Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Week-Beginning

The past two days were made for a blog post. Mama and Daddy went out of town for their 20th anniversary. They left on Monday morning and got back this afternoon.

We really did have a wonderful time. I made chocolate chip cookies yesterday afternoon...no catastrophes. I heated up the casserole (Chicken and Broccoli, for those of you who are wondering) For those of you who aren't: read the story; get the recipe. Anyway, heated up the casserole...no catastrophes. I even remembered to put a cookie sheet under the baking dish so it didn't bubble over onto the bottom of the oven. This morning we had turnovers and fried eggs...no catastrophes. I even remembered to heat the oven to 475 degrees and then, when I put them in the oven to turn it down to 400 degrees. And, while the eggs didn't flip the way I wanted them to (were not restaurant-perfect circles) hey, they were fried eggs and they tasted like it. There were a couple more visits to the casserole dish (lunch and dinner tonight)....no catastrophes!

We also cleaned the whole house...I'm talkin', the whole thing! We dusted every room, vacuumed every room (and the stairs) cleaned the bathrooms, did all the laundry in such a way that there was nothing dirty when they got home (not even a dish towel), packed the boys' suitcases because we're headed to Atlanta tomorrow to be with family for Thanksgiving, cleaned the kitchen, etc. It was so much fun to get it all ready for them.

But, you know that a blog with the title "conversations on the mercies of the Lord in our day unto day lives..." can not have a blog post that doesn't talk about His wonderful mercies to us. Yeah? Yeah.

I was really nervous about going to bed last night without Mama and Daddy being here. So, I purposely stayed up late knitting so that I would be nice and tired and just fall right to sleep instead of imagining the bands of bad guys that might be coming up the stairs, or the fire that might happen in the middle of the night...and speaking of fire, "did I turn off the stove after dinner, or not?" So, I was very tired when I went to bed at 11:00 last night. And, the Lord was so good: I always sleep better when it rains. I don't know why, I just do. And the Lord sent rain last night. Not a thunderstorm, just a steady, calm rain. So, I didn't hear any weird noises...just the rain and I went right to sleep and didn't wake up until this morning. My first thought when I woke up was, "oh! it's morning! The Lord is so good to us." He truly is so good.

And so, as we enjoy this Thanksgiving week may we be mindful of all His goodness to us and be truly thankful.

"All praise to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly more than we can ever ask or think!"

I do hope all our Talk Time readers have a wonderful week...giving thanks to our gracious Father who has blessed us so richly and done such great things for us. We have every reason to be a truly thankful people. And, if you didn't read Mrs. Higgins' post the other day...don't miss out on some wonderful reminders of "all His unspeakable gifts to us."

In Him, with much rejoicing for the great things He has done,

Sarah
p.s. Lord willing, when I get back from Atlanta (after a nice vacation with, Lord willing, lots of time to read) I'll have some book club posts, with many quotables :)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Do you have a heart of thanksgiving?

There is a song by Casting Crowns which is called “I will praise you in this storm”. I listen to it often and I am reminded that this is what we are to do in the midst of life’s storms. We are to remember, like Job did in the midst of loosing everything he had, to say “‘The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.’ In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.” Job 1:21,22.

We all know this is how, as Christians, we are to respond. The difficulty comes when we are faced with the reality of the storm and find ourselves fretting and fearful. How can we turn a heart that is fretting into a heart that is resting with thanksgiving? The simple answer is “the just shall walk by faith”. As Jesus reminded the disciples in the midst of the storm "Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?" Mark 4:40.

Do we see the storms of life as gifts of mercy or do we see them as interruptions and failures which cause us to be ungrateful and fearful? How can we truly be thankful and say with David “It is good for me that I have been afflicted” Ps 119:71.

We must view the storms the same way we view the blessings of God. They all come from a hand of loving kindness. They are gifts of mercy toward us for what they produce in us, if we see them through eyes of faith. When we see the blessings of God we are quick to be thankful for His lovingkindness but when we are afflicted we are not so quick to be thankful. I have to ask, are we truly thankful when we see the blessings or has that in itself stemmed from selfishness (my happiness, my comfort)?

