’s needs before your own. The common denominator in 1 Corinthians is selflessness. Christ dying on the cross was putting our needs before His own. There’s no way around it, to love, you are going to have to sacrifice.

It’s easier (never a piece of cake!) to sacrifice for someone you care about. But, the Bible commands us to love everyone, even those who aren’t so easy to love. When Jesus was asked by a lawyer how he could inherit eternal life, He asked him what was written in the law. The lawyer replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself”. The lawyer asked who his neighbor was, and Jesus responded with the parable of the good Samaritan. At the end of the story, Jesus pointed out that instead of worrying WHO we love, we should be concerned with HOW we love:

36 “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37 “The one who showed mercy to him,” he said. Then Jesus told him, “Go and do the same.”

When we accept Christ’s unconditional love, we can better love others. In fact, we can’t truly love someone until then: 1 John 4:8,  The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

So love is: An action that occurs after a reaction of the feeling we have after God‘s love is revealed to us.

Jesus is the Reason for the Season

A phrase that has become sort of a cliche for fellow Christians has become infatuation of mine recently. Growing up, I can remember spending birthday money on Christmas presents for my parents and sister, and when I didn’t have money, I made things like pictures or those teeny potholders made with tiny looms. Christmas has never been about what I wanted, in fact I don’t remember many years that I wrote a list (though I’m sure I did sometimes). To me it has always meant an opportunity to give to others. At the age of 16 when I got my first job, I remember getting my first angel off of the Christmas tree in the mall, starting a tradition that would evolve over time but maintain the same concept of giving throughout the years for me.

While giving is such a blessing, I’ve come to realize this year that there is SO (so, so, so, SO) much more to Christmas than giving/receiving. I think the closer I get to having children, the more I think about the world THEY will grow up in and what kind of values I want to instill in them. My parents never “did” Santa (I’ll give you a second to recover from the shock…..). My mom believed that if she taught us Santa was real and then we later found out otherwise, yet we had SEEN him and sat in his lap, how could she convince us to believe in God, when we HAVEN’T seen Him. I never felt like I missed out, in fact on the contrary I felt that I could appreciate the gifts I received at Christmas a little better knowing that Dad worked hard to provide them for my sisters and I.

Great idea, but not enough to convince me that my children must be sheltered from the “pagan” symbol of Christmas. I mean, it’s a tradition so why would they doubt their salvation if they understand the concept of Saint Nick, right? Fast forward to a time where I’m more exposed to kids that are infatuated with a fictitional character that can give them everything they want, if they’re only good enough.. Whoa, whoa, WHAT?! You’re saying SANTA gets to decide whether I’m worthy enough for something I want? Santa kinda seems like a jerk… But I guess that’s how it goes in America now a days. You have to fix your problems to be accepted. Insecure about your body? Have plastic surgery! Don’t tell anyone about that addiction you’re battling with, or you won’t be “accepted”! If you’re a Christian, you better not be too open about your “religion” or you will offend someone!

How about we’re ALL imperfect, and we ALL make mistakes??? I’m not a Ga Ga fanatic, but there is SOME truth to her song “Born this Way”. Yes, God made us (Adam and Eve WERE made perfect, however after the Fall of Man, we became imperfect due to a human mistake) and we were born this way. And despite what some Christians think, Jesus died for us like we ARE. There is nothing you can do to earn or deserve what Christ did for you and I. Just let that sink in for a second…. You are imperfect. You fail. You think really horrible things about people you really can’t stand. You do things that would make your Mama faint. You fall. You give yourself too much credit sometimes. You try to make yourself look like someone you’re not. Gosh, when you think about it, if Santa WAS real, we’d all be in really big trouble! So, why do we make our kids believe that being a certain way that they are not, is the only way they’ll get toys? How many times have we given our kids toys for Christmas even though they were bad half the year? Maybe this is why our young people are so good at acting a certain way and fooling everyone when they’re falling apart internally….

I don’t want my kids to believe that being good is going to earn them material things, as much as I don’t want them to think that being good is what’s going to get them into heaven. Now that doesn’t mean that I won’t get them things for Christmas, I just want them to understand the TRUE meaning of Christmas. That Christ came down, and lived like you and I to save this world. God gave a gift to us- His Son, so that you and I could have the gift of heaven. And to celebrate this miracle, we give gifts to one another in love. Love that was shown through our wonderful Maker. In a sense, we try to be obedient (by good actions) as a reaction to His love, instead of reacting out of greed.

