Thursday, December 29, 2011

It'll cost ya!

Psalm 4:5
 "Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and trust in the Lord."  

Why does God call righteousness and trust in Him a sacrifice? 

In order to answer this question I started with definitions of the words.  

I love to look up words in English, Greek and Hebrew dictionaries when studying the Scriptures.  Even words that seem so obvious, like sacrifice.  It's an offering, right?  But looking further I begin to see that it is an offering that costs me something.  

So the next question: What do righteousness and trust in God cost me?  Again, I considered the words.

Righteousness--being right, doing right.  As I do what is right I am offering a sacrifice to God of my will, my way.  I choose to do it His way, not mine.  That requires a submission of my will.  God's way, not my way. 
So what does trust offer to God?  Trust implies confidence in Him and His ways.  Trust requires me to offer up control on the altar of sacrifice.  I give up the control of my life, my circumstances.  I take my hands off and allow God to grab hold of my life, my circumstances and I follow. 

Notice the number of times that "me" or "my" shows up?  It's ME that God is requesting as a sacrifice.  He says, "Give Me you, Mary."

Does giving up my way and my control cost me something?  Yup!  Does it hurt sometimes?  You bet ya!  Is it difficult?  I would say so.  

But look deeper into Psalm 4.  Consider verse 8-"In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for Thou alone, O Lord, dost make me to dwell in safety."

Sacrifice cost something but the returns are so much more. 


God asks me to let Him be in charge, to give Him the reins, to offer the sacrifice of my way and my control.  And He offers peacefulness, security and a place of rest in the midst of life's chaos.  

As they say, "That's worth the price of admission!"

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Falling in love

It wasn't love at first sight.  But it was love at first drive! 

We test drove a new vehicle yesterday.  I basically spent less than 30 minutes in this automobile.  I drove to Walmart and back but that was all it took for me to go from "we don't need this nice of a car" to "Oh, how I would love to drive this everyday!" I fell in love with the heated seats, the sun roof, the XM radio.  I loved the way it looked sitting in our drive way.  I loved the way I looked sitting in it.  But, alas.  We knew it was not for us and much to my surprise, when we returned it to the dealer and proceeded to look at a lesser model I teared up.  Tears?! Over a car I had known less than an hour?!  And I was even more amazed when it took the rest of the evening for me to "get over it" and "let it go".  If I had just looked at the car I may have admired it's good looks but doubt that I would have made a heart connection with it.  But touching it, driving it, sitting in it, interacting with it produced a desire for it!

Then this morning I read in Psalm 119 "I rejoice at Thy word, as one who finds great spoil." "I love Thy law." "Those who love Thy law have great peace." "I love them (Thy testimonies) exceedingly." And I made the connection between what happened with a car and what can happen with God's word.  Just looking at it from the outside may result in a passing interest or admiration.  But when I touch it, sit with it, interact with it, experience it I develop a heart connection.  I grow to love it and become awed at its "bells and whistles".  I come to realize I don't want to live without it.  I want to "drive" it everyday.  I love the way I look when I have spent time in it.  Just like a new flashy car, I fall in love with God's word when I open the door, get in and experience the drive.  

"Oh, How I love Thy law!
It is my meditation all the day."
Psalm 119:97

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Can I trust my conscience?

The apostle Paul had always interested me.  When I was a young believer I would read his comments (" imitators of me" 1 Cor. 4:16) and think "Sounds a bit arrogant to me."  But as God has increased my understanding I have come to the conclusion that he may have been arrogant before he met Jesus on the road to Damascus but once his personal relationship with the Lord began his arrogance was transformed by God to confidence because of the grace of his Lord ("by the grace of God I am what I am" 1 Cor. 15:10).  

This week the Bible Study I am involved with studied the role our own conscience plays in our lives.  My conscience is that God-given moral rudder that helps me discern between right and wrong and encourages me to do the right thing and avoid the wrong thing.  

My "friend" the apostle Paul had lots to say about the conscience.  Maybe because he knew first hand how it can fail a person.  He had ravaged the church, dragging the believers out of their homes and the synagogues, voting in favor of their death all the while thinking he was doing the right thing (Acts 26:9) His conscience had led him astray and many, many suffered the horrible consequences.  But then Jesus showed up on the road to Damascus and Paul was transformed.  After he became a follower of Jesus Paul said "I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men." (Acts 24:16)  He knew that the conscience cannot be left on autopilot.  It must be maintained.  It has to be "managed".  

The conscience can be trained to discern good and evil (Hebrews 5:14). The study made me aware of the need to keep my communication with God ongoing.  I need to keep short accounts with God through confession and repentance.  The Holy Spirit must have control of me.  I need to pray for my conscience.  Honesty has to be a priority for me.  And I need to be accountable to others who will point out the wrong thinking that creeps into my thoughts. 

