Friday, December 9, 2011

A Cheesecake Factory Redux...

I hope this finds everyone doing well for the Christmas season. I just finished putting together my individual White Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecakes, my twist on the Cheesecake Factory's seasonal treat. I must say I have not had this cheesecake from the Cheesecake factory. I only saw their photo and description on their website. I took that as my inspiration, and I went with it.

Here is what I did. I made a cheesecake recipe and I added some Dove Chocolate Discoveries Frosty White Chocolate Smoothie mix into it for a bit of a white chocolate taste. I added Andes peppermint crunch and some mini chocolate chips to the batter. I then baked that in my mini cheesecake pan with removeable bottoms (key to making this mini size and assembly). I then made a batch of super fabulous cocoa brownies. I love this recipe because it is super rich, fudgey and moist. When they are cold they do not get hard, just more fudgey and decadent. Love them. So I cut out circles of the brownies for my cheesecake base. I adhered the cheesecake to the brownie with a little of my peppermint ganache. Then I poured a 1/2 tablespoon scoop of ganache on the top of the cheesecakes. Next, I cleaned the edges and drips with an offset spatula. I will be making a white chocolate whipped cream with the remainder of my packet of Frosty White Chocolate Smoothie mix to pipe high on top. I will finish them with a sprinkle of more peppermint crunch. As you can see this is a totally over the top, crazy dessert. I love it.

PLEASE NOTE: I don't have the whipped cream on these cakes yet. I will be doing that tonight when I bring them to the party. I will try to remember to take a picture, but this will have to do for now. Just imagine a pretty piped 1-2 inch high swirl of whipped cream with bits of peppermint crunch sprinkled on it. Now you know what it looks like finished. :)

Okay, so what would I do differently? I think that next time for the sake of the texture of the cheesecake, I will not do mini cheesecakes. Some of the cheesecakes turned out more creamy than others. Maybe I should have rotated the pan through cooking. Or maybe I need to put a water bath in the oven with them to provide a bit of moisture. This was the first time I used this pan and this recipe in that pan. I have used this recipe in mini muffin tins and it is great. I usually cook my standard size cheesecake in a waterbath. The texture it brings to the cheesecake is out of this world creamy. It isn't cakey like you get at most places. It is like custard almost. Just thick enough to slice, but smooth and creamy in the mouth and off the fork. This recipe I used is not that recipe though, but one I have for mini cheesecakes. It is similar in simplicity, and totally doable in a large cake. ( I won't give out my prized cheesecake recipe. I didn't make it up, but I am not going to tell you where to get it. A working pastry chef has to keep some recipe secrets.)

Next, I think that I would just do an Oreo crust. That would save a big step in not having to bake the brownies. The Cheesecake Factory version has an Oreo crust. Or maybe if you cooked the cheesecake in a regular 8 inch springform pan, you could bake a simple chocolate cake recipe in the same size pan and cut a thin layer to put the cheesecake on. You play with how difficult you want it to be.

I think I will make the ganache thinner so it is more like a glaze. That means using more cream or less chocolate than my recipe. Lastly, you could also just melt some white chocolate and put it in the cheesecake batter, or just leave out that flavor entirely. The peppermint kind of hides the subtle white chocolate flavor anyway. I was experimenting with my Dove Chocolate Discoveries products for selling ideas and tips.

Okay, so what do you think? Here are my cheesecake and ganache recipes. You decide on your cheesecake base: Oreo crust or cake crust. Or go naked, and eat your cheesecake without a bottom base on it. The ganache and whipped cream really are enough. Yes, you just read naked in my description. It refers to the cheesecake not you. Ha! Ha!

White Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecake:
2 8oz. packages of cream cheese (do not use reduced fat or fat free. Yuck!)
1/3 c. + 2 TBSP. sugar
1/3 c. Dove Chocolate Discoveries Frosty White Chocolate Smoothie mix
2 eggs
4 TBSP. sour cream
1/2 c. Andes peppermint crunch pieces
1/4 c. mini semi sweet chocolate chips or any chocolate cut into very small pieces.

Cream the cheese, sugar and smoothie mix together. Add eggs one at a time until just incorporated. Stir in sour cream. Lightly stir in peppermint crunch and chocolate chips. Pour into a buttered and parchment lined 8 inch spring form or cake pan. The butter needs to be on the sides of the pan, parchment on the bottom. This will allow you to unmold the cheesecake to put on your cake base. If you plan to use an Oreo crust, you will need to line your pan with that first.

