Friday, April 19, 2019

Happy Easter!


I'll be taking a blog break this weekend as I prepare for having family and friends over for Easter dinner.  So I send out Easter greetings to my friends here on Coffee Tea Books & Me.

I mentioned to a friend this week how I do not count numbers when it comes to blogging.  I refuse to look at them.  Of course, I see the numbers for the Facebook page whenever I log in and they are like a roller coaster, going up and down and up and down.  I'm pretty sure people click on unlike once they notice this is undoubtedly a Christian blog at its' base and not only about books and such.

So I take the time right now to thank friends who stay, for there is no encouragement to me without the risen Christ and Easter is all about the Resurrection.  I find it particularly interesting this year as Passover and Easter are overlapping... just as they did 2000 years ago during Holy Week and that first Resurrection sunrise.

The above image has been one I have come back to over and over this past week.  It reminds me of the Resurrection and how Jesus saves us out of the destruction and rubble of our lives.  Look at that cross, even after going through the fire!

Happy Easter, my friends.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Always Near: 10 Ways to Delight in the Closeness of God, a review


There is something about Robert J. Morgan's writing that speaks to me.  I have his book, The Strength You Need, sitting with a few favorite faith building books on my desk at all times.  So I was very interested in reading and reviewing this book.

Always Near could be described as a gift book as it is small, hardback, and the beautiful colors are on each page.  But unlike so many gift books, I found each chapter to be full of stories, Scripture, and reflections that 1) caused me to think, and 2) drew me closer to the Lord.

The Chapters are:
  • Delight in Jesus
  • Delight in Listening to God
  • Delight in Speaking to God
  • Delight in the Splendor of Worship
  • Delight in Special Times
  • Delight in Special People
  • Delight in Special Places
  • Delight in Challenging Moments
  • Delight in Unseen Realities
  • Delight in Doing the Next Thing

I would recommend this book to read during a daily quiet time, whether reading through one chapter a day or one a week, to enjoy sound teaching and as the chapters suggest... finding delight in God's ways.  It would also make a very good gift to give a friend needing encouragement.

Always Near was provided by the publisher for the sake of review but the opinions are my own.

More information about Always Near can be found... here.
Also mentioned in this review, The Strength You Need can be found... here.

Disclaimer:  Most links to Amazon.com are Associate links.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Sunday Afternoon Tea - We have this treasure!

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels,
that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
2nd Corinthians 4:7 KJV

There are times I get a Bible verse in my mind and it stays there all week, as if a seed was planted and left to germinate into a full beautiful flower.  When that happens, I know God is trying to get my attention.  So when the above section of a Bible verse kept coming to mind, what it reminded me was... although we are "earthen vessels"... jars of clay in the NIV... we contain great Treasure. 

As a long time thrift store aficionado, I know that one man's trash is another man's treasure.  I wanted to throw in a little show and tell here to explain what I'm talking about.  I bought the vintage Friendly Village sugar bowl at Goodwill for around 99 cents and found the (believe it or not) fake succulents in a flower pot on clearance at Meijers for $2.00.

I suppose the reason the sugar bowl was on the shelves was because it was without a lid.  With a lid, a vintage sugar bowl is worth a lot more than 99 cents.  When I saw it on the shelf, it went immediately into my cart because I could imagine it with a small flower or succulent in it. 

As it happened... and I believe most of my wonderful finds are God engineered... I went to Meijers the same day and found the fake succulents on the clearance table.  I love it when that happens. It now sits on a shelf on the breakfront (hutch) in the Living Room, among other brown transferware treasures.

What was once discarded and devalued was now once again a treasure.  At least in my home where it added a touch of Beauty.  I do not believe it was an accident that this happened during the same week God had placed "treasure in earthly vessels" on my heart.

To be honest, I felt like an earthly vessel, a jar made of clay this week.  The weather, as has happened so often the last few years, was unstable even for the Midwest in April.  My head has felt the pressure of these highs and lows and rain and snow, etc. My blood sugar was too low one day and too  high another day and honestly... I couldn't think of the reasons why either happened.

