Sep 19, 2015

In What Manner do I Respond

This humble sun flower grows along the roadsides here in Temecula. It has no fame or glory, and we barely have time to appreciate it as we speed by, but it faithfully stays where it has been planted, tossed by the wind and weather beaten by the elements.. it's seeds continue to spread and cause a multitude of sproutlings doing the work for whatever cause the sower intended.

Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." 
(Luke 23:34)

In the context, Jesus is speaking about those who stood around at His crucifixion..
waiting, watching, mocking. These were ignorant men who truly did not know God!

We see them at Steven's death also. 
While Steven preached he received taunts, insults, persecutions, and the throwing of  stones which took his precious life. Even then, with Steven's last breath he looked up to heaven and prayed, "Father, forgive them for they don't know what they were doing".

I have to admit, I have only a few times been persecuted for my faith, but the times I was, it was by those who ignorantly denied Jesus and were blinded to the truth. 
It was actually easy for me to forgive them!

But today I pose another situation, what is our response to offenses that come our way by those who are not ignorant of our Father in heaven. 
Hurts and pains that come our way by sister's and brothers in the Lord!  
It happens, maybe much more often than it should, maybe unintentionally.. and maybe not. 

My thoughts here aren't towards the offender, but towards those who are offended.

I recently read a book called, "Candle In The Dark". 
The main character, Caroline, is a gentle Southern Belle, raised in Virginia to a wealthy family with a mammy and a household of slaves. She is torn by the abuse her slaves received and is determined to help put an end to slavery. 
She is considered the heroine of the story, but I was drawn to the character Eli.
It was Eli's wisdom and love for the Lord, that guided and directed Caroline's heart. 
This strong stable slave who's love for his master Jesus, is lived out by his service and allegiance to his earthly masters while in the midst of seeing his loved ones separated and sold to other owners, children taken from their mothers' arms, and their wives thrown in to the arms of white men to be their concubines. 

Eli's unfailing love and loyalty never diminish and his work is always done in an attitude of worship and adoration for his Lord. 

The white slave owner's knew the word of God! 
These men preached the gospel, and at times they sat in service with their slaves at the back of the church "worshipping the same Lord". (hmmm)
The gospel they received was contorted because of selfishness and pride.. but then, don't we at times contort the truth to suit our own purposes? 

In the book of James it tells us why we fight and quarrel;
"What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel"... (James 4:1,2)  

The word lust here is defined as; Anything we covet, desire greatly, or long for. 
Like our own way!

How do we respond to offenses? 
Do we respond "loving our Master Jesus and the life HE lived?" 

I would like my responses to be gentle and forbearing, with humility and LOVE. 
I have been tested lately.. I F-A-I-L ! Truth be told.. my failure doesn't come by way of verbal  responses, my failure comes through bitterness. I keep records of wrongs. UGHHH.. :(
My inward responses are a REMEDY FOR MY OWN COMFORT! 

Love...Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)

Love covers, Love veils, Love conceals, our own motives,
and is replaced with, "the motive of Christ !" 

Christ's motive was love!
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

(hmmm..  here's a thought Laurie.. take on an eternal perspective!)

Christ's reaction was sacrificial!
"Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross". (Philippians 2:8)

(humility.. ouch, I think I am owed kudos. another FAIL)

Love is sacrificial!
It gives no room for the "Me" factor, but looks to the cross of Jesus and say's, "not my will, but Your will be done." It say's, Master Jesus, make me a servant to others as I long to serve You, and help me to do it with an attitude of reverence, and humility, for my Master in Heaven! 

Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. (Matthew 16:24)

If we I see, like in the book of James, that fighting and quarreling comes from within;  
lust, self preservation and protection, I want I want I want..  then we I, will also see that the fires can be extinguished by the attitude of self denial...sacrificial love! 

To Love the life of JESUS!

May 23, 2015

Torrents of Living Water

Rain through my window by Laurie Vengoechea ©

"Give ear, O heavens, and let Me speak; and let the earth hear the words of My mouth. Let My teaching drop as the rain, My speech distill as the dew, as the droplets on the fresh grass and as the showers on the herb. (Deuteronomy 32:1-2)

Waking up yesterday morning to the sounds of rap tap tap on my windowpane is always a pleasant sound for me, where the truth of the saying, it never rains in California.. it pours, was never closer to the truth as it was for me all day Friday. It was a constant drop of rain with a good dowsing of water! How refreshing it was!

