Fudgsicles and Steel Wool

One night a couple of weeks ago, I made homemade fudgsicles for the very first time. I’ve been economizing wherever possible and this is one of my ways of trying to do that. Jennifer Neumann gave me the recipe about a year ago. While I was bringing the ingredients to a boil, I left the stove unattended for just about 1 minute, and sure enough, the pot boiled over. What a mess. It was very late, so I just did a very cursory wipe up and went to bed. And though it shames me to admit it, I did not get around to really cleaning it up until today.

My stove was grungy anyway, so I pulled out all the elements and took the burner pans off to wash them. Then I saw that I had even more of a mess under the burners and was also going to have some scrubbing to do after lifting up the stove top. So, I filled a bucket with soapy water and started one of the best arm workouts I’ve had in a while! I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed…..and scrubbed. First the burner pans. But, man oh man, the stuff was crusted on those things!! No amount of scrubbing was getting this stuff off.

Then I remembered that a friend of mine, Susanne Roman, had given me some cleaning supplies before returning to Salt Lake City after her stint here with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. Sure enough, there was one bunch of steel wool in the lot. Now, I don’t think I’ve ever used steel wool. I’m afraid to use it because it looks like it could take the enamel or paint off of anything. But I started using it on these burner pans. Well, probably most of you know what happened, as you have not avoided steel wool as I have. I could not believe how easily that steel wool cleaned those burner pans or been as delinquent in cleaning as I have been. So, then lickety-split, I applied the steel wool under the stove top and cleaned that up in a flash as well. “Why have you not tried this before,” I wondered to myself? Soap and water were useful, but could only do so much. Some of the work could only be done by steel wool. I could have scrubbed all day with soap and water to no avail – only the steel wool got the job done.

Over the past couple of days, I’ve been reading the Book of Mark with my church family. The book of Mark is written by a very pragmatic writer – he was kind of a “get to the point” kind of a guy. Anyway, by the time we get to Mark 2, Jesus has already stepped into the public eye and begun his ministry. He has begun forgiving, healing, preaching, driving out impure spirits, and calling disciples. As we delve into Mark 2, he is continuing to heal the sick and engage with the culture and call out disciples from that culture; but, now he is being watched very critically by teachers of the law – religious leaders of the day – and Pharisees. Pharisees were members of a particular Jewish sect that was known for its strict adherence to religious laws and practices.

The teachers of the law and Pharisees publicly refute Jesus’ divinity and the Pharisees pounce on every action Jesus takes or allows his disciples to take that is contrary to the laws handed down through Moses. What struck me on this reading was that Jesus was confronted regarding allowing his disciples to work on the Sabbath. By law, the Sabbath was a day of rest. In today’s world, if we were to examine the laws of the Sabbath back then, we would say that the Sabbath was a day of extreme rest with extreme consequences (i.e., death) for anyone not adhering to Sabbath laws.

Mark 2:23 tells us that Jesus’ disciples picked some grain on the Sabbath. And the Pharisees were quick to confront Jesus about it; they wanted to know why he allowed that. Jesus recounts a time when King David fed his hungry men bread that only the priests, by law, would be allowed to eat. And then he clarifies further:

“Then he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.’” Mark 2:27-28, NIV

In a very simple reading of this, to me, it is saying that Jesus is telling them that the Sabbath and all of the laws surrounding the Sabbath were designed to benefit man. Setting aside a day for communing with God and resting from all other work, as well as a host of other things, benefits man. Man does not benefit the Sabbath. God did not make man for the Sabbath. And so, Jesus is Lord even of the Sabbath – he trumps any laws or rituals or restrictions of the Sabbath.

In a sense, the Sabbath and its rules are tools and principles that aid us in living Godly lives. Men are not supposed to be tools for the Sabbath – though these Pharisees were just that!!

To the extent we can adhere to God’s laws, we benefit. But we are human, and as history has shown us, there is not one of us that can completely adhere to God’s law – by nature, we sin. The law can only take us so far. You can try and try and try……and try. But only the steel wool – Jesus – can eradicate every stain in an instant, and make us brand new once again. All I have to do is give everything I know about me to everything I know about him – ask him to come into my heart.

Lord, thank you for the gift of your son, Jesus, who cleans my heart every time I expose it to him, just as the steel wool cleans the mess on the stove upon application. Thank you for good friends that share recipes, cleaning supplies and lives with me! Amen.

Homemade Fudgsicles

1-1/2 tsp Knox gelatin powder (1/2 of 7g pouch)
2 cups water

1 cup NesQuik powder

1/3 cup sugar

2 cups milk

Measure 1/4 cup water. Sprinkle gelatin powder over water, mix. Add 1/4 cup boiling water, stir until gelatin dissolves completely. Add remaining water (1-1/2 cups) to gelatin/water mixture. Stir together well. Set aside.