As John Piper puts it, faith is as easy as dropping the nut. We must drop the fears and frustrations before we can lay hold of the Savior. We must look at what the cross of Christ gave us and look at it fully before we are able to rest our hearts in thanksgiving. Has not God said “You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, For in Yah, the Lord, is everlasting strength.” Isa 26: 3, 4. Do you see what that verse is saying? Who keeps us in perfect peace? How is that done?

Cultivate a heart of thanksgiving by looking at the loveliness of Christ and you will have a heart of thanksgiving during the storms. May it be a true heart of thanksgiving not one that bloomed from selfishness.

Let me leave you with a hymn to sing in your hearts.

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and bless├Ęd peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.


Mrs. Higgins

Monday, November 17, 2008

"Quarry us deep"

We used this Puritan prayer yesterday morning as our confession of sin at Redeemer. It was so good...so all-encompassing...so rich: it just cut straight to the heart. I think I read it about 5 times yesterday. Now it could just be that I had a rough week of seeing way to much of my sinfulness and not enough of my Savior. I get into this downward spiral when I start to look inward: into my heart. Ya know, the Gospel is not in our hearts! It's just not there guys! It's so not of the flesh...not of the world. And so I get very down and very discouraged when I start to look at myself and not at my Savior. I was tellin' one of my buddies this past week: it's like I'm lookin' at my feet, makin' sure they're movin', instead of lookin' at my King and makin' sure that I'm headed in the right direction. Ya know, we're on a hill (a slippery slope) so of course our feet are gonna be movin'...it's a hill! So, instead of makin' sure that my feet are movin' I need to look at my King...at my Savior...and make sure that they're movin' in the right direction...that I'm steppin' heavenward! So, perhaps this confession of sin was only "that good" to me because I had more of a downer week. But then, I'm thinkin' we're all sinners. So, Lord, just set our eyes on You, our King and our Savior, and "quarry us deep."

Lord Jesus, give me a deeper repentance, a horror of sin, a dread of its approach. Help me chastely to flee it and jealously to resolve that my heart shall be Yours alone. Give me a deeper trust, that I may lose myself to find myself in You, the ground of my rest, the spring of my being. Give me a deeper knowledge of Yourself as Saviour, Master, Lord, and King. Give me deeper power in private prayer, more sweetness in Your Word, more steadfast grip on its truth. Give me deeper holiness in speech, thought, action, and let me not seek moral virtue apart from You. I have no master but You, no law but Your will, no delight but Yourself, no wealth but what You have given, no good but Your blessing, no peace but what You have bestowed. I am nothing but what You make me. I have nothing but what I receive from You. I can be nothing apart from grace. Quarry me deep, dear Lord, and then fill me to overflowing with living water.

May the Lord bless your week as we seek His face and strive to live before Him with much rejoicing for the great things He has done! "Oh how great is the Lord and greatly to be praised." May He fill our week, our days, our moments, our lives, our souls, to overflowing with living water!

"All praise to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly more than we can ever ask or think"...and He's not done yet...until we see Him face to face in glory and we are "perfect and complete; lacking in nothing."

Miss Blair for the Novelteatalkers

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Book Club -- Institutes of the Christian Religion

This morning I made it half-way through the Institutes. So of course I had to share it with you!...of course I did! And of course, what would be a book club post when Miss Blair's servin' tea at the tea table without a book club quote...or three?