The local hills dried out by the extreme temperatures of last summer definitely needed a good watering.. but for me it felt like an invitation from my Heavenly Father, asking me to sit in His presence and soak up all He would speak to me in His word. Not just a trickle or a seasonal splash of water that gets evaporated quickly by the heat of trials and fiery attacks, but torrents of living water that can only come by being drenched with bucketfuls of wisdom and truth spoken into my spirit by the God breathed words of our Lord and Savior. An overflow in abundance that produces refreshment, renewing and growth!

I love this kind of soaking, whether it come daily by delighting yourself in the Psalms and Proverbs, reading the law and the prophets, gospels of Christ and the epistles, or deep study by way of inductive bible teaching.. “daily is the key!” And then there is the run off, be prepared for the overflow.. the influence of your drenching that reaches to those around who will also be blessed and encouraged to seek the Word of God! It's a good thing! xo

May you be filled abundantly with living waters as you seek first God’s kingdom through the reading of His Word!

Rain through my window by Laurie Vengoechea ©

May 22, 2015

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook

Yield: about 36 cookies
Bake 375°F  7-9 mins per batch

½ cup butter, softened
½ cup peanut butter
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar or 1/4 cup honey
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
½ teaspoon vanilla
1-¼ cups Gluten Free Baking mix with added Xanthan Gum 
(or GF Flour blend plus ¼ rounded tsp. of Xanthan gum.)

Granulated sugar for rolling dough balls

In a large mixing bowl beat butter and peanut butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, and baking powder. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in the egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour. If necessary, cover and chill dough about 1 hour or until easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. 
Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll balls in additional granulated sugar to coat. Place balls 2 inches apart on an un-greased cookie sheet. Using the tines of a fork, flatten balls by making crisscross marks on top. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until bottoms are light brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. 

Makes about 36 cookies.

Grilled Peaches and Coconut Ice Cream | Dairy Free Goodness

As simple as grilling fresh peaches and topping them off with a delicious non dairy coconut ice cream! I used the So Delicious Dairy Free Coconut Milk frozen dessert here. It truly is "SO" delicious! I have yet to make my own dairy free coconut milk ice cream, but when I do, I think i'll be adding chocolate chips to make a chocolate chip coconut dream ice cream dessert.
Sound's so good!

Grilled Peaches and Coconut Ice Cream | Dairy Free

Grilled Peaches
2-3 Large, firm but ripe peaches
1 tsp. mild olive oil
2 tsp. Turbinado Sugar or Raw Sugar
Grill Pan

Cut peaches in half and remove the pit.
Heat grill pan on medium heat.
Brush a small amount of the olive oil on peach halves so they don't stick to the grill pan.
Sprinkle a small amount of sugar over the peach as well. This will give a beautiful caramelized effect to the grilled peaches. Place peaches on pre-heated pan pressing down for 5 seconds. Remove pressure from peach and allow to cook for around 1-2 minutes. When peach has nicely grilled with caramelization turn over and cook for an additional minute.
Remove to platter. 

Serve with a dollop of dairy free coconut ice cream and ENJOY!

"I Have Rights".. or do I?

This is an excerpt from a book titled, "Have We No Rights" by Mabel Williamson.

"No rights to a soft bed, and a well laid table. 
No right to a home of His own, a place where His own pleasure might be sought.
No right to choose pleasant, congenial companions, those who could understand Him and sympathize with Him.
No right to shrink away from filth and sin, to pull His garments closer around Him and turn aside to walk in cleaner paths.
No right to be understood and appreciated, no, not by those upon whom He poured out a double portion of His love.
No right even never to be forsaken by His Father, the One who meant more than all to Him.
His only right was silently to endure shame, spitting, blows; To take His place as a sinner at the dock; To bear my sins in anguish on the cross.
He had no rights.

And I?