Combine NesQuik powder and sugar in a 4L saucepan. Stir in gelatin mixture and milk. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Let cool slightly. Stir, then pour into popsicle molds or ice cube trays. FREEZE.

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Mondays with My Old Pastor – by Jose Luis Navajo

Your ministry has become a burden. You are receiving calls of complaints. You are exhausted beyond measure and even explanation. Your life is being ruled more by your appointment calendar than the Word that was to provide direction for your life. Burnout – are you there now or have you ever been there?

This book is the true story of Jose Luis Navajo’s state of burnout at 46 years of age and his remarkable recovery through the counsel of someone who had walked before him – his old pastor. Over the course of twelve Mondays and an unexpected meeting as well, Navajo’s old pastor shares with him fifteen principles that bring him back from the brink of leaving the ministry.

Told in a charming narrative style, this book is best read with a day or two between chapters so as to maximally absorb the message of each chapter, or meeting with the old pastor. Originally written in Spanish, North Americans may find that the style is simpler, gentler and lacks the hard edge of sophistication they are used to from authors here. However, this does not detract from the book’s purpose, which is to share important truths about the true calling and nature of serving God. I encourage you to read this book and see if you are not touched, as I was, by one man’s desire to leave a lasting legacy to another man who is at the time fairly desperate for assistance and in the end, grateful for the opportunity to carry on in the tradition of faithful service.

Each chapter captures one meeting between Navajo and his old pastor who has terminal cancer and is experiencing his final three months of this life. A bond between the two was obviously there beforehand, but clearly deepens significantly through the teaching and learning of the principals shared. The principals are shared through stories and modern day parables, which enhance the learning.

Enjoy!

BookSneeze® has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book.

Rambling Thoughts on Daniel

    It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel.  The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss.  Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.  At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so.  They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.   Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”  Daniel 6:1-5

It seems like sometimes, when someone distinguishes himself or herself with excellence, all of a sudden there are a rush of people to try and thwart his or her success.  I’ve observed this in the workplace over and over again.  As soon as recognition comes to a person, it is as if there is a red flashing light over their head and they are carrying a sign that says “Please Attack”.   

In the case of Daniel, a number of people actually went out of their way to try and find grounds for charges against Daniel.  They examined everything Daniel did with a fine-toothed comb to use vernacular.  And they examined everything from the worst possible vantage point to be sure.  But they could not find anything. 

    So these administrators and satraps went as a group to the king and said:  “May King Darius live forever!  The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den.  Now, Your Majesty, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.”  So King Darius put the decree in writing.  Daniel 6:6-9 

And so, like many of us, instead of deciding that Daniel was the right person for the job that King Darius had laid out, they decided to take matters into their own hands.  In this case, they decided to trick the king and set Daniel up for failure.  

Look, if you are a leader or aspire to be a leader, you better have a spirit of discernment about you.  Note in the earlier verses that the satraps were made accountable to the administrators so that the King might not suffer loss.  Yet what was his leadership team actually doing – setting him up for a loss.  One clue that your team may not be acting in your best interests might be the number of “Your Majesties” that get thrown into the conversation or the team seeming to want you to take an action that overly honors you.  Another clue might be that they want you to put something in writing or sign something fairly quickly.  Hire well.  

One thing I do find rather interesting is that despite his high regard for Daniel, apparently, he did not think of the impact on Daniel or notice Daniel’s absence from the group.   As a leader, make sure you check with your most trusted leaders on life or death matters for sure.  If one is missing from the decision-making group, there might be a reason for their absence and it might be a reason that interests you.

    Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem.  Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.  Daniel 6:10

Notice how Daniel actually did not overreact – in fact, he did not really react at all.  He continued about his business and continued praying in his usual fashion to the Lord.  I have no doubt that Daniel knew exactly what was going on.  He was a very wise young man and my guess is he knew all about the various attempts to find fault with him and ultimately to frame him.  And yet, there is absolutely no indication that he did anything differently upon these occurrences.  He knew he was on solid ground and doing the right thing.  As a leader, remember that just because someone takes action that is wrong and may appear threatening to you, does not mean you need to take action or change something. 

    Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help.  So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree:  “Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human being except to you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into the lions’ den?”

    The king answered, “The decree stands – in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.”

    Then they said to the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, Your Majesty, or to the decree you put in writing.  He still prays three times a day.”  When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him.

    Then the men went as a group to King Darius and said to him, “Remember, Your Majesty, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed.”

    So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den.  The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”

    A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed.  Daniel 6:11-17

Notice that Daniel asks God for help – God is the only one whose hands are not tied in this situation.  Daniel doesn’t ask the king for help – King Darius tied his own hands with the edicts his corrupt minions had him sign into law.  And indeed, though he tried to rescue Daniel, King Darius could not break his own laws to do so.  When in trouble, seek the help of someone with enough authority and power to actually help you.  Many times, the only one with enough authority and power to help you is the God of the universe – this was certainly true in Daniel’s case.  