*note: the Talk Time readers need to read Calvin's Institutes, Book Three, Chapters Six through Ten*

"How powerfully should it soften the bitterness of the cross, to think that the more we are afflicted with adversity, the surer we are made of our fellowship with Christ; by communion with whom our sufferings are not only blessed to us, but tend greatly to the furtherance of our salvation." –Book Three, Chapter Eight, Section One: Of Bearing the Cross–One Branch of Self-Denial
~
"...the cross of Christ then only triumphs in the breasts of believers over the devil and the flesh, sin and sinners, when their eyes are directed to the power of His resurrection." –Book Three, Chapter Nine, Section Six: Of Meditating on the Future Life

~
"The order of justification which it sets before us is this: first, God of His mere gratuitous goodness is pleased to embrace the sinner, in whom He sees nothing that can move Him to mercy but wretchedness, because He sees him altogether naked and destitute of good works. He, therefore, seeks the cause of kindness in Himself, that thus He may affect the sinner by a sense of His goodness, and induce him, in distrust of his own works, to cast himself entirely upon His mercy for salvation." –Book Three, Chapter Eleven, Section Sixteen: Of Justification by Faith. Both the Name and the Reality Defined

Have a great evening and Lord's Day tomorrow...He's preparing a feast for our souls! May He cause us to hunger and thirst after the good things that He has for His children.

With much rejoicing for the great things He has done,

Miss Blair for the Novelteatalkers

Friday, November 14, 2008

"...because He cares for you."

I read this quote this afternoon on the Girltalk blog (one of those "different cups of tea" we enjoy on our side bar). It was very much what I needed to hear and so I thought I would share it with all our tea-sipping, quote-loving, Talk Time-reading buddies. May the Lord teach us to commit our ways unto Him and lean heavily upon Him, our Savior, "because He cares for us."

“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.” Psalm 37:5-6

“Commit your way” literally means to “roll your burden” and so Mr. Spurgeon urges us to:

"Roll the whole burden of life upon the Lord. Leave with Jehovah not thy present fretfulness merely, but all thy cares; in fact, submit the whole tenor of thy way to him. Cast away anxiety, resign thy will, submit thy judgment, leave all with the God of all....The ploughman sows and harrows, and then leaves the harvest to God. What can he do else? He cannot cover the heavens with clouds, or command the rain, or bring forth the sun or create the dew. He does well to leave the whole matter with God; and so to all of us it is truest wisdom, having obediently trusted in God, to leave results in his hands and expect a blessed issue."

Sunday, November 9, 2008

For Sarah...

Good day!

Today is Sarah's 17th birthday!!!! I know I can't express all the ways she blesses me daily, but I want her to know how very dear she is to me. I am so thankful for someone so like-minded that it is hard to disagree on something (and when we do it's not a problem...we don't care!). We have the same visions and passions and purposes. We share the same passion for our callings both universal and particular. Sarah is such a thoughtful and caring friend, that whenever she gets a hint of something I'm struggling with, she writes the most encouraging emails (some of them are more like epistles). We talk every Saturday (almost without fail) about everything (all the issues...think about it, think think about it). Sometimes silly stuff, family updates, community updates, the "issues", and just life! Whenever I am struggling to see God's hand, Sarah is right there to point me back to the truth and all of His gracious promises. She has shared so many burdens with me. I am so thankful that the Lord has given her to me, even though we live in different states. I am always amazed at her sunny, cheerful disposition. She works hard to maintain joy, and never fails to encourage me to be joyful.

We are approaching our tenth year of friendship, and I am thankful that the Lord has protected our friendship for so long and kept us so close. Actually, I think that since we've moved away from each other, our friendship has grown closer. The best thing to me, is that we are able to goof off and yet at the same time, we share so many of the important things that the activities we are involved in will not have any great affect on our friendship. We may change and be involved in different things, but since we've cultivated the same passions and convictions, our friendship will not be affected. I just want to say how excited I am for this new season that we are about to enter. Many changes will take place and I'm glad I have Sarah with me sharing it all.

I love Sarah so much...and I wish her a

Happy Birthday!

Her Friend,
Lily

Saturday, November 8, 2008

You've probably already seen this....

A MESSAGE FROM THE QUEEN MUM

To the citizens of the United States of America from Her Sovereign
Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

In light of your failure in recent years to nominate competent
candidates for President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we
hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective
immediately. (You should look up 'revocation' in the Oxford English
Dictionary.)

Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical
duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (except Kansas,
which she does not fancy).

Your new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, will appoint a Governor for
America without the need for further elections.

Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire may be
circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed.