It is easy as we get older or have an illness or are getting over childbirth or we just have the flu to feel as if our jar of clay is dry and perhaps a crack is starting to show here and there.  But God reminds us that He knows "we are but dust" and not only that but we have a TREASURE within us... God Himself.

We are now the temple of God, His tabernacle.  I don't think we in the West quite understand how remarkable that was when Jesus stated this Truth.  Remember the Beauty of the Tabernacle and the glory of the Temple?  When the Holy of Holies was a place where the uninvited would drop dead?

Now you are telling us this Treasure lives within us?  The Holy Spirit of God.  Do you ever stop and think of that?  What one could not touch because of His Presence now lives in you and in me if we have accepted Christ as Savior and asked Him to forgive us our sins?

We are told the plan was there before the foundation of the world.  That the Son of God would be born and live and die and then be raised from the dead... as the sacrificial lamb of Passover.  The Lamb who takes upon Himself the sin that came on the world in Eden and who took back the Keys of Kingdom!

Did you ever stop and think what Eternity must be like, how wonderful and amazing it will be, if it were so important to the Father that He planned this before the foundation of the world?  We are that important?

God likes to take those people that have been cast aside, those who would definitely be on a shelf in a thrift shop if there were such a thing for humanity... and fill them with Treasure.  The world may have discounted us and placed us on the clearance aisle as damaged but not Him! 

He filled us with the Treasure of Himself and made this jar of clay into a beautiful priceless piece of porcelain.  The One who created all things is also in the business of recreating that which has been broken and crushed. 

Today is Palm Sunday and we are in the midst of Holy Week.  We will remember on Friday that Sunday is coming because we know that it did!  If you feel like it has been Friday for a very long time without seeing a Resurrection, don't give up.  It will happen.  In the meantime, we have this Treasure in earthly vessels...

Scripture taken from 2 Corinthians 4... here (NIV).

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Making Cinnamon Rolls


It is finally looking more like Spring here.  While the trees are still only budding, the grass is green and we are having more warm days than cold.  Winter definitely doesn't want to give up this year.  At least we don't have snow like our friends in the western states and those just north of us.

A few people have asked how I make cinnamon rolls from the bread machine dough.  This is the way I also made them when I used to mix and knead the dough myself.  I am sure there are many ways to prepare the cinnamon rolls but this is what I have tweaked over the years.

This seems like it would take awhile but it really doesn't, once the dough is ready.  I just want to make certain I get the details right so the description is quite wordy.

The dough cycle of the bread machine makes one loaf of bread or one half-sheet of cinnamon rolls.  I mentioned before that I recently realized why my cinnamon rolls were too small (aren't we always learning in the kitchen?).  It happened when my cinnamon rolls were rising a few weeks ago and I forgot about them.  They had been sitting on a half-sheet pan, covered with a thin tea towel for at least an hour.  They were much larger than I usually let them get and when they baked they were... the perfect size!!!  Lesson learned.  :)

So... make your favorite dough.  My bread machine dough recipe is... here I also have instructions on turning them into cinnamon rolls at the bottom of that recipe post.  Even when I tried to fix it, I couldn't get the paragraphs to separate so sorry for the jumbled look of that post. It was written back in 2007.

Make your dough and let it rise once.  If you are making it a day ahead and want it to rise overnight in the refrigerator, cover with plastic wrap and place in the frig with a plate on the bowl for a slow second rising.  Make sure the bowl is large enough for the dough to double in size.  The next day, roll out the dough per instructions below.

If you are making the cinnamon rolls immediately, make the dough and let it rise once.  It will have done this already in the bread machine.  Set the dough on a lightly flowered counter and press it into a rectangular shape.  Then let it rest about fifteen minutes.  Dough needs to rest a little or it will spring back.  You will know this already if you watch The Great British Baking Show!  ;)  (If it set in the frig overnight, you may not need to let it rest.)

Then roll the dough out as thin as you can get it, usually 1/4" or so, if it springs back again then let it rest a little longer.  You want the wide side of the rectangle nearest you for proper rolling and cutting.  Melt a few tablespoons of butter and brush it on the dough, leaving about an inch free of butter at the bottom of the rectangle so it will seal better.

Sprinkle cinnamon on the buttered dough to taste, I like cinnamon but some people don't so it is up to you how thick it goes on.  I get all messy and rub the cinnamon into the butter until all of the dough has cinnamon/butter on the surface... except that inch at the bottom of the rectangle!

Sprinkle brown sugar over the dough until you get the amount you want.  You can also use white sugar or raw sugar but I do like the flavor that brown sugar gives it.  Press sugar into the dough to help it not fall out.

Starting at the top of the rectangle at the wide side of the rectangle, turn the dough down about a quarter to a half inch all the way across the top.  This takes a little patience, then start rolling by stretching the dough back just a little and making one roll, stretch it back just a little and make another roll, until it become easy to continue rolling the dough into a cylinder.  Pinch the seams shut.

I use a sharp chef's knife but you can use whatever knife or bench scraper works best for you to slice them.  Some people even use unflavored dental floss.  The easiest way to get even slices is... make a slice in the middle of the cylinder.  That creates two halves.  Then make a slice in the middle of each half.  Then make a slice in the middle of each quarter.  You will probably be able to make one more slice in each piece.

Pinch together the dough that has come apart in the slices and place them on a greased half sheet pan or cookie sheet (I use parchment paper).  Cover with a light dish towel or tea towel, cotton or linen but not terry cloth... and let rise until double.  This could take an hour, especially in winter.

Bake at 350 for 12 - 15 minutes, you do want them to be well baked but not burned at all.  Obviously.  Take them out of the oven and if desired, transfer to a cooling rack.  I have left them on the baking sheet to cool before, too.

When cool or just a little bit warm (not hot), ice with your favorite icing if desired.  For many years, I craved the cinnamon rolls my parents purchased when I was a child.  There was something about them that I couldn't replicate in my own recipes.  Until I looked at the cinnamon roll icing recipe that was used in an Amish restaurant and I noticed something different about it. 

When I made that recipe, it was a lot like what I remembered from childhood!!!  They had a high amount of butter ratio to the confectioners sugar (icing sugar).  It made for a less sweet icing, albeit probably more calories but I mean really... yum.

I have the icing recipe on the cinnamon roll post, too, but it is basically:
  • 1/2 to 1 stick butter (according to how rich I feel at the time)
  • 3 Cups confectioners sugar (icing sugar)
  • Milk added one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency, whether you want to ice the cinnamon rolls or make a thick glaze.  I choose to ice them most of the time.  If you don't use all of the icing on the cinnamon rolls, it is really good on graham crackers. 
I use this same recipe for cakes using more confectioners sugar and I use it as a thick glaze over some bundt cakes.  You don't need vanilla in the icing but you can add it if you want.  You can also add maple extract to make it more of a maple cinnamon roll icing.

I hope this answers the questions.  If I left anything out, just let me know in Comments!

Mentioned in this Blog Post
Parchment paper for half sheet pans... here.
Since we are on the subject, parchment paper for 9" cake pans... here.
Half sheet pans... here.

Once again, the original bread machine bread recipe is... here.

Disclaimer:  Most links to Amazon.com are Associate links.
Image:  Fresh Bread by Loren Entz

Thursday, April 11, 2019

NIV Starting Place Study Bible, a review


I can't tell you how many times I reviewed a study Bible only to be disappointed.  This Bible is just the opposite, it provided even more information than I hoped for.  If you are going to have one study Bible for a reference, this should do it!

I am reviewing the hard cover edition and in the flyleaf, it explains that parts of six other previously published study Bible's have been provided in this one Bible.  They are: The Essential Study Bible Companion, NIV Quest Study Bible, NIV Foundation Study Bible, NIV Archaeological Study Bible, NIV Student Bible, and the NIV Rock Solid Faith Study Bible.

This Bible is full of notes, information inserts, Q & A inserts, archaeological photos and information, black and white photos, Bible character information, and a lot more material to provide plenty of Bible study for both the beginner and one who has studied the Bible for decades.