Training my conscience begins with baby steps.  I ask myself,  "What little choices can I make that will help me train my conscience to think like God thinks?" Just as little chips in the windshield can turn into big cracks if left unattended so can lapses in judgement turn into major messes.  But the opposite is true also.  Make a few little choices in the right direction and it will lead to better choices down the road.  

I am encouraged that Paul's conscience which was a train wreck on its own became a trusted guide under the control of God.  I am encouraged because I can become an imitator of him because he has worked through some of the same issues that I deal with.  I can imitate Paul because he purposed to imitate Jesus.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

The World's "Best" Chocolate Cake

Last week was my Hubby's birthday which called for chocolate birthday cake, his personal fav.  And although he would be delighted with one of the box mix variety, I wanted something more. 

I have been on an ongoing pursuit of the perfect made-from-scratch chocolate cake for a couple of years.  Some attempts have had a resemblance of success (we ate it) and some failed miserably (so dry it needed plenty of milk to wash it down).   Not to be deterred from my quest, I used my husband's birthday as an opportunity to try out a new recipe.  

I found  "The BEST Chocolate Cake" recipe from kevin{&}amanda and gave it a try.  Now before you point out the fact that this recipe starts with a box mix let me define my idea of "from scratch".  As long as I am deviating in some way from the original directions on the back of the box I consider it from scratch.  I know, its a loose definition but box mixes have come a long way from when I was a kid making messes in my mom's kitchen.  They really are quite good; sometimes even better than homemade.  (as in brownies!)

The recipe calls for the following ingredients:
Chocolate cake mix, vegetable oil, instant chocolate pudding, milk, sour cream, eggs, vanilla and chocolate chips. 

It is an amazingly easy recipe to mix together considering it claims to be the BEST.  I guess BEST doesn't have to be HARD.  

All the ingredients minus the chocolate chips get mixed up in the bowl until well combined. 

Then the chips make their appearance.  I chose to use the mini variety.

Once they are incorporated into the batter I poured (actually scooped) it into the prepared round cake pans.

I popped these into the preheated 350 degree oven and baked them following the time guidelines on the back of the cake mix box for the appropriate pan size.  

Once the cake layers cooled, I removed them from the pans and proceeded with my favorite part of cake baking, the frosting!

I made a fudgey butter-cream chocolate frosting and l smeared it on thick.  You see, in my world cake only exists to hold up the frosting!

So, was this truly the BEST chocolate cake?  My answer is that it is the BEST I have made so far.  The chocolate chips seemed to disappear into the cake.  I really expected little chocolate chunks in the cake which may happen if I used regular sized chips but I like the extra chocolatey goodness that the mini chips gave to the texture of the cake.  It's definitely a keeper recipe. 

So thanks kevin{&}amanda for helping me on my quest.  

The Best Chocolate Cake Ever
1 box chocolate cake mix
1 small pkg instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a very large bowl, mix together everything except chocolate chips. Batter will be thick. Stir in the chocolate chips. Pour batter into cake pan of choice (I normally use two 9-inch pie pans). For cooking time, I use the cooking times on the back of the cake mix box as a guide and usually add 10 mins to whatever it says. Then I do the toothpick check, and if it’s not done, I check on it every 5 mins after that. It usually takes around 45 mins for two, 9-inch pie pans. 
P.S. I didn't add the extra 10 mins and started checking it at the end of recommended cooking time, adding extra minutes as needed. 


1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
2/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency.
Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

One Thing

She was just being Martha.  She was just doing what she was good at, what she was gifted to do.  She was just preparing the food that the group of hungry travelers needed.  She was just fulfilling her responsibilities as the head of her house.  But she was also distracted, worried, bothered, disturbed.

Her sister on the other hand was just being Mary.  She was just listening to Jesus, considering what He was saying.  She was just sitting at His feet as a student before a teacher.  She was just beholding His beauty, meditating on His words, heeding the call of God in her Savior. 

And that is what got Martha's goat.  "Lord, please tell her to help me!"  

Martha was a doer.  Mary was a thinker.  Martha made to do lists and goals and plans.  Mary went with the flow of life.  Two polar opposites perhaps.  Two distinct personalities.  

"Martha, Martha. Mary has chosen the one thing that will never pass away, the one good thing."

So was Jesus telling Martha to quit being Martha?  Was He saying she needed to be a Mary instead?

Later, when Jesus makes another visit to their home after Lazarus had died and been buried for four days, who is it that runs out to Jesus acknowledging that He was the Christ, the Son of God, the One who could make anything happen by asking His Father?  It was Martha.  And where was Mary? Still sitting in the house.  It was Martha who called her sister to come see Jesus.  Martha was doing.  Mary was sitting.

