Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Reunion - Mom and Lupe

Once again, this vacation had it all -- Love of Friends and Family, The Beauty and Benefits of Nature, Wonderful Food, and Rest.

Making More Memories

Dad with Some Hungry Companions

Polly's Hibiscus Flower

Sugar Cane Field

A Yummy Mexican Repast

My Sis

Sunday, February 12, 2012

God's Will

Confession time.  I have been teary-eyed (okay, sometimes it's actually outright bawling) since this morning when our pastor announced that he has received a call to the LCMS International Center to serve as Director of Worship and as the Synod's International Center Chaplain. So what's the big deal?  It's only a call! There's really no way I can explain except to say that a "call" in the Christian church, be it Lutheran (like my pastor and me) or otherwise, is -- or at least should be -- considered a very VERY big deal.  A call in the Christian faith is a call by God to serve Him in service to others. These called servants are entrusted to teach the truth of God's Law and Gospel, and these calls have been going on since Biblical times. So we pray fervently that after Pastor W has prayerfully considered this call, his response will conform to the will of God.

More confessing: I don't want him to accept the call. It's because I want God's my will to be done. No, I want my God's will to be done. The fact of the matter is that I do want God's will to be done, but I selfishly want it to conform to my will. Why? Because I am a human, and, therefore, I am a sinner. One significant commonality among sinners is this: We are all afraid of God's will.  Okay, well, maybe not all the time, but, you know, when it really counts for something. We act as if God doesn't know how to carry out His own plan -- as if He doesn't know what's best for every little step we take, no matter how insignificant those steps may seem in the here and now. We often forget how precious we are to Him; that He knew us from the beginning.

I recall the day a little more than 30 years ago when my twin nieces were born. They were more than two months early. While my sister-in-law was still in labor, the decision was made to quickly transport her via ambulance from the little hospital that served their community to Barnes Hospital in St. Louis where the babies would have at better chance of survival. Barnes was, and still is, one of the leading hospitals in the nation. Back then, the chances for their survival using state-of-the art medicine and equipment was 50/50. Parents, think about that for a moment. Consider someone telling you that ONLY if you take your child from Point A to Point B, his life or death is still going to hinge on a coin-toss. After the twins were born, the doctor told my brother and sister-in-law that if they could survive the first 72 hours of life, their chances would get a little better. I already had a child of my own.  He was 18 months old at the time, and I knew how empty my life would feel if he were taken from me. So I also knew how desperately my brother and sister-in-law prayed for their little babies. My brother confessed later that when he prayed The Lord's Prayer, as he reached the words "Thy will be done," he hesitated. He didn't know if God's will would be life or death for his children.  God's will was for those two little blessings to survive and be a blessing to many many other people.  And they have ... and they are.

Pastor W's acceptance or non-acceptance of this call isn't a physical life or death situation like the one with my nieces. But consider what God, in his infinite wisdom, already knows. Perhaps one of His lamb's eternal life hinges on hearing the Gospel message, if only the right person for the job is there to deliver it. God will guide Pastor W to the place where he needs to be, and Pastor will continue preaching Law and Gospel out of love just as he has for years -- whether it is to the congregation at St. Paul in little bitty Hamel, or whether it is to others from around the globe at the LCMS International Center. I find it more than coincidental that today I stumbled upon the following which was included in Pastor's first blog post back in 2004:

God shows Abraham the stars to illustrate
his innumerable descendents.
By German painter Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (1794-1872),
engraving, from "Bibel in Bildern" (1851-60)
Homily for Trinity 1 (2004)

“And Abraham believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” (Gen 15:6) When the Lord made the promise to him, Abram did not stumble in unbelief. He knew that God was not only powerful enough to carry through – even though Abram had not the first clue HOW He would do it – but that God was gracious, merciful to carry through and bring forth this Seed who would bring blessing to all nations.

And by the way, anyone who knows Pastor W, knows that while he was delivering that Homily, he was bouncing on his toes and waving his arms. Has he ever NOT been excited about delivering the Word and Sacrament to us?? I seriously can't imagine that. What a loving and faithful shepherd he is!  Please keep him in your prayers.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Restore Unto Me the Joy of Thy Salvation

Simeon's Moment
Painting by Ron DiCianni
Two weeks. Is it the blink of an eye or an eternity?  Well, it all depends on the context, doesn't it?  The last two weeks have been the blink of an eye when I consider how much I accomplished at the office but how little I accomplished at my house. So much to do, so little time.

