An answered prayer. I made two birthday cakes for two very special people! Thank you for your prayers. I cannot express how much your prayers have meant. I am on the mend; however, from what I understand, it's going to be a while before I'm completely back to normal.
I made an applesauce cake with cream cheese frosting for my son. And the picture above is the chocolate cake with chocolate frosting I made for my daughter. That's the one I'm going to write about today.
This recipe is not one I've made before. Sarah picked it out from her cookbook. We made it together. It was special. I used a square cake pan. I know. It doesn't look square. I'll get to that in a bit. When I was flipping it over on the rack, only some of the cake came out. I was bummed. My wonderful husband cut the remaining pieces out of the pan for me. I had a plan, though. I was convinced I didn't have to make another one. I had a vision of piling all the pieces on top. I was convinced that I could make it work.
I knew that I wanted to have a circle cake, so it would fit on the cake plate. I needed something to trace. I used the cover of the round storage container that holds our peanut butter. We don't keep our natural peanut butter in the jar. One of my brilliant friends recommended mixing it, so the oils aren't all at the top making a huge mess every time we make a sandwich. Brilliant. I cut my cake. That went relatively well.
I didn't really want to make a double batch of frosting. I knew that I needed something to make all my pieces "stick" together. Since I had the peanut butter out, I slathered a layer on top of the circle piece. It was a spur of the moment decision. I carefully placed the biggest cake pieces on top. Then I started filling it in with little pieces. They weren't stuck together by anything. I just piled pieces (crumbs really) on top. I told myself, at least it will taste good.
Next, it needed to be frosted. Now the color of the frosting was slightly lighter than the cake, so the crumbs that were inevitably coming off and mixing with the frosting were so obvious. Not to mention that the top of the cake was not even. It was pretty bumpy. Don't forget it was just a bunch of cake pieces on there. I kept telling myself, at least it will taste good.
Since it was bumpy on top and I could clearly see the crumbs in the frosting, I decided to look through the cabinets to find something to put on top. I just wanted to distract from the bumps. I had no desire to go out to the store. I found some brown sugar. I sprinkled some of that on top. I found a few other things to sprinkle on top. I wasn't convinced that it looked any better. At least it will taste good. And maybe it won't look so bad in the pictures that I take to remember this day forever.
My husband said that it looked pretty nice. To be honest I thought he was being nice. We had a nice slice of chocolate cake after dinner that night. It did taste good. Especially with the peanut butter.
But here's the strange part. We had some people over later on, and they remarked how nice the cake looked. And that was after it was cut. I'll admit that I was a little surprised, because I knew how not put together it was on the inside.
I felt like it was all smoke and mirrors. It might look good, but it's just a big mess.
It got me thinking. For those of us who are regular attenders to Sunday worship services, do we feel like our lives as we present them on Sunday morning are all smoke and mirrors? We might look like everything's a-ok, but it really isn't.
For those of us who are not regular attenders, do we feel like we'd have to be all smoke and mirrors to fit in at church? Does that become a roadblock?
I know that the answer may be yes to both. And I know that our God is so much bigger than that. He knows it all. There is no way that we can be all smoke and mirrors to Him who created us. Our church should be a reflection of that.
Let us be a group of people who doesn't feel like we have to be all smoke and mirrors, when we enter the church building (or in our case the town hall). Let us be a group of people who can be honest enough to our friends and family that we don't have pretend that we live perfect lives. We are just a group of people who recognize that we are so in need of a Savior, Jesus. And we desire to follow our Savior, Jesus. Together.
I did it. I accomplished my goal. I ran a 5k. “Ran” is a relative term. I didn’t walk, but you could maybe call it a slow jog. The two fastest walkers passed me before I got to the half-way point. It’s actually a little embarrassing. I was slow. At the same time I felt really good about it. I accomplished my goal.
I’m trying to get into shape. The getting in shape thing didn’t end after I finished the 5k. I still have to keep on going. I’ve got myself some accountability. I’m trying. And I appreciate all of you who have cheered me on and encouraged me. It’s been a bit humbling to say that I’m not too good at something. I have felt nothing but love. It’s meant a lot.
I ran the 5k in 45:02. The picture proves it. I’m not sure what my long term goal is. I know most people it would be to get faster or to go longer. I’m not like most people. My ankles can only handle so much. So I find myself trying to come up with new fitness goals. It’s kind of fun. It’s kind of daunting. No matter what, I still need to continue. I want to get in shape.
So our relationship with Jesus is not just that one time, “I made a decision to follow Jesus, and now I’m good.” A relationship with Jesus takes time and effort. Kind of like getting into shape. And even if we get in shape, we still need to work to stay in shape. It’s not always easy but it’s totally worth it.
