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Easter Treasure Hunt 2016

Before I truly understood the real meaning of Easter and its importance to my new life in Christ, I was all about collecting as many brightly colored eggs as possible and hoping they held my favorite type of candy. I’m partial to Twix, Three Musketeers, and strawberry Starbursts! Nowadays, it’s not the size or contents of the eggs but the empty tomb that gets me most excited! Two years ago, First United Methodist Church in Joshua, Texas began a new tradition. Instead of the free-for-all egg hunt that usually leads to smaller, younger kids being trampled by older, bigger kids, we have an Easter treasure hunt. Small groups of children and adults are led around a big circle with five stations. Each station has a character from the Bible sharing the Easter story from their perspective. As kids move from one station to the next, they follow a trail of eggs to pick up along the way. Everyone is safe. Everyone has fun. And everyone leaves with a basket or bag full of eggs with candy and goodies.

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Jesus, now well on the way up to Jerusalem, took the Twelve off to the side of the road and said, “Listen to me carefully. We are on our way up to Jerusalem. When we get there, the Son of Man will be betrayed to the religious leaders and scholars. They will sentence him to death. They will then hand him over to the Romans for mockery and torture and crucifixion. On the third day, he will be raised up alive.” ~ Matthew 20:17-19 (The Message)

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Jesus, seeing that everything had been completed so that the Scripture record might also be complete, then said, “I’m thirsty.” A jug of sour wine was standing by. Someone put a sponge soaked with the win on a javelin and lifted it to his mouth. After he took the wine, Jesus said, “It’s done … complete.” Bowing his head, he offered up his spirit. ~ John 19:28-30 (The Message)

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When he learned from the centurion that Jesus was dead, Pilate gave the dead body to Joseph. He bought a linen cloth, took Jesus down from the cross, wrapped him in the cloth, and laid him in a tomb that had been carved out of rock. He rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus saw where he was buried. ~ Mark 15:45-47 (Common English Bible)

Jesus came near and spoke to them, “I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.” ~ Matthew 28: 18-20 (CEB)

Brothers and sisters, I want to call your attention to the good news that I preached to you, which you also received and in which you stand. You are being saved through it if you hold on to the message I preached to you … I passed on to you as most important what I also received: Christ died for our sins in line with Scripture, he was buried, and he rose on the third day. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 (CEB)

Because we are thankful for Easter and celebrating it with friends, here are more pictures from our treasure hunt!

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Cheesy Ranch Potato Casserole

Since a certain Lovely Lady requested this recipe … and my deep freezer had some extra space … and because calories don’t count on rainy days, I made a big batch of Cheesy Ranch Potato Casserole. I also call it hash brown casserole but I found Ranch seasoning packets in the pantry and decided to jazz it up. This recipe is quick and easy to freeze for later. I love buying these ingredients at ALDI too because they’re cheaper and I can make a big batch. Yesterday, I made four large trays but you could easily divide the ingredients to make less.

cheesy ranch potato casserole INGREDIENTS

To make cheesy ranch potato casserole, you will need these ingredients:

4 – 30oz bags of frozen shredded hash browns
2 pints sour cream
4 cans cream of chicken soup
2 packets Ranch seasoning
4 cups shredded Sharp Cheddar, divided
4 cups shredded Colby Jack, divided
salt and pepper

In a large bowl, whisk together sour cream, soup, and Ranch powder. Add 3 cups of Cheddar and 3 cups of Colby cheese, salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Divide mixture evenly between four aluminum roasting pans.

Add one bag of frozen hash browns into each aluminum tray. With a spatula or your hands, stir until hash browns are coated with soup mixture. Sprinkle remaining shredded cheese and top with plastic wrap then aluminum foil.

I like to cover with plastic wrap to prevent freezer burn and to keep the aluminum foil clean – I’m sure you could skip this step and be just fine. It’s just a personal preference!

cheesy ranch potato casserole PREPARED

Cover each tray tightly with aluminum foil, add pre-printed freezer label, and wah-lah you’re done!

cheesy ranch potato casserole FOIL COVERS

As you can see, my pre-printed freezer labels are actually 4×6 index cards attached with clear tape! Even though I have this recipe and cooking instructions memorized, I like to include specific directions in case I give a tray to someone.

cheesy ranch potato casserole FREEZER LABEL

This Cheesy Ranch Potato Casserole is a crowd pleaser and easy to prepare – enjoy!