Again, Jesus comes to Martha and Mary's home town and is served a meal by none other than... Martha.  And His feet are anointed with costly perfume by...Mary.  Martha was doing.  Mary was sitting.  

Jesus' reply to His friend, Martha, draws her attention as well as mine to what really matters:  seeking Him.  Jesus didn't tell her to stop doing or stop being Martha.  He wanted her (and me) to seek Him first and THEN be Martha.  Maybe she had gone over board in her preparations.  Maybe not.  But it is a given that her attitude was in need of an adjustment.

I see that Martha didn't stop being Martha.  But she did seem to learn to chose that one thing that doesn't pass away, the one good thing that is necessary.  She learned from the merciful rebuke of the Savior and the example of her sister.  Seek Jesus first.

It's okay to be a doer.  It's okay to be the thinker.  Who we are is designed by God and makes us perfectly suited to fulfill the ministry He has for each of us.  As for me?  Well, I am no list maker, goal oriented, can't sit down until everything is done Martha. I can identify better with Mary's tendency to sit and be laid back and go with the flow.  But I can still have my Martha moments when I am worried, bothered, distracted by what I "need" to do.   No matter which end of the spectrum we land on, we both must seek the one thing that is necessary before we do or think or sit or whatever it is we feel called to do.  Listen to Jesus.  Let Him lead me instead of running off or sitting down relying on my own insight.  

"Occupied with Jesus, then occupied for Him."--Lois Reynolds Carpenter

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

"It was a dark and stormy night...."

Only it was a dark and stormy morning actually.  The weather took a turn toward winter in my part of the world today.  And after the most amazingly beautiful fall it was a smack in the face!  Maybe that is the reason I sat at my desk this morning in a funk.  No, I was in a funk: cold, wintery day or not.

The discussion at Bible study this week centered on the friendship of David and Jonathan, two men who were individually devoted to God and together devoted to each other.  We examined the traits of godly friendship and after the analysis I felt that I came up short.  

A friend once told me that I am a private person.  Some would use the word introvert.  I agree; I am very content hanging out by myself.  It takes a few days of hermit like living until I start to crave human contact.

God has impressed upon me in the last couple of years that He equipped me to be a listener and I am content with that role.  I would rather ask the questions and get another person to talk about themselves  than be the center of attention.    I kind of like being "invisible" in the crowd.  

But maybe that is only one side of the proverbial coin.  Letting another do all the talking and revealing of their heart might leave a "dot, dot, dot" at the end of the conversation (like the title to this post).  Am I being too one-sided in my friendships?  
Exodus 33:11 "Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend..."
This kind of interaction requires both faces to be involved, to be communicating, to be listening and speaking, to be vulnerable.  It's a two way street.  But that can be risky.  Some may not understand.  I have seen the glazed over look on a person's face after opening up my heart and realized that they didn't get it.  I have opened myself up only to feel ignored.  But what if I never again take the chance?  What will I miss out on?  

I'm feeling a nudge from God here to speak up.  Take a baby step out of my comfort zone and be willing to reveal my heart in a deeper way with people.

Oh, I think I just did!



Friday, October 28, 2011

Chair Transformation

This forlorn looking guy once was the special chair that resided in my good friend's grandmother's house and may have even made the trek across the prairie in a covered wagon in his early years.  But, alas, time had taken its nasty toll on him, stripping him of his arms.  It seemed the only humane thing to do was end his misery and send him packing to the dump.  

I couldn't let that happen though and asked my friend if I could have one chance at bringing a little life back to him.
He was in worse shape than I imagined and my initial plan to replace the arms and upholster them fell flat.  The upright support of one arm rest was broken and I did not have the tools to refashion a new one.  
Since he had already been sentenced to the dump I figured I couldn't do much more damage to him so I cut those useless appendages off and converted him to an armless rocker. 

After some sanding and hole filling and cleaning I gave him a new coat of barely grey paint (my own concoction from leftover wall paint), followed by some slight distressing and antiquing to let his age shine through.  

Reupholstering the seat involved covering the old springs with a piece of canvas, upholstery foam, a layer of batting and a final piece of canvas painted to resemble an old feed sack.  I attached it all with staples which were then hidden behind a row of braid.

And here he is now.  (If I was really good at this blogging thing I would have great pictures of the process to insert between the paragraphs but....)

Without his arms he isn't the most comfortable chair in the house but he will be a great addition to our entry way providing a spot to take off or put on shoes.  And I don't think he misses those arms too much.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What's in a name?

So why do I call this little blog MakingMeMary?  Allow me to explain.