James 1:16-17 says “ 16 Don’t be deceived, my dearly loved brothers. 17 Every generous act and every perfect gift is from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning.”

So when the time comes and I have little ones to share Christmas with, not only will we read about the birth of Christ and thank God for giving the ultimate gift, but we will also thank Him for the jobs that He blessed Mommy and Daddy with, so that we can provide gifts to our loved ones and those in need. I’m certainly not pushing an agenda to rid the world of Santa, I just ask that you take a step back as a parent and think about how you present Christmas. What are your children learning from it? How can you make it less about us and more about Him?

Thanks for nothing

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November: The month we treat no differently than any other month, and are just as thankful suddenly remember everything we are thankful for, for at least 30 days (especially on facebook). Now, I’m not hating on those who partake in the annual “thankful challenge”, but for the love of God can we please be JUST as thankful, the other 335 days? I don’t mean to sound so cynical, in fact I meant that quite literally… “For the love of God”. Most of the challenge participants I’ve observed were thankful for God on 11/1, but what if your “thank-topics” from 11/2-11/30 ceased to exist. Your wonderful family that is always there for you, the amazing guy that God blessed you with, the position at work that you’ve worked hard for. What if you had….. Nothing, but God. Would you still be thankful?

There’s a well known verse that many people turn to when they’ve made up their own mind that they want something. It reminds me of the Beyoncé song ” If you like it, then you should have put a ring on it”. Instead it’s more like “If you want it, throw some Philippians 4:13 at it”. Out of context, the verse sounds as though we can jump off a bridge and survive because we have Jesus. It goes something like this: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” It’s a very uplifting verse. It makes you feel powerful… Like nothing will go wrong. We’ll just carry on through life, and any time we hit a rough patch, we’ll just pray and remind God about Phil. 4:13.

If you read last week’s blog, you know I mentioned reading the entire book of Philippians. That sounds a little melodramatic- it was only 4 chapters. However, you’ll recall I explained that Paul wrote Philippians… While in prison. So why is a guy who wrote the most empowering verse we’ve all come to love, locked up in prison in sub par living conditions? If he can do “all things”, why can’t he get himself out of prison? The answer? Satisfaction.

That’s not something commonly found in an age where we’re encouraged upgrade our iPhone every year. Where we work 5 days for the weekend, so we can relax for 2 days and then start the whole process over again. Where “satisfaction” occurs temporarily through alcohol or other substances. We’re only satisfied when something good happens, or when we throw a rug over the “dirt”, so to speak. Let’s back up a verse in the 4th chapter of Phillipians.

12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

In the midst of his suffering, Paul has found satisfaction in Jesus. Our anchor in the storm, the greatest portion, the peace that surpasses all understanding. It’s easy to be satisfied when everything is going our way, but when things go wrong- we assume, God is not there, or that he doesn’t care about us. If you are a Christ follower, a Christian, then everything you have belongs to him (John 3:30). While that may seem scary to those on the fence about Christianity, know that there is no greater security. Call it FDIC for your life. Let’s back it up a few more verses:

6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Notice that it doesn’t say, “Pray and he’ll give you exactly what you want, when and how you want it”. It basically says, don’t worry about anything and be thankful for everything. Pray about it, and God will give you peace. When we realize that everything is His, and that we have enough with Him alone, we can see that.. Every tiny breath, every moment spent, every lesson learned (good or bad!)…is a blessing from God. Yet, if they were all taken away in a moments time, He would still be enough.

If there’s one thing I need more of this Thanksgiving is contentment, and according to Paul, I won’t get it by filling up my need bucket. Rather, my joy comes from the Lord’s steadfastness.

Happy Thanksgiving Y’all!

Oh yes… and the recipe you’ve all been waiting for….

COWBOY CASSEROLE! 🙂

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I want to say this is a Kraft recipe, but I honestly can’t remember. I found it ages ago and have modified it over time. It has the likeness of a shepard’s pie with meatloaf topped with potatoes, but the mesquite BBQ taste gives it a unique and tasty twist. Enjoy!

ingredients

•1 pound ground meat lean

• 3/4 cup onion finely chopped

• 1/3 cup bread crumbs seasoned

• 1/2 cup Barbeque sauce

• 1 egg lightly beaten

• 1 tablespoon chili powder

• 3/4 teaspoon salt

• 1 cup crumbled bacon (I use the Oscar Meyer real cooked bacon pieces- see picture below)

• 1/4 cup crispy fried onions canned

• 2/3 cup Mexican blend cheese shredded

directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat 9×9 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine beef, onion, breadcrumbs, Barbecue Sauce, egg, chili powder and salt until well mixed. Gently press into bottom of baking dish.

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2. Bake uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes, or until cooked through. Carefully pour off any excess fat if needed. Meanwhile, start working on the mashed potatoes. In a large bowl, mix together hot Potatoes, milk (I substitute sour cream for a creamier consistency) and butter, and mash with a potato masher until smooth. For a smoother consistency, mix with an electric mixer to desired consistency. Stir in bacon and fried onions. Spread evenly on top of beef mixture and sprinkle with cheese

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3.Adjust oven to broil and place oven rack 6 to 8 inches from heat source.

4. Broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until cheese is lightly browned. Serve hot with additional Barbecue Sauce if desired.

Voila! This can be a meal in itself, but if you need it to go far, it is delicious with baked beans and/or corn. Enjoy!

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Don’t forget to vote on the main page of my blog for next week’s recipe by going to http://www.faithfoodandfashion.wordpress.com

God Bless!

Kaila

Words

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So here I go… Starting a blog. Am I a “blogger” now? Sounds so typically hipster.

I’ve always had a passion for writing, yet in my 25 years of living I’ve never kept a journal (ironic, huh?). I did write an epic superhero book containing all of 20 pages, as well as a “ghost” story before the age of 12- both of which will NEVER see the light of day, spare all humiliation. Nonetheless, prepare yourself for numerous type II errors and run-on sentences. While I know what they are, I have no respect for them. I would assume that a blog is a little more relaxed than an English 2111 paper, thus my interest in starting one.

For a while now, I have tossed around the idea of starting a blog, but I didn’t have a purpose for one. I was told by a good friend that I should start a blog on hair and fashion, but this didn’t seem like enough. I have the “gift of gab” as my boyfriend of 7 years, Ryan, would say and I love to share things by word of mouth, but taking the time to sit down and write about happenings has seemed to become a trend that stopped in my teens. I guess it all started when I began fervently praying for God to help me open up about my faith, and for Him to give me opportunities to share in ministry. I didn’t quite know what he had in store, but while reading His word and burning with the desire to tell someone…someone who needed it…about His love, it hit me.

We over complicate things. My main struggle was what if I said the wrong thing? What if I led someone away from Christ because I was a bad example? I won’t lie. I’m human. I sometimes get led astray by temptation and the “easy thing to do”. Nothing hurts me more than seeing a person hate Christianity because of hypocrisy. But, I’m not perfect. No one is. And if you’re reading this now, struggling with Christianity because of the examples you’ve seen, just know: It’s not about being like other Christians, it’s about becoming more and more like Him. If there’s one thing I want to emphasize, it’s that Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship.

There’s so much more I want to share, but I need more topics for later blogs. 🙂 Wait… Is that appropriate? Do people put emoticons in blogs? Whatever, this week my Bible will be bookmarked in Philippians to read Paul’s letters while imprisoned. This book is so inspirational to me, because, had I been unjustly imprisoned with access to a pen and paper (or stone and chisel… whatever they used back then), I can’t say my letters would contain such hope and joy. My hope while I read this is that I learn to find the joy in everything so that my “letters” to you all can be insightful and brighten your day.

In the meantime, I leave you with a delicious recipe I tried tonight, which is a copycat for a Disney Food and Wine special.  This comes from one of my favorite blogs http://www.disneyfoodblog.com/ . Next time, I promise to include more pictures of the process, but this time I only have one of the finished product.

Chow-dah!

New England Clam Chowder

Makes Approximately 8 Cups

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 2 cups clam broth (I searched high and low for this, but no dice, so I ended up using chicken broth)
  • 3 medium-sized red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 3 cups)
  • 2 (6 1/2-ounce) cans chopped clams, liquid reserved
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, crumbled
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil leaves, crumbled
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
  • 4 drops Tabasco sauce, or to taste
  • 2 cups half-and-half (I accidentally got heavy whipping cream but it was just as good!)

Instructions: 1. Melt the butter over medium heat in a 2-quart saucepan. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and set aside.

2. Heat the oil over medium heat until hot but not smoking in a 4- to 5-quart Dutch oven. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring, until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes.

3. Stir in the clam broth, potatoes, chopped clams with their liquid, thyme, basil, salt, pepper, and Tabasco sauce. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through.

4. Add the half-and-half and bring to a low boil over medium-high heat. Slowly add the butter and flour mixture, whisking constantly, until well blended. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the soup for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.