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2016 Resolutions Update // February

2016resolutions

Two down, 10 to go.

FOR MYSELF

Participate in the Read Scripture project I’m a little behind on reading but I will catch up. Promise!
Keep a prayer journal, such as this one
Write a few sentences every day in a journal (I already have one of these.)
Read the Bible … again (using this plan)
Learn “Inductive Bible Study” and attend a PUP course
Create one Bible Journaling page a month January: no page; February: no page
Finish Believe study
Forgive “S” because holding a grudge is weighing me down
Walk/Jog/Run in the Wicked Wine 5K with Mom-Tribe on March 26
Get photos printed and display in our home
Utilize health coach and benefits (i.e. pedometer, reimbursements, etc.) Spoke with my health coach February 10.
Wear size 16 pants

FOR OTHERS

Lead this Bible study
Start a small group
Host a meal with Mom-Tribe every month February 13 – dinner and a movie with the mom tribe!
Continue writing for Sweet Jesus Ministries Things with SJM are going very well!
Potty train Kamden
Move Kamden to a big bed Kamden slept on a full size bed ALL BY HIMSELF at Grammy and Pappy’s house!
Take Kamden on a train
Celebrate Husband’s 40th birthday
Donate unwanted books

FOR FUN

Find three hobbies: one to make money, one to stay in shape, and one to be creative
Host “Games with Friends” and play this, this, this, this and this!
Use Skype
Photo editing “workshop” with Becky
Sell the Camry
Save money earned from photography sessions to invest in new equipment
Publish a blog series
Go on a family vacation
Create my family tree with Ancestry dot com

MORE

Exercising
Dates with Husband January – Husband took the day off so we could go shoot while Kamden was at school. Unfortunately, it was too cold and windy to shoot at the outdoor range and the indoor facility was reserved for a private event. But we enjoyed lunch and being alone for couple of hours. February – no date with Husband.
Sleeping
Picture-taking
Housekeeping and organization
Rounds of golf
Snail mail
Reading
Blogging
Meal planning (helpful printable)

MONTHLY GOALS

January – Log 1,000 minutes of exercise for the #SJM1000MinuteChallenge. FAILED. This is a big disappointment because I was the person responsible for coordinating the event with Sweet Jesus Ministries. I ended up with 865 minutes of exercise for the month of January, which is well below the goal I had for the month.

February – Embrace role as spiritual mentor. This is going well! Go to the gym three days a week or more. Semi-failure as I have been inconsistent some weeks. Coordinate small group with C8M. Fail. Start organizing “City on a Hill” event on behalf of the church. Semi-failure. I’ve only talked to a few people about volunteering.


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Spiritual Gifts and Rock Collecting

 

a pile of rocks

Kamden and I have been enjoying the beautiful weather by treasure hunting in the yard and driveway. After an hour of playful discovery and excavation, Kamden had a pile of rocks and placed each one on the porch rail. While Kamden examined his treasures, I remembered a recent Bible study lesson on spiritual gifts. To the eye, Kamden’s rocks were just ordinary stones. But to God, the Creator of all things, these rocks were made for a specific purpose. Yes, they are all rocks but each one has a unique size, color, shape, or texture.

Kamden’s rocks are like our God-given spiritual gifts:

  • Some rocks are more colorful than others. They might be exciting or sassy; a reminder that our exterior features are just a smidgen of who we are on the inside.
  • Bumpy rocks have weathered severe storms and survived difficult situations. They have “been there, done that, and got the t-shirt” life experiences!
  • Shiny rocks are few and far between but they stand out in a crowd. They are popular and enjoy the spotlight.
  • Small rocks fill in the gaps. They are willing to step in and help or complete the miniscule tasks. They prefer to stay in the shadows. Small rocks prove that small things make a big difference.
  • Other rocks are really smooth. They are soft, compassionate, and nurturing. Smooth rocks also go with the flow and let stress roll off their back. They are not phased by situations or circumstances.
  • Finally, there are big rocks. They offer support and stability. Need a high five? Get a big rock. Need help moving furniture? Your big rock has broad shoulders and probably drives a pick-up truck!