It all started when a visiting friend commented on one of my DIY home decor projects prompting me to say, "Oh, it's just one of the things I do to amuse myself." She chuckled at my response and replied that she liked that idea.  She, too, is someone who likes to get crafty and "amuse" herself.  

As I thought back on our exchange I started thinking about that word "amuse".  What does it mean?  I looked up definitions and synonyms and found that it can mean to make one merry.  Hey, that's what I was doing for myself.  I was making myself merry.  But wait!  My endeavors are also part of what make me MARY!  So my amusements make me merry and make me Mary!  

And that is what this little blog is all about: the things that  amuse me and make me who I am.  

My desire is that it brings you a little amusement also.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Each One--Reach One

Jesus, tired and thirsty after a long walk from Judea to Galilee via Samaria, stops to take a much needed break at a well while his disciples head into town to find take-out.  A seemingly unplanned encounter occurs with a Samaritan woman at the well that results in her questions being answered and in the revelation that she was talking with the Messiah.  Her life is changed as well as the lives of many of her fellow townspeople who are introduced to Jesus through her testimony. 

A Pharisee comes to talk with Jesus in the dark of night to avoid the disapproving eyes of his peers and has his life changed to the point that after Jesus' crucifixion he willing accompanies the burial party, supplying the necessary and costly spices for preparing the body.  He bravely identifies with the Messiah.

A lame man, suffering from his affliction for 38 years, is told by Jesus to take up his pallet and walk on the Sabbath of all days.  He walks away later discovering the identity of his healer and telling others that Jesus was responsible.

All are personal encounters with Jesus, the Messiah, that result in changed lives.  

Yet others did not experience the same after encountering the Son of God.  The Jews who witnessed a once lame man walking on the Sabbath were upset and sought to persecute Jesus.  A large group of Jews, hearing Jesus claim to be the Bread of Life from heaven, became aggravated at His statements.  Some who had been disciples even walked away when His statements became too hard to grasp.

Why the different outcomes to meeting the Saviour?  

It seems to come down to whether or not the person or group met Jesus on a personal level.  Did they get their questions answered directly by Jesus or were they left hanging because they kept their concerns to themselves?  What if they had asked Jesus directly why He ignored the Mosaic Law and healed on the Sabbath?  What if they had told Him one on one that they were struggling with the statements He was making about "eating His flesh and drinking His blood"?  What if they gave Jesus a chance to explain Himself rather than walk away with their misunderstandings?

These examples speak to me about the value of personal, one to one ministry.  It is on the eye to eye level that we can get to the heart of matters, just like Jesus did with the woman at the well.  It is on a personal level that we can address the questions of our hearts, just as Jesus did with Nicodemus.  It is in one to one encounters that we can be transparent and reveal our hurts in order to receive compassion and encouragement, like the lame man at Bethesda.

Ministry to the crowds is used mightily by God; i.e. Billy Graham and Beth Moore and Christian radio.  But I am none of the above.  I am only a single person who will most likely never speak to the masses.  I doubt that I will ever experience a thousand souls saved in one day.

I am however, one who can be used by God in the life of another.  I only need to be available, like Jesus at the well; willing to ask the tough questions, like Jesus with Nicodemus; looking for the opportunities God sets before me, like Jesus at the pool of Bethesda.  

I am one.  But God uses each one to reach one.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Here We Go!!!

The interesting thing about aging is that I have started thinking about the "proverbial" bucket list which to me is surprising because I am not a risk taker and do not consider myself adventurous.  I assumed that I would be happy living out my life in a comfortable status quo existence, happy that my boat is not rocking more than necessary.  But this past year I have found myself thinking "Will I be content in my later years knowing that I didn't take advantage of opportunities that my God had placed before me?"  

 That question motivated me to water ski again for the first time in years this past summer.  I was relaxing in our boat on the lake watching my son and husband gliding across the water behind our boat on the perfect glass like water and thought "what if I never try it again?"  Quite a few years ago I had pulled (or possibly tore) my hamstring muscle water skiing and the remote possibility of that happening again had removed any desire to get out on the skis for another go at it.  Then the Question popped up in my mind...What If....?  And lo and behold I found myself in the water, up on the skis and gliding along the glass like surface of the water, watching my husband and son cheering me on from the boat.  Later, it occurred to me that the whole bucket list idea may not be just for my satisfaction but also for the benefit of others.   

All of this is a long way of explaining why I am jumping on the Blog Wagon.  Here is an opportunity that didn't present itself until recently.  And I don't want to say I never gave it a try.  I trust that the idea is God inspired.  If it isn't then I trust that my Lord will reveal to me that I have been listening to the wrong voice.  Will I be consistent?  Will I grow weary of this endeavor quickly?  Will I realize what a big mistake this was?  I don't know but at least I can say I tried.