To aid in the transition to a British Crown dependency, the following
rules are introduced with immediate effect:

-----------------------

1. The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as 'colour,'
'favour,' 'labour' and 'neighbour.' Likewise, you will learn to spell
'doughnut' without skipping half the letters, and the suffix '-ize'
will be replaced by the suffix '-ise.' Generally, you will be expected
to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. (look up 'vocabulary').

------------------------

2. Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises
such as ''like' and 'you know' is an unacceptable and inefficient form
of communication. There is no such thing as U.S. English. We will let
Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be
adjusted to take into account the reinstated letter 'u'' and the
elimination of '-ize.'

-------------------

3. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.

-----------------

4. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns,
lawyers, or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and
therapists shows that you're not quite ready to be independent. Guns
should only be used for shooting grouse. If you can't sort things out
without suing someone or speaking to a therapist, then you're not
ready to shoot grouse.

----------------------

5. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything
more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. Although a permit will be
required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.

----------------------

6. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will
start driving on the left side with immediate effect. At the same
time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit
of conversion tables. Both roundabouts and metrication will help you
understand the British sense of humour.

--------------------

7. The former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been
calling gasoline) of roughly $10/US gallon. Get used to it.

-------------------

8. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French
fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling
potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut,
fried in animal fat, and dressed not with catsup but with vinegar.

-------------------

9. The cold, tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not
actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be
referred to as beer, and European brews of known and accepted
provenance will be referred to as Lager. South African beer is also
acceptable, as they are pound for pound the greatest sporting nation
on earth and it can only be due to the beer. They are also part of the
British Commonwealth - see what it did for them. American brands will
be referred to as Near-Frozen Gnat's Sweat, so that all can be sold
without risk of further confusion.

---------------------

10. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as
good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to
play English characters. Watching Andie Macdowell attempt English
dialogue in Four Weddings and a Funeral was an experience akin to
having one's ears removed with a cheese grater.

---------------------

11. You will cease playing American football. There is only one kind
of proper football; you call it soccer. Those of you brave enough
will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities
to American football, but does not involve stopping for a rest every
twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like a bunch of
nancies).

---------------------

12. Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to
host an event called the World Series for a game which is not played
outside of America. Since only 2.1% of you are aware there is a world
beyond your borders, your error is understandable. You will learn
cricket, and we will let you face the South Africans first to take the
sting out of their deliveries.

--------------------

13.. You must tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us mad.

-----------------

14. An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty's
Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all
monies due (backdated to 1776).

---------------

15. Daily Tea Time begins promptly at 4 p.m. with proper cups, with
saucers, and never mugs, with high quality biscuits (cookies) and
cakes; plus strawberries (with cream) when in season.

God Save the Queen!

PS: Only share this with friends who have a good sense of humour (NOT
humor)!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Caramel Pecan Fudge Brownies

So here's the recipe. I at least got one person to comment. I have to say, this recipe was grubbin'! I do NOT like nuts in anything chocolate but the brownies were so gooey and so fudgey and so....chocolate! that I didn't even taste the nuts. AND, I got lots of compliments on these. No catastrophes, no commiserating on this recipe. Enjoy!

Caramel Pecan Fudge Brownies
Fine Cooking recipe: November 2008

For the Brownies:
6 oz. (12 Tbs.) unsalted butter, cut into half-inch pieces; more softened for the pan
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 large eggs
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. table salt
3 3/8 oz. (3/4 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 oz. (1/4 cup) natural cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups pecans, coarsely chopped (OPTIONAL ;)

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9x13-inch baking pan.
Put the butter and chocolate in a medium heavy-duty saucepan over low heat and stir constantly until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until well blended. Gradually whisk in the sugar and then whisk vigorously until well blended. Whisk in the melted chocolate mixture, vanilla extract, and salt. Whisk in the flour and cocoa powder until blended. Stir in the pecans and then scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing it into an even layer with a spatula.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it, 20-22 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and, if necessary, gently press down and puffed areas with a spatula to make the top level. Let cool about 5 minutes.