I highly recommend this Bible as a resource.  The font is easy to read in both the notes as well as the NIV text, even for someone like me whose regular Bible is large print.

NIV Starting Place Study Bible hardback edition was provided by the publisher for the sake of review but the opinions are my own.

More information can be found... here.

Disclaimer:  Most links to Amazon.com are Associate links.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Looking through eyes of faith


So often it has been in the darkest of times that God has made His light known.  That is exactly what happened this past week, which started with me telling Him that if He didn't intervene... I would not "finish well", thank you very much.

Finishing well has been a goal since I first reached middle age and began to notice the number of people who had started their Christian walk close to Him that were falling along the wayside.  While I don't doubt they would reach Heaven, their legacy was tarnished along the way.  Life is full of choices and they had not chosen wisely.

I wanted to reach old age as one of the men and women who chose the good way and finished well.  One who crossed the finish line bruised and battered but did not give up.  This past week, the temptation was to take to my sofa in disgust and disappointment with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  (Don't worry when this happens to you, God can take it. He knows how you feel already.)

This feeling didn't happen suddenly, it was an accumulation of tests and trials which have been building for awhile.  You know when you reach that point again.... as you think you will topple off the cliff of faith when the smallest of trials seem as mountains before you.

I have become convinced over the years that God smiles when we are in the midst of such darkness.  Not because He is unfeeling but because He sees the entire picture and we see but that minute... of that hour... of that day.

How foolish are those of us who were created from dirt.  How we forget Who breathed life into us in the beginning. Sometimes we let the dirt override the glory just by letting our mind look in the wrong direction.

God began to break through my darkness with many small miracles, some would not call them miracles but to me they were.  My daffodils started blooming.  I received a lovely message from my daughter.  A gift from a friend brought smiles.  All arriving at a time when they were needed. Individually they would be appreciated but together they were glimpses of His caring.

How He brings together nature and people and gifts are beyond my comprehension but He also engineered that I would be listening to a message just when I needed it. I was resting in the family room when I noticed a favorite speaker was just coming on one of the programs.  He made a statement that at first made me laugh... and then made me think... and then made me realize how profound was that Truth.

He said that what we are looking at all the time is what we will see.  At first that seems like an obvious statement.  Of course we will see what we look at!  But that was not what he said.  He said that what we are looking at all the time is what we will see.

He went on to explain for instance, in the way we view eschatology.  A person who believes Jesus could come today will usually view the news and current events slightly differently than one who believes Christians go through the Tribulation.  They will view current events differently than one who does not believe Jesus is coming soon at all.  People can see the same events and form a completely different conclusion because of what they expect from life.

It was like a light bulb was turned on in my soul.  I had been looking at even the smallest of trials as if they were all giants in the land.  It seemed as if each day to come would only bring the same trials and now there were new challenges.  In a week I was having a hard time seeing... literally... God opened my eyes spiritually.  Again.  As He has other times when giving up seemed all one could do.  You would think someone would learn by now.

As if He wanted to really get His message through, during this week I learned about the new song by Nicole C. Mullen, co-written by Kathy Lee Gifford, and the title was... get this... The God Who Sees.  Yes, I downloaded it already and listened and listened.  There is also a video released last week, which I will provide a link.

Did any of the trials leave?  No.  The same problems that were there on Monday are there on Sunday.  What did change was the way I see them.  First through the little things like hearing from family and a friend's loving gift.  Seeing that winter is beginning to leave.  Spring is here.  The daffodils tell me that even if the trees are bare.

The one who says it all the time needed a reminder.  This isn't Heaven, yet.  But God does not forget us or forsake us on the journey there.  I need to keep my eyes on the goal and not on the giants in the land.  Thank you for your much needed prayers.

Mentioned in this Blog Post
Nicole C. Mullen The God Who Sees music download... here.
(Amazon music but I'm sure iTunes has it, too.)
YouTube video of The God Who Sees... here.

Disclaimer: Most links to Amazon.com are Associate links

Image:  Someone who helps me keep my eyes on Beauty and the Lord is Lancia Smith.   Especially in The Cultivating Project... her lovely online magazine... here.