Level off the batter, then bake at 350F for about 45 min. This is a guess on my part because I did not make a full size cake. You want the cheesecake to be set on the edges and slightly firm in the middle. It shouldn't jiggle when you shake it, but you should not see a lot of color on top either. Maybe just a little tan color on the very edges. Don't worry about cracks. The cheesecake will puff up and then sink as it cools. More room for a puddle of peppermint ganache I say. Check it along the way for the right doneness. It could take as long as 55 min. Again, just watch it. When it is done, simply take it out and let it cool on a cooling rack. Then chill it after about 30 min. You need it to chill for at least 4 hours, but I usually do it overnight.

Peppermint Ganache ( I have edited this to make it more glaze like.)
4 oz. semi sweet or dark chocolate. I used chocolate chips.
6 TBSP. heavy cream
1/2 tsp. peppermint extract.
Put chocolate and cream in a glass bowl, microwave for about a minute. Stir together till smooth. Add peppermint extract.

White Chocolate Whipped cream:
1 c. whipped cream
rest of Frosty White Smoothie packet
whip till stiff and pipeable.

If you make a cake layer for your cheesecake base, you need to cut the whole cake layer in half horizontally, as you really only want a thin layer of cake for your base. The main star should be the cheesecake itself. Anchor the cheesecake to the cake with a thin layer of ganache. I would just drizzle some ganache on the cake layer then put the cheesecake on top. No one will see it. It is just acting as glue. When you unmold your cheesecake, this is best done with a cake cardboard to unmold your cheesecake onto, peel off parchment, then place the cake layer on top. Place serving dish on top of this, and then turn over. Voila, you didn't crack or break your cake, it is layered, and the top side is now up.

Note: If that is confusing, you use your common sense to put your cheesecake together. Wish I could do a movie, but trust me I wouldn't do a good job on film. I am camera shy.

Next pour your ganache on top of the cheesecake and smooth out. You may not need all the ganache, just pour some on and smooth it out. You don't want a thick layer, just enough to cover the top. Now you can refrigerate this until serving time. At serving time, pipe on swirls of white chocolate whipped cream and sprinkle each swirl with more peppermint crunch.

Leave a message if you need help. Enjoy.

I hope to put together a copy cat version of The Cheesecake Factory's Reese's Peanut butter Cup cheesecake. It is even more over the top than this post. Wow!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

LIght, fluffy and super high rising biscuits

I made these biscuits this morning. I didn't have any of my round cutters because my mom is borrowing them. All I had was this small fluted cutter. I used it with great success. We got light mini biscuits. I also didn't have buttermilk for the dough, so I made my own using milk and lemon juice. Worked well, although the dough was a little more wet than usual. No worries. These biscuits were light, fluffy, melt in your mouth good, and rose sooo high, with flaky layers. Love..!!! We scarfed down quite a few. The key is a high baking temp. and cutting in the butter into the flour just right. This is my favorite biscuit recipe. No frills, but hey, that is a biscuit for you.
The recipe is from Katie Lee Joel's Comfort Food cookbook.

2 1/2 - 3 c. all purpose flour
1 stick of butter or 50/50 stick butter(Smart Balance)
1 TBSP. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450F.
Combine all dry ingredients into a medium mixing bowl. Stir together. Cut butter into the dry ingredients with your fingers or a pastry blender until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add buttermilk and mix till moistened. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead 3-5 times. Roll out to about 1/2 inch thick. Cut out with a 2 inch biscuit cutter. Reroll scraps and cut those out. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. When oven is preheated place in oven and bake for about 10-12 minutes. Let cool slightly and then eat. They are so buttery good, you really don't need to butter them more. Just a dollop of jam is good.

Enjoy. Excuse my lack of photography ability. I am not a photographer, just a baker.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Dove Chocolate notes...

Edited to add: Just tried the Chipotle Pecan Caramel Nut Clusters last night. You have got to get these!!! They are super fabulous. When you first eat a bite, you think, "That's not spicy, just sweet pecan, caramel, chocolate goodness with a little sea salt edge. " Then the chipotle gives its little kick... nice little hint of heat in the back of your mouth. It is superb!!!

Hey, Everyone. Not sure who sees this, but I am going to put this out there anyway.
I have been slowly trying some of the delicious and decadent products from Dove Chocolate Discoveries TM now that I am an Independent Chocolatier for them. It's a sweet job that is for sure. I had a very very good October and am trying to gather Christmas orders in November.

Here are some items I have tried lately that are soo good and you need to get them for beating those Winter blues or for gifts.
1. Dark Sipping Chocolate---a totally decadent cup of hot chocolate. Very rich and bold dark chocolate flavor. Splash in a tablespoon of Grand Marnier liquor for a grown up treat.
2. White Spiced Sipping Chocolate--rich, smooth and spicy flavor in a white hot chocolate base. This was sooo good. I could see this as a base for a spiced pumpkin latte or a spiced pