Thursday, December 18, 2008

Be Salty.

“Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” - Colossians 4: 5-6

Paul warns us to be particular in our exchanges with non-believers. He says that we should take advantage of every opportunity to share Christ with the utmost care. I love that Paul says our conversations with non-believers (and believers, for that matter) should be “seasoned with salt.” Today, salt is used to add flavor to food, but in Paul’s day it was used as a preservative. Although today’s use of salt would still work as a metaphor (as in be tasteful with your words), Paul is telling us to choose words which will prevent moral decay.

This message is so important because Christians are often watched and judged more closely than non-believers. We all know people who have written-off Christianity due to bad experiences they’ve had with Christians. As Christ-followers, we need to remember that we are ambassadors for Christ. We are His ears, mouth, eyes, etc. Everything we do and say reflects our Heavenly Father. While we aren’t perfect, we ought to be thoughtful in both the actions and words we choose. Are we choosing words that are salty and will lead others to know Christ? Or are we choosing destructive, unkind, vulgar words that will make an incorrect lasting impression on Him?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Vegetarian Chili

My mom and I made vegetarian chili for dinner last week. I was skeptical of the whole soy-meat thing, but it turned out to be really good. You can't even tell it's not meat...I promise...even ask my step-dad, he still doesn't know :) But if you must, replace the vegetarian meat with ground turkey. Enjoy!

Vegetarian Chili

1 tbsp. olive oil
½ medium onion, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. ground cumin
2 tbsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. salt
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
2 green bell peppers, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 (4 oz.) cans chopped green chile peppers, drained
2 (12 oz.) pkg. frozen vegetarian burger meat crumbles, thawed
3 (28 oz.) cans whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
2 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. ground black pepper
1 (15 oz) can kidney beans, drained
1 (15 oz) can garbanzo beans, drained
1 (15 oz) can black beans, undrained
1 (15 oz) can whole kernel corn, undrained

Heat olive oil in large pot over medium heat. Stir in onions and first 4 spices. Cook and stir until onions are tender. Mix in next 6 vegetable ingredients. When vegetables are heated through, mix in the vegetarian burger meat. Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and simmer for 5 minutes. Mix in the remaining ingredients, except the corn. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low, simmering for 45 minutes. Stir in corn and continue cooking for 5 minutes before serving.

TOTAL TIME: 1 hour 15 minutes

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Lesson on Forgiveness

I’ve never particularly had a problem forgiving other people. I find the negativity of disliking people exhausting and only more exhausting is the continuous effort involved in holding grudges. However, when I mess up, it’s a different story. I find it very difficult to forgive myself. Instead of clinging to God’s grace, I work tirelessly to convince myself that God is going to withhold blessings or punish me in some manner. Consequently, I end up feeling unworthy to come before God, rather than acknowledging that I too, am in need of a Savior. Recently, I read “Every Woman’s Battle” by Shannon Ethridge in which the author offered these sobering words:

“Do you know what you are saying about the blood that Jesus shed for you when you refuse to forgive yourself for your past? You are saying that His blood wasn’t good enough for you. It didn’t have enough power to cleanse you.”

Wow. I had never thought about it this way. I always imagined God feeling better that I couldn’t forgive myself, and hopefully having pity on me. I imagined His thinking, “She’s too hard on herself.” Rather, I’ve come to realize that I am insulting my Heavenly Father by imagining He is not big enough to wash me clean. Ethridge went on to illustrate Jesus opening a prison door and allowing the prisoner the choice to walk out. He offers forgiveness to all who are bound by the chains of sin. However, each must choose to accept freedom for themselves.

In a society where almost nothing is free, it’s hard to accept this gift without feeling the need for repayment. I usually promise future good deeds. But this week, I’m going to make a change. I’m not setting myself up for failure by expecting a total transformation of my old ways, but I’m making a small step in the hope that with each step, I get closer to a new me. This week, I will bring my sins immediately to Christ and ask forgiveness, rather than wallowing in shame. I will remind myself daily that “righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:22-24). This week I will not offer God my miserably inadequate works in exchange for forgiveness, but will attempt to accept it both freely and gratefully.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Volunteer Opportunity

For anyone who lives in the Atlanta area that is interested in ministering to the homeless, I have a great suggestion. Periodically, I've worked with a ministry called Seven Bridges, based in Smyrna. Weekly, volunteers visit homeless people living under 7 different bridges in Atlanta. Volunteers hand out sack lunches, blankets, gloves, and anything else the homeless may need. They also have the opportunity to talk and pray with the homeless, when requested. It is a really neat experience. You will never look at a bridge the same again. (

Here are a couple of pictures from under the bridges:

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

It's not about giving more, but about giving for a different reason...

My mom gives me a lot more credit than I deserve. When she initially suggested regularly making muffins for the homeless, I wasn't exactly enthusiastic. After all, I started taking a PB&J sandwich with me to class primarily so I wouldn't feel pressured to give money. I knew exactly what would happen if I started giving out money. I would be broke and the money would likely be used for alcohol or drugs.

Day after day I passed homeless people begging for money. One time I offered something to eat, and received the response, "If it doesn't have alcohol in it, I don't want it." That was irritating. Why should I spend my time and money trying to help people that didn't want to help themselves? I saw myself becoming less and less sensitive to the needs of the homeless and I hated how I felt. I knew in my head that God commands us to feed the hungry, I just didn't feel it in my heart. What happened to me? I used to be so passionate about the less-fortunate. Going to school downtown was sucking the compassion right out of me.

Not so coincidentally, three weeks later God spoke to me through my pastor, Andy Stanley ( - Confessions of a Fixer). Andy spoke about all the reasons why people give. Some give for the tax deduction or to make themselves feel better, among other reasons. But the reason that resonated with me was to fix a problem or make a situation better. I give to charitable causes because I want to make someone's life better. Not that that's a bad reason to give, but it isn't the primary reason to which we should give. As Christians, we should give because God gives to us, because we want to be like our Father, and because God commands us. God tells us (Isaiah 58:7) to feed the hungry. That means that you feed the hungry...not feed the hungry if they want to cooperate with your plan to fix their lives.

So, I knew what I had to do. I had to feed the homeless. And you know what? As I started feeding them and talking to them, I began to feel more compassionate. I began giving with a glad heart. I felt happy to give, not only to those who are grateful (Luke 6:33), but to those who are unappreciative and those who have no desire to improve their lives.

For me, there must be no distinction between the deserving and undeserving, because God made no distinction when He sent His son to die for us all.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Meet Terry.

Meet Terry. After passing out a dozen pumpkin muffins (which Terry turned up his nose at), I finally convinced him to let me take his photograph. And I mean finally. He was concerned, among other things, that his picture would end up in the AJC (Atlanta Journal Constitution). It wasn't until I told him that my mom wanted to see his picture, that he recluctantly agreed.

I'm not really sure if this dude was homeless, but he sure did enjoy the muffins!!

Oh, and by the way, this picture is for sale....any takers??

Thursday, November 20, 2008

But for the grace of God, there go I...

Ok, so this is the history of the muffins...

After graduating from college, Mallory moved home from Alabama to begin the second leg of her college schooling...her Master's Degree. Since we live 30 miles or so north of Atlanta and there was a raging gas shortage going on, she decided to start taking mass transit - MARTA. Walking to and from the train station, Mallory would pass many homeless people. Having been blessed with a caring heart, an extra peanut butter and jelly sandwich was made and served with a bag of chips or whatever was abundant in our pantry. However, it didn't take long before there were more homeless people than a student can afford peanut butter for.

Then, one day, Terry happened. Terry was a regular recipient of whatever leftovers Mallory could find. He showed his appreciation by singing to her and chaperoning her on her walk to keep her safe (from the other homeless?). He also spoke to her heart about the plight of the homeless in downtown Atlanta.

Mallory shared, with me, her desire to make a difference. Together we decided that we can't solve world hunger, but we can make a contribution toward the betterment of mankind through something a muffin. Who doesn't like a homemade muffin made with wholesome ingredients and lots of love?

To date, we've made a batch of fruity granola muffins with a little too much applesauce. One good thing about baking for the homeless - they love it all! Our second batch was a recipe from the Food Blogga ( These were de-lish-ous! We followed that up with another of the Food Blogga's recipes for healthy scones. Only problem is we were getting a little too full of ourselves, as potential world class bakers, and forgot the sugar....and the vanilla. Still, we thought they were OK. We'll see what Terry thinks tomorrow.

Tonight, we made sugar free pumpkin muffins. All the recipes are below. Don't forget the sugar and vanilla!


Health Nut Muffins

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 tbsp. flaxseed
1 ½ tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
1 cup low fat buttermilk
3 tbsp. honey
1 cup light brown sugar
4 tbsp. smart balance butter substitute, melted
1 large egg
2 egg whites
¼ cup golden raisins
¼ cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts
2 tbsp. sunflower seeds

Place rack in center of oven. Preheat to 375 degrees. Grease 12 muffin pan. Combine flours, flaxseeds, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon in large bowl and stir well. In a separate bowl, combine buttermilk, honey, sugar, smart balance, and eggs. Whisk well. Add to flour mixture and stir just until combined. Fold in raisins, walnuts, and half flower seeds. Spoon batter evenly into 12 muffin cups. Sprinkle remaining sunflower seeds on top. Bake 16 – 18 minutes or until tops are golden and cake tester comesout clean. Transfer to rack to cool.

TOTAL TIME: 35 minutes


Heart Healthy Date, Fennel, and Pistachio Scones

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
6 Tbsp Smart Balance, chilled (butter substitute)
1/4 cup non-fat cottage cheese
1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 tsp orange zest
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup fresh Medjool dates, coarsely chopped (about 10-12)
1 Tbsp fennel seeds, toasted
1/4 cup pistachios

Optional egg wash for top of scones: 1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place oven rack in the middle of the oven. To toast the fennel seeds, add to a dry skillet over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, until aromatic. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a bowl, whisk cottage cheese, buttermilk, and vanilla; set aside. In another bowl, mix dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add chilled butter (in small pieces), and mix with a pastry blender or fork, until a coarse meal forms with tiny pea-sized butter pieces. Mix in orange zest, dates, fennel seeds, and pistachios. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and, using a fork, mix until just combined. Do not over mix or the dough will become leaden.

Using a floured surface, shape the dough into a disk, about 1/2-inch thick. With a wet knife (to make slicing easier) cut the dough into 8 triangular shaped scones. Place scones on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet leaving about 2 inches between them.

If using, then brush egg wash over the tops of the scones before baking. Otherwise, place in oven.

Bake scones 15 minutes, or until puffed and golden. Once baked, transfer to a rack to cool.


Sugar-Free Pumpkin Muffins

1 and 3/4 cups of whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 eggs, lightly beaten ( or 4 egg whites)
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup apple sauce
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup water
3/4 cup raisins (or coconut, seeds, nuts)

Mix wet and dry ingredients separately, then mix together until combined. Bake in muffin cups at 350 for 20-25 minutes.