A right to the "comforts" of life? No, but a right to the love of God for my pillow.
A right to physical safety? No, but a right to the security of being in His will.
A right to love and sympathy from those around me? No, but a right to the friendship of the One who understands me better than I do myself.
A right to be a leader among men? No, but the right to be led by the One to whom I have given my all, led as a little child, with its hand in the hand of its Father.
A right to a home and dear ones? No, not necessarily, but the right to dwell in the heart of God.
A right to myself? No, but oh, I have a right to Christ.

All that He takes I will give,
All that He gives I will take,
He is my only right!
He, the one right before which all other rights fade into nothingness.
I have full right to Him;
Oh may He have full right to me! "

I was 35 when I first read this book. It was impactful, and at the same time HARD TO READ. :)

How many of my rights do I have to give up to be a woman of God.
It turns out.. that I really have no rights.
At the age of 35, I set out to rid myself of the mind-set that, "I Have Rights".. and instead asked the LORD to give me a heart of surrender.. a heart to yield to His purging and sanctification in my life. A heart transformed in, and through Jesus Christ!

I've had to revisit this lately..
The purging and refining isn't over yet, not by a long shot! The fact is, my life our lives as women of God will never be our own and we have no right to the outcomes of God's providential plan for us.
I believe that Almighty God is sovereign and nothing gets by Him concerning our trials and tribulations without His allowing it.  So the "rights" belong to God! He has the right to mold us and shape us into whatever image He wishes and by any means He chooses. ( OUCH ) What I am learning to do, is to bend with His molding and shaping instead of fighting against it. The Heavenly Father's intent is that we become lovely vessels for His use and Glory.. His eternal Glory! I love this picture; refined silver, a polished gem, a perfect diamond.. a vessel so shiny and mirror like, that it is 'His image' seen in the reflection of our lives.

Praying also for you dear sisters, in case you too are being revisited by His refinement! :)


Feb 23, 2015

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup | Gluten Free, Dairy Free

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup
Gluten Free, Dairy Free 

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup Recipe 


3 Roasted Butternut Squashes (you can also use pre-cubed squash from the grocery store)
Olive oil, just a few teaspoons
12 oz. unsweetened coconut milk (full fat or low fat)
6 cups low sodium chicken stock
2 Cipollini onions (lightly chopped)
1 fat Garlic clove, mashed with flat side of your knife
2 tsp. freshly grated ginger
Cayenne pepper 
Cracked black pepper
(For a wintery holiday flavor.. add a 1/4 teaspoon of cloves)

Stand or immersion blender. 


Preheat oven to 350 degree’s
Slice butternut squashes lengthwise, drizzle flat side with a teaspoon or so of olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Bake on baking sheet, flat side up, for 40-60 minutes till squash is tender and will easily come off it’s skins.  

Mix Cipollini onion and garlic together, drizzle around a teaspoon of olive oil over it. Roast in the oven on a small tin pan for about 12 minutes, just till onions and garlic starts to get golden. Remove, pat with paper towel and set aside. (important not to have extra oil)

Meanwhile, In a large pot, heat up chicken stock. When stock comes to a boil, turn heat to low. Add coconut milk. Do not let boil. Add freshly grated ginger.

When squash is tender and cool to the touch, remove pulp from skins and add to the chicken coconut stock pot. Also add onion garlic mix. Let come to a soft simmer. (never let coconut milk boil) At this point you will puree your soup. I haven’t purchased an immersion blender yet, so I’m still using my stand blender, BUT.. it’s TIME! :) Puree puree puree.. When fully blended, add back to the pot. Add seasonings, cayenne pepper, freshly cracked black pepper and a little bit of salt, to taste. 

*For those of you who love a little texture, remove chunks of squash from the pot before you puree it. After the soup is pureed, add the soup back to the pot, and add the squash chunks back in and stir.

Feb 1, 2015

Gluten Free Almond Shortbread Tart with Strawberry Ice Cream and Fresh Berries

This is the most simple of desserts and my favorite 'go to' recipe for a gluten free pastry shell as well! 
Add regular or dairy free strawberry ice cream and fresh berries with a frosty dash of powdered sugar, and you have an elegant dessert that will wow even your most discriminating gluten based dessert lovers! This crust is an almond shortbread crust recipe that I have used many times and absolutely LOVE!  It makes for a great afternoon tea cookie too. :)

Gluten Free Tart with Strawberry Ice Cream and Fresh Berries

Gluten Free Almond Shortbread Crust
1.5 Quarts Coconut Milk Dairy-Free Frozen Dessert
 or regular Strawberry Ice Cream 
2 Pints 2 varieties of Fresh Berries (cleaned and dried)
Powdered Sugar for dusting top
Tart Pan

Gluten Free Almond Shortbread Crust
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup fine almond flour (meal)
1/3 cup “gluten free” *all purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt

For Shortbread Crust

Pre-Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Pulse almond flour with sugar in a food processor, add cornstarch, gluten free flour and salt. Pulse till well combined. Add butter and vanilla, mix just enough for the dough to start gathering together. Lightly butter the bottom of a tart pan or a cheesecake pan and up the sides a quarter of an inch. Press the shortbread mixture on the bottom. Pierce with a fork. Bake the crust in the pre-heated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. (till golden)

Have ice cream ready at a soft stage but not melted. When tart shell is cool, fill with ice cream, blending with swirls. Put back in freezer for 20 minutes. When ice cream is firm, take out of freezer and top with fresh fruit and dust with powdered sugar. It's ready and yummy to enjoy at this point! 


Jan 28, 2015

Dairy Free Coconut Panna Cotta with Blackberry Syrup

I am so excited about this Coconut Panna Cotta!
I am pretty new to dairy free cooking, and was pretty doubtful that I would find desserts that would satisfy the way custards, puddings and cheesecakes do. But "Oh-how-I-was-surprised!"
This is delicate, creamy, smooth and firm. It's everything a panna cotta should be! The coconut milk is light, but at the same time it is dense and not lacking in creaminess! I was amazed that I could enjoy panna cotta in a less traditional milk based version. But if this Italian cook can love it.. then you can too!

Coconut Panna Cotta
Adapted from the Deliciously Organic website

4 cups full fat coconut milk, divided 
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
1⁄3 cup raw or regular honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup seasonal berries

Pour 1 cup coconut milk into a medium saucepan and sprinkle evenly with the gelatin. Let the milk
sit for 5-10 minutes to allow the gelatin to soften.

Heat the milk and gelatin over medium heat, stirring constantly, until gelatin is dissolved and milk
begins to steam. Stir the remaining coconut milk and honey into the warm milk and whisk until all the
ingredients are dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Let the mixture cool
for 10 minutes.

Divide the coconut milk mixture evenly among 6 glasses or small bowls. Cover panna cottas tightly
with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic wrap does not touch the cream's surface. Refrigerate for

about 5 hours, until cold and set. When you are ready to serve, top with seasonal berries.

Blackberry Simple Syrup
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup water
2 cups frozen or fresh blackberries
*Optional; A handful of fresh rose scented geranium leaves and flowers washed and dried

Combine sugar, water, and blackberries in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.

When mixture boils, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 5 minutes, gently crushing blackberries against side of pan.

Remove the pan from heat and let mixture steep for 15 minutes.
Strain blackberry syrup through a fine mesh strainer into a clean container. Refrigerate until cold, and store covered in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.

*For an added aroma, add fresh herbal flowers or mints to your syrup for a refreshing flavor. 
My rose scented geraniums surprised me this winter with an early appearance, so I simmered them in the sugar, water and blackberry liquid while cooking. Add them after the sugar dissolves. Immediately strain the flowers and leaves from the syrup when you have reached your desired syrup thickness. 

Nov 16, 2014

Restoration; The Book of Philemon

A Review of the Book of Philemon

Paul writes this letter to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus, but as I read this story I can't help but be drawn to the man who has been set free through the acknowledgment, confession and repentence of his sin which in turn brings forth restoration unto his earthly as well as his heavenly master.

Onesimus in the flesh was a slave, a man in chains.. in bondage, but not just in the flesh.. in his spirit as well. I don’t know what kind of a master Philemon was but I can only imagine by Paul’s words of him that he was kind, good and fair. It was Onesimus who was stated as being useless to his masters household. (Philemon 1:11) 

Was he an outdoor slave tending the flock or working in the fields in the heat of the day, did he have to share duties with another slave that he might of been jealous of or felt inadequate too, or was he young with his head in the clouds, not paying attention to his chores nor having respect for the authority over him? Whatever the case Onesimus was an unprofitable slave who fled from his master’s house.

This is where the story begins to get my attention..
It’s not exactly known why, but Onesimus, a run away slave is in prison with Paul. (Paul say's he has begotten Onesimus in his bonds) Onesimus fled from his master’s home, probably empty handed, maybe with no food or drink to quench his hunger and thirst, so as to provide for himself he may have been caught stealing. Remember, he was useless, so looking for the easy way by stealing could have seemed like the only way for him at the time. So here he is, imprisoned. In chains. In bondage again.

[I can only imagine the scene... Tormented and in anguish as he sat there on the prison floor knowing this time there was no escape, no fleeing into the night quietly while no one was aware. No, this time he was locked up behind closed doors. Expecting to hear moaning’s and complaints from the other prisoners, Onesimus hears something else, praises to the God of Israel who has kept His promise by sending His only begotten Son. Jesus the Redeemer and propitiator of their sin, the one who heals the broken hearted and sets captives free. "Jesus, praise Jesus, glory Halleluia to the King of Kings"!
Freedom from bondage? What’s this he was hearing? Desirous to hear more I can vividly see Onesimus creeping closer to get a look at the prisoners who sang exaltations of peace and praise to God, maybe to hear the good news that was being proclaimed within the prison walls.
And there was Paul, a man very aged but yet still full of light and a countenance radiantly gleaming. How can this be, what is this joy he can I have it too?]

What a beautiful thought, Paul offering a fatherly embrace to this young man who has been tormented in his soul looking for freedom. How glorious it must have been to Onesimus as Paul shared his own testimony of freedom through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God’s Son the Savior. Savior of his soul.

Onesimus must have felt shame and embarrassment for his actions of being a selfish, good for nothing slave, fleeing his master and getting caught for a crime he committed. He must have shared everything hoping to receive absolution from Paul, only to be led to Jesus who not only forgives BUT PAY"S THE DEBT IN FULL. The words of unconditional love, forgiveness and freedom must have been the most beautiful words to Onesimus. Free at last!

This story of Onesimus doesn’t end here, it’s also a story of restoration. Paul takes this man, disciples him, and calls him 'his own son that he has begotten in chains'. (Philemon 1:10) We see the love between the two, but for me it is the changed life of Onesimus that proves the love of Christ in him, a slave who becomes free in spirit only to become a slave in the flesh to Paul, taking care of and ministering to Paul’s needs in his old age. Yes, Paul saw a man transformed by the renewing of his mind, a renewal that only the Spirit of the living God could give.

Can you imagine Philemon’s surprise to receive a letter from Paul about his runaway slave?
Paul declaring, "Onesimus has changed"! He was now useful to him in his chains and would be profitable again to Philemon too. Paul adjured Philemon to take Onesimus back, not that Pual was making a command, but as a fellow brother in Christ, a brother who loved this young man and who became his begotten son and fellow servant to the purposes of Christ. And Onesimus, a young man whom Paul would miss tremendously, but out of honoring Philemon and wanting Philemon also to experience the joy of a restored life, was sending Onesimus back and paying any debt to Philemon that Onesimus might have incurred to him.

This is a beautiful story of repentance, yielding and restoration unto the true Master through the working of the Holy Spirit. It is a story of a man who not just confesses Jesus for the sake of freedom, but denies himself, takes up the cross and follows Jesus' example through the fellowship of Christ's sufferings. This is about a man who gives his life to those in authority over him that he may serve them, glean from them, be restored to them and become one with them in the brotherhood of Christ Jesus.

I hope you prayerfully study and enjoy this book!
You will find the story of Philemon within the pages of the New Testament before the book of Hebrews. It is only one page long but has a lifetime of exploration and application!

The Lord bless you tremendously as you seek His face and allow Him to transform you by the renewing of your mind in Christ Jesus.