Last Friday evening, I chauffeured four teenage girls to a Christian music concert at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. While the girls and I enjoyed performances by Audio Adrenaline, Mandisa, Jeremy Camp, and The Newsboys, I couldn’t help but notice the large number of support staff working behind the scenes and in the shadows of the celebrities. Once again, the topic of spiritual gifts was on my mind and in my heart. From the moment we entered the parking garage until we exited four hours later, we had some form of interpersonal connectedness with police officers, parking attendants, security guards, ticket agents, concession employees, audio/visual technicians, stage equipment movers, an audience of 25,000 fans, and the performers themselves. All of us inside the AAC relied on these people to do their job or specific task. Because of them, my concert experience was memorable and wonderful. And I can assure you that every artist is grateful for their TEAM who helps them successfully perform without worrying about their attire, sound equipment, stage props, proper lighting, or travel arrangements!

Learning Spiritual Gifts by Rock Collecting

Whether you are a big rock shining in the spotlight or a tiny rock working diligently in the shadows, your spiritual gifts matter. In fact, God blessed you with specific gifts and talents to be used in order to fulfill His purposes on this earth. If your gifts are not used or shared, the world is seriously missing out! We are not all called to sing or perform on stage in a bright spotlight – thank goodness because the world would be dull and boring if we all had the same gifts and talents. Besides, this lesson on spiritual gifts is clear validation that God created us to be in community and relationship with one another – because together we are better for His glory!

Our spiritual gifts are to be practiced out of a heart of grace, humility, and faith. We are commissioned to discover what God has gifted us with and to use it for his glory and the benefit of the world. — Believe by Randy Frazee

If you are unsure of your spiritual gift(s), I encourage you to take this Spiritual Gift Assessment survey. It will take 10 minutes of your time and provide a wealth of information about your gifts, talents, and passions. When you’re done, ask God to guide you as to their use. He knows exactly where you are needed and when, if you will listen and obey his instructions. Who knows, you might be surprised to discover a gift you didn’t know you possessed!

After you’ve completed the Spiritual Gift Assessment, share your high and low categories in a comment. My top three are: Wisdom/Knowledge, Administration, and Teaching. My bottom three are: Evangelism, Giving, and Intercession (prayer).

Finally, thank ALL the rocks in your life – even the crazy and colorful ones!


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A bag of … RED

 

RED FOR EMILY - web-2

I recently shared my new role as spiritual mentor to a young lady who is going through an 18-week Confirmation Class at our church. I am responsible for modeling Christian living, encouraging her to make wise and sound decisions, and being available when she wants to talk or ask questions. Though it is not required, gift-giving is one of my love languages and most favorite way to surprise someone. I’m making it a priority to give her things I think she will enjoy or that will make her smile. Since February is the month of love and Valentine’s Day, I decided to give her a bag containing all things RED.

To create a bag of RED, one doesn’t need to spend a lot of money. Kamden and I had a blast walking through the aisles of the Dollar Tree picking up knick-knacks, candy, pens and paper, and seasonal items with a Valentine theme. Since every cool human likes Chick-Fil-A, and because their packaging is red, I got a gift card. And, because I’m a frugal and resourceful mentor, I put the gift card in Kamden’s empty nugget box!

RED FOR EMILY - web-1

This bag of RED contains:

  • Trident gum
  • Kit Kat bar
  • jewelry cleansing wipes
  • Coffee mug with hearts
  • a bag of Doritos chips (nacho cheese!)
  • milk chocolate candy hearts
  • headbands
  • Twizzlers
  • M&Ms
  • bath sponge
  • Chick-Fil-A gift card
  • greeting card
  • gift bag with hearts

Color-themed gifts are unique and you can spend as much (or little) as your budget allows. I spent $31 for everything in this bag of RED, including the gift card. It was super fun to put together and doing this during seasonal and holidays is simple. Kamden was excited to pose for the camera and hold the bag full of RED goodies we got for our confirmand student!

RED FOR EMILY - web-3

 


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SELAH Bible Study // Importance of Community

SELAH - Importance of Community

SCRIPTURE

Nehemiah 2:17-20

EXPLANATION

Nehemiah // a Jewish man; the king’s “cupbearer” (wine taster and guard); held place of honor with Persian King
King of Persia // verbally blessed Nehemiah and encouraged him to return to Jerusalem to rebuild walls
Sanballet, Tobiah, and Geshem // kings doubtful of Nehemiah

LOCATION // Jerusalem. The Babylonians conquered Jerusalem and King Nebuchadnezzar knocked down the city’s walls and burned its gates.  When the Israelites returned to Jerusalem from Babylon, after 70 years of slavery, they attempted to reconstruct the city but their efforts were thwarted by laziness and a lack of faith. They were distracted, discouraged, and lacked leadership, organization, and unity. More than 150 years after the city had been destroyed, Nehemiah obeyed God’s calling to return to Jerusalem even though he held a position of prominence for the King of Persia. The king noticed Nehemiah’s sadness for his homeland then blessed him and sent him to Jerusalem – a divine appointment directed by God himself.

Verse 17: Without walls, Jerusalem is weak and unable to defend itself against enemies. Its physical and spiritual condition was a disgrace.

Verse 18: Nehemiah encouraged the Israelites to listen, to act as one, because he had been DOUBLY blessed: by the encouraging words of the Persian king and God’s gracious hand. They (the Israelites) said, “Let’s start building!” and they committed themselves to the common good. Here, what is good for one was good for all. The people collectively agreed to rebuild the city walls and they were unified with one voice and one purpose.

Verse 19: When Christ-followers are doing God’s work, Satan creeps in to discourage and distract us. Three kings from surrounding areas ridicule and mock the Israelites for attempting the reconstruction project again, a reminder that opposition comes quickly when God’s people are working for His glory.

Verse 20: Nehemiah responds to the kings trying to discourage him and the Israelites – but he does so with humility and gives God credit for their success. They (Nehemiah and Israelites) take the role of servant and submit to God’s purpose instead of their own selfish desires.

When we let God take control

LESSONS

Being a Christian is not easy! Nehemiah’s faith was planted firmly in God’s promise to fulfill His kingdom. God blessed Nehemiah with specific talents and Nehemiah was obedient to use his gifts for God’s glory. Later on, we read that Nehemiah led the reconstruction project and the walls were rebuilt in 52 days. The massive project, with Nehemiah’s leadership and divine blessing, was divided into smaller tasks and assigned to talented individuals. The Israelites worked together and focused on one goal – to rebuild the city’s walls – and they succeeded.

When we let God take control and surround ourselves with genuine supporters, blessings come and our obedience is rewarded.

The walls around Jerusalem symbolize the condition of our faith community. Is your support group in ruins or chaotic? Look around you. Are people building you up or tearing you down? Are they helping you or mocking you?

God created us to be in relationship with Him and other believers. We need spiritual mentors and accountability partners to love and respect us, as well as support and guide us in the right direction. Living a faithful life doesn’t mean an easy life – the three doubtful kings prove there is always opposition and Satan works hard to wreck our plans – but living an obedient life guarantees eternal blessings!

When Nehemiah prayed to God asking for restoration of Jerusalem, he didn’t sit on the sidelines and hope for a miracle. He offered himself and said use me.

APPLICATION

The Greek word “koinonia” means fellowship – an essential element of the Christian faith because it represents the intimacy between God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and all believers. When we are in fellowship with God, we are called to be in fellowship with others ( 1 John 1:3 ).

we thrive in community 2

A healthy and thriving faith community requires participation and sharing one purpose. The word community includes the word UNITY for a reason! When the Israelites had a single mission, their efforts were unified and they worked together to accomplish one goal. They kept each other spiritually fit to ward off Satan’s distractions, discouragement, and deceitful tactics.

Biblically-grounded, spiritually mature people are crucial to our faith development and help us stay focused. We thrive in community that has purpose and is filled with love, mutual respect, and accountability.

HONOR

God, I come to you with a heart full of thanksgiving. I am grateful for my faith-filled family, friends, church, and small group because they exemplify rest, healing, discipleship, discipline, honor, and integrity. Forgive me when I forget the magnitude of their presence or take them for granted. I submit my life to your will, not my preference or convenience. Use me for your kingdom work, all honor and glory is yours.

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