On the other hand, those same two weeks felt like a very long time in the context of the disconnect I had experienced with my church family. God has promised us, "If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For when two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them." - Matthew 18:19-20  Oh what a comfort to know that all we have to do is beckon, and God is there assuring us over and over and over again that He loves us and will always give us everything we need!  Lord have mercy on me, a poor, miserable sinner.  Try to imagine how it would feel if, after having received everything we needed from our parents, knew that we knew it all, bid them a dismissive goodbye and then heard the door shut behind us -- NEVER to be opened again. How would we handle it?  Would we become hardened in our hearts and pretend that we didn't feel abandoned, even though WE were the ones who walked away?  Would we want so desperately to be assured that we were welcome anytime but be afraid to confess that we actually need to be loved?  Could we even define "hope?"

There were legitimate reasons for my lack of attendance at church the last two Sundays, but those reasons didn't lessen the emptiness I was feeling from being away from that gathering. Yes, God has been with me, and no, I hadn't rejected Him ... well ... except in my sinful thoughts, words and deeds. Yes, I can and do still pray when I'm not in church. Yes, God still loves me when I am not able to be with the others who agree ("agree" - that is to say unity in Christ; that thing which makes us a Christian family). My pastor reminds us from time to time that we are cracked vessels.  When we believers gather together in God's house to confess our sins and receive absolution through His Word and Sacrament, we come away from His banquet table joyous -- we are vessels full to the brim. We may gather for a few minutes out in front of the church to visit with each other, but then as we turn to walk toward our cars, we begin to hear the notes of the music turn to a minor key. Within moments of leaving that unity, we, cracked vessels, begin to leak the joy of Christ's salvation. We begin feeling the bombardment of the "stuff" of our earthly lives, and we begin to pay more attention to that stuff and less attention to The One who gives us everything. EVERYTHING.  Call me a princess -- I want it ALL. I want to be full to the brim, always assured that I am a child of The Heavenly Father, and I am redeemed by His Son, Jesus Christ. I want to experience the same joy that Simeon experienced as he held the Christ Child and said, "Lord, Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy Word. For mine eyes have seen Thy Salvation which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people."  I want to walk away from God's table knowing that I can pass from this earthly life at any moment with the pure joy of knowing that I will see Him in glory and live eternally just as He promises me ... week after week after week.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Customized Corn Chowder

Well hello there!  No, I haven't been lost -- except to say lost in reading other peoples' blogs.  It's been a month already since we last visited, so please forgive my laziness in keeping in touch.  This post has been on my mind for a couple of weeks, but I hadn't uploaded the photos to my laptop yet.  I finally got around to hooking my camera up tonight to get that done.

'Ol Blue Eyes used to sing "I Did It My Way," and that's exactly what I did with a recipe from one of my favorite websites, allrecipes.com.  If you're already familiar with that site, you'll know that I'm not the first to adapt one of the recipes posted there. A quick read of any of the recipe's reviews, will quickly tell you how often "to each his own" comes into play. So, I'm not feeling a bit guilty about adapting one of the recipes I found when I was searching for a keeper a few weeks ago.  I came home from work one evening thinking that a good, hearty soup would be just what I needed for supper. I have to tell you, I have a gazillion recipe books, and I think I inherited all of my grandmother's "hard copy" recipes, but it's just so easy to turn on my trusty laptop and punch up a recipe to fit the craving de jour. That said, I still go back to the old faithfuls from Mom and Grandma quite frequently.

I had never made corn chowder before, so I decided to try it. Unfortunately, most all of the corn chowder recipes I found called for cream-style corn.  I'm just not a big fan of creamed corn -- at least not that which comes from a can. I prefer savory vs. sweet when I have my main course, and creamed corn is a little too sweet for my liking.  So, that's where the adaptation began.  I also remembered that I had some chicken stock in my freezer, so I substituted that in place of the water which the original recipe called for. To top it off (pun intended), I topped it off with the Pièce de résistance, a sprinkle of Parmesan.  Here's how it all played out:

1 large onion chopped
1/2 cup butter
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
3 cups frozen corn
4 cups diced potatoes (about 2 large baking size)
3/4 cup half & half (or milk if you prefer)
Salt to taste (my chicken stock was already seasoned, so I only used about 1/2 tsp.)
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
Parmesan cheese to taste

In a Dutch oven, saute the chopped onion in butter until the onion is almost clear.

Next, add the chicken stock, corn and potatoes, and bring it all to a boil.  Reduce the heat, and cover and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are just cooked through.

Then stir in the half & half and ...

... the salt and pepper.  As you can see, I eyeballed the pepper measurement.  Why drag out measuring spoons, right?  Of course right!

Continue cooking the chowder for another 5-10 minutes so that it is once again heated through -- nice and hot for a cold winter evening.  Make sure to stir it from time-to-time.

Ladle the chowder into oven-proof bowls, sprinkle the top with Parmesan cheese, and put the bowl under the broiler until the cheese is toasty brown.

Carefully remove the bowl from the oven and ...


Next time I think I'll add some pre-cooked chicken to make it even heartier.

I'll be interested to know if you try it.  If you do, please feel free to leave a comment and let me know how it turned out for you.

Happy February!  Thanks for stopping by!