And as a leader, don’t be deceived by a false sense of power.  Even kings have to abide by laws. 

Now, Daniel did not run away, did not resist the law, did not complain or wail or cry according to this account.  He knew what was going to happen.  He knew he was going to have to go into the den.  Sometimes, there is no escaping your circumstances, even the bad circumstances in your life that are no fault of your own.  The only choice you may have is like Daniel’s choice at this point – he chose how he would face his circumstances.   He would look to his God for help and continue doing the right things. 

I don’t know if Daniel knew that a huge miracle was coming his way.  I tend to think not.  I believe that he had faith to pray for God to help him and faith to carry on doing what was right.  But I would guess that Daniel at the point of being thrown into the den was thinking he would die.  Other good men had died before him.  I don’t believe that we need to think or know that we will experience a miracle in order for a miracle to occur.  We just have to do what God would have us do:  look to Him for help and keep doing the right things.  And so, in this case, God had other plans than for Daniel to die.  

    Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him.  And he could not sleep.

    At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den.  When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”

    Daniel answered, “May the king live forever!  My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions.  They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight.  Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”

    The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den.  And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.  Daniel 18-23

Notice who spent a sleepless night – the king, the person who would be thought to have the most power and authority in this situation.  Leadership is not easy.  Mistakes are made, and when mistakes occur that affect the lives of others, leaders may spend some sleepless nights. 

Was the king concerned because he liked Daniel so much?  I think that factored into it, but I would guess that the king was more concerned because he realized that Daniel had served him faithfully and yet it was the king’s own recklessly signed law that was putting Daniel’s life at risk.  Is there anything worse than knowing that something you stupidly did affected the life of a beloved friend or loved one?

Additionally, the king stood to lose he who had distinguished himself with excellence, his best administrator, because of his own foolish action.  And looking at the rest of the leadership team, I imagine the king could envision the problems he would have should Daniel disappear from the picture.

     At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children.  And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.  Daniel 6:24 

If we are tempted to take matters into our own hands, it would be good to remember to check our hearts and make sure anything we don’t do anything underhanded or unethical as our actions also affect the lives of our families and friends.  More important, if we find ourselves wanting the recognition and success of others in their circumstances, as opposed to the love and caring of God in our own circumstances, the problem goes beyond ethics and leadership.  Faith is knowing you are loved even when you are being thrown to the lions. 

    Then King Darius wrote to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth:

    “May you prosper greatly!

    “I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.

             “For he is the living God

                and he endures forever;

            his kingdom will not be destroyed,

                his dominion will never end.

            He rescues and he saves;

                he performs signs & wonders

                in the heavens and on the earth.

            He has rescued Daniel

                from the power of the lions.”

So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.  Daniel 6:24-28

Today, what this speaks to me out of this passage is that the purpose of God’s miracle was really not about or directed toward Daniel at all.  God used Daniel and his circumstances to speak to “all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth” as the king did upon the Lord’s rescue of Daniel. Throughout this whole story, Daniel did what God requires – he prayed and looked to God for help and continued to do the right things.  A very powerful testimony of faith.

“Stained Glass Hearts” – by Patsy Clairmont

Writing out of personal experience with agoraphobia, family tragedy and a wonderful sense of humour in hindsight, Patsy Clairmont takes us on a journey that acknowledges the redemptive value of brokenness. In the first four chapters of the book, Patsy shares much of what has created her stained glass heart with stories of which most people will relate to several. With the wisdom of “60 plus years,” she conveys her stories in an easy to absorb way, and we are drawn into remembering our own stained glass stories. In the remaining chapters, Patsy takes on a journey of practices and activities that have “brought healing and color to [her] stained glass heart…”

Although captured by the imaginative title of this book, I was prepared to be underwhelmed. What I was unprepared for was the enlightenment that Patsy’s story is my story, too. The details are different, but the selfishness, depression, childish behavior, hurt, loss, longing and all the other dark experiences gained in a lifetime on this earth and relating with and to other people, also belonged to me. And that is the beauty of Patsy’s writing. Her humorous and yet pithy style reveal a genuineness that allows the reader to fully relate and jump into the story.

I was eager to learn how Patsy deals with the brokenness in her life, and chapters 5 through 13 are explorations into spiritual disciplines and practices presented in a non-preachy, experiential manner. In the form of stories and forays into the artistic world (each chapter includes various artwork to enjoy, readings, music, etc.), basic healing activities are discussed and explored.

Though not all the recommended art and readings were to my particular taste, I found my own stained glass heart being worked on in the reading of this book and I highly recommend it.

BookSneeze® has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book.