For the Topping:
Make the caramel first:
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water

Fill a cup measure halfway with water and put a pastry brush in it; this will be used for washing down the sides of the pan to prevent crystallization.
In a heavy-duty 2-quart saucepan, stir the sugar, lemon juice, and 1/4 cup cold water. Brush down the sides of the pan with water to wash away any sugar crystals. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, occasionally brushing down the sides of the pan, until the mixture starts to color around the edges, 5-8 minutes. Gently swirl the pan once to even out the color and prevent the sugar from burning in isolated spots. Continue to cook until the sugar turns medium amber, about 30 seconds more. (Once the mixture begins to color, it will darken very quickly, so keep an eye on it.)

Remove the pan from the heat and carefully add the cream -- the mixture will bubble up furiously. Once the bubbling has subsided, add the butter and gently whisk until completely melted. Whisk in teh vanilla extract and salt. Pour the caramel topping over the brownies, using a spatula to spread it evenly over the entire top Let the brownies cool on the rack for 45 minutes and then refridgerate until the caramel topping is set, at least 1 hour.

For the Garnish:
5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 Tbs. heavy cream
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

Combine the chocolate and heavy cream in a small saucepan over low heat and stir constantly until melted and smooth. Pour the chocolate unto a small piping bag fitted with a 1/8-inch plain tip. (Or put it in a small zip-lock bag and seal the bag. Using scissors, snip off a corner of the bag to make a small hole.) Drizzle the chocolate over the brownies in a zig-zag pattern. Sprinkle the choppedd pecans over the top. Refridgerate until the chocolate is set, about 30 minutes.

Served chilled or at room temperature. (Well-covered brownies will keep at room temperature for up to 2 days and in the refridgerator for up to 5 days.)

Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day

"If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land." ~ II Chronicles 7:14

"Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation." ~ Psalm 146:3

May our confidence be in Him -- the Son of man and the Son of God -- with whom there is great salvation!

For the King and His Kingdom,

Sarah for the Novelteatalkers

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Time Change


Just a quick reminder (this might just be my shortest post ever...LILY! ;) that tonight is the time change. Of course, if I don't remind you then you'll just be early to church tomorrow. But, since I know you'll enjoy an extra hour...set your clocks back tonight...and enjoy waking up when the sun is shining!

I do hope you're all having a wonderful autumn day. Enjoy some extra sleep tonight before we "come into His presence with singing" tomorrow!

For the King and the Kingdom,

Sarah

Fabulous Fall Family Fellowship Food

This weekend is our (Redeemer Presbyterian Church's) annual Fall Family Fellowship. This is my most favorite annual Redeemer event. It's nice and cool outside. All the guys play tackle football together (the ladies [and the guys when they're not killing themselves playing football] get lots of socializing done). Some of the guys play Soccer at the same time. Some people (mostly ladies) enjoy Croquet, and others prefer Botchie Ball. The little kids are so adorable dodging between different games, trying not to get hit by the croquet ball, the botchie ball, the soccer ball, the football...oh yeah, and the frisbee. I'm not kidding, we have all these games going on at one time! It's a blast-and-a-half. Besides that, the food is so yummy. We have roast turkeys every year and then everyone brings sides and drinks and desserts to go with it. I mean, this is just my favorite. You'll just have to come with me some year to really understand how much fun we have!

So, for this, my favorite annual event, I had to make something chocolate, right? Of course I did! What would be a church event if I didn't bring something chocolate? Come on! So, I made Caramel Pecan Brownies. It's a Fine Cooking recipe. The picture just looked so yummy. Now, from this chocolate lover/snob, I do realize that this recipe is contaminated with nuts...just plain contaminated. BUT, chocolate covers a multitude of sins! So, I still think they look really yummy and for all of you out there who think chocolate can somehow be enhanced by nuts, you will probably enjoy this recipe even more than I will! (the recipe is really long so I'm not gonna type it out. BUT, if you really just think this looks outstanding then you can COMMENT and I'll get to do a whole new blog post and type out the recipe for you :)

Have a great, fall day!