I encourage you to try something a little different than what you normally do. Change it up. Keep it interesting. I’ve been memorizing a passage from the Bible this week. It’s been good. It helps me to focus on what Jesus has
taught and apply it in my own life.
So what do you want to try out that’s a little different from what you normally do?
I wear glasses. My eyesight isn’t really all that bad. Actually the reason I got glasses in the first place is kind of a funny story. When I was in fifth grade, I think for some reason the doctor told me that it was up to me. I didn’t get them right off, but my parents were keeping a watch. One day I got off the school bus at my stop, and I was looking for my dad. I was squinting. It’s not for the reason that you think. The sun was in my eyes. My dad thought my squinting was because I couldn’t see him. Soon after I had a pair of red framed glasses.
My eyesight still isn’t too bad. When I put my glasses on, everything is just a little more clear. (In fact when I’m at home, I usually leave them off.) It helps a lot, when I'm trying to read road sign. That’s not the case with some of you. You may be lost without your glasses.
Your “eyesight” may be pretty clear (meaning you have a good idea what Jesus has done for you and how that impacts your life). Or your “eyesight” may be dreadful (meaning you have no clue what Jesus has done for you and how that impacts your life).
Paul writes in 1 Timothy about his walk with Jesus. He exclaims, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life” (1:12-16 NIV).
So no matter where your “eyesight” is at, know that Jesus gives you tons of grace. He wants the best for you, because He loves you that much.
I love my blender. I should say I love my blender even more this week. I’ve had it since we got married. It was one of those gifts that we didn’t put on the registry but someone got it for us anyway. It’s a good quality blender. I love making smoothies with it!
There was just one problem with it. There was a small gap between the glass portion and the hard plastic base of the pitcher part. (Sorry about the non-technical language.) The result was gunk got caught in between. It was gross. And we could see it. But we couldn’t get to it. And we were bummed that there didn’t seem to be a solution for cleaning the gunk.
So a Tuesday I decided to make a smoothie. I picked up the pitcher and the plastic base seemed a little loose. Hmmm. I realized after seven years that the plastic base could unscrew from the glass part. I was in shock. I never knew. But it was so obvious. I could finally clean it. I gave it a good scrub.
Here’s the thing. I’ve learned that sometimes what God is showing me is so completely obvious, like, well maybe how to clean the blender, but I’m just being stubborn. I don’t want to be open to the idea of what He’s showing me through His Spirit. It’s a good reminder to me that I’ve got to be open to what He wants me to do. I’ve got to seek Him and ask Him to reveal to me how I can be a follower of Jesus. Will you pray that with me? Will you ask God to reveal to you and to our church community how God wants us to be followers of Jesus?
Today ends our week long celebration. Two hundred years is a long time. A lot has happened. Just last week we discovered that the former church building had regular old windows before the stained glass. There have been disagreements and splits and all sorts of things that aren’t pretty. We also found out recently that we almost became a federated church (How we could be Baptists and Methodists, I am really not sure.). There was a mural for the one hundred year anniversary that we will never forget. There’s a lot to remember.
I have only been here for a year and a half. In the history of the church that isn’t all that long. There’s going to be a lot remembered, though, in this time period. Two hundred year anniversaries will do that. Church fires will do that. Baptisms and dedications and lives being changed because of Jesus will do that.
What will happen in the future? I really can’t say. There’s a lot to be excited about. God has plans for us. I know He does. There will probably will be some good times and some not so good times. There will be potlucks and Bible Studies. There will be building projects and new members. It’s exciting to think about all the things that God will do in the little old town of South Londonderry.
What I leave you with today is this: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He has been a part of our church (meaning the people) for all two hundred years. He is with us today as we celebrate the new life we have in Christ. He will be with us in the future as we discover God’s plan for us. And the best part is that Jesus never changes.
I got distracted today. It looked so inviting outside. The rest of the family was out there exploring. I just couldn’t resist. So we were out there today, and I discovered something. Here’s a picture:
If it’s not obvious what it is, I can tell you. It’s a big old stump. The tree was cut down before my time here at the house. Out of the stump little shoots are growing like crazy. It reminded Chris and me of a couple of things.
It reminded Chris of an image from the book of Isaiah: “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit” (11:1 NIV). It’s okay if you’re like, woah, that doesn’t make much sense. It’s basically a promise of a Savior in the Old Testament. The rest of the chapter describes this Savior and what life will be like after this Savior comes. This Savior is Jesus Christ who between then and now came to earth to save us. Jesus was a decedent of Jesse. It’s sort of a family tree reference.
This stump reminded me of our church. We went through a great tragedy last year in the form of the fire. Like that big old tree being destroyed, our building was destroyed. There’s something quite beautiful, though, that’s coming out of the stump: new life. Our church is also experiencing new life. This tree represents what God is doing in our little church community.
For those of you who live outside of our little community and have been praying for us: Thank you! You have done more than anyone on earth will give you credit for doing. Know that we are doing well.
For those of you who are a part of our church community: Thank you! You have been so incredibly flexible. Know that each one of you is part of our community (myself included), because God planned it that way.
Nearly every time I sign into Facebook (feel free to friend me), I read all sorts of things that people are passionate about. Some are passionate about soccer (playing or watching). Others are passionate about being green. Some are passionate about weekends (and what they do on the weekends). Others are passionate about homemaking. We are made to be passionate.
I am passionate about serving Jesus and making Him known. Oh, sure, I’m passionate about other things that aren’t as important. I love making bread. The thing is I’m not sure where I would be or what I’d be doing if it wasn’t for my relationship with Jesus. I think I’d be pretty lost. That’s why I want to live my life the way Jesus wants me to live and I want to share with others of Jesus’ gigantic love for them.
A week ago I listened to a guy talk about sacrificing for his church. He made a challenge to us. So here I am a week later thinking about Easter and Jesus and what I can do for my church as a member who is passionate about Jesus. I’ve decided that I’m going to get up early on Wednesday mornings and pray for people – more specifically for people who do not yet know Jesus. I’m fairly sure that if I get up at 5am, no one in the house will wake up. Once a week for one hour I’m going to pray for specific people to know Jesus. (Please email me with a list of people to pray for at email@example.com.)
All of the stuff that happened leading up to Easter is sometimes referred to as the Passion. The word “passion” comes from a Greek word meaning, “to suffer.” Jesus suffered. Am I willing to give up a little sleep to pray for people? I’m going to try. If Jesus was willing to suffer for us, what are we going to do for Him in our churches? This is all about people’s lives being transformed. Think about what you can do and do it.
Here is a table. It may seem like just a nice looking table that you might find at your grandmother's house, sitting in a corner with a doily and a nice looking vase. It's First Baptist's Advent Wreath table. And it's not new. It's the one we used last year and the year before that (and so on...).
Someone from church took it home almost a year ago. She was a little nervous last year, because it was tippy. Candles and tippy tables don't seem like a good idea. She brought it home, fixed it up, and gave it a new coat of stain. Almost like new, except it's something old.
The story of Jesus is an old one. He came to earth so many years ago. The story is just as good now as it was a couple of thousand years ago (or so). We find new and fresh ways of telling the story of Jesus. The story, though, is really always the same.
God came to earth as a baby, because He loves us all that much. God's Son, Jesus, came and made a sacrifice so that we can have a relationship with God. It's a story of real love. It's the best story.
Love. It’s one word. It’s easy to say but harder to do. Last summer a whole bunch of teens invaded our church and community. It was awesome! They came all the way from Pennsylvania to show love. The picture below is of two of them doing work. They chose to give up a week to come here and do work. People around noticed. They wore red shirts that said “Love.” on the front, and they did projects all around the area. They showed love – a sacrificial love that Jesus had shown to them.
At one of the sites a group of teens were working on some outdoor projects. When given an opportunity to take a break and play a game, they chose to keep working. That’s just one example of how serious they were about love. Lives were changed.
Jesus was all about showing love, especially to those who were despised or neglected. A good question to ask ourselves each day is: what are we doing to show love?
A couple weeks ago Chris (the love of my life) and I were talking about a coffee mug. I had given it to Chris for Christmas years ago. At least three or so. It was a big mug (like Gilmore Girls but tall), and I found it at a pottery store (so it kept the coffee warmer). It was his favorite mug, and we love coffee. I'm sure that will be a topic for another day. We had a discussion about how it had been such a good mug. Well about a week ago it bit the dust. I heard Chris say, "uh-oh," after the handle on his favorite mug cracked. It no longer was usable.
You may be wondering why I spent so long writing about this mug. I want to point out that we become attached to stuff. It can be valuable (in the eye of an antique dealer or the beholder). We form emotional attachments to things without realizing it. The First Baptist Church building had been around for many years. There are so many memories wrapped up in the building and some of the stuff in the building. In moments like these I reflect on when Jesus said: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal" (Matthew 6:19-20 NIV).
It's easy right now to be caught up in the past with our memories, but this small reminder from Jesus helps us to remember that we can look to the future with hope. Maybe I'll find a new favorite mug for Chris, and in the future we will have a new building in which we can gather together and worship God.
This is written by Kathleen Blackey, follower of Jesus and co-pastor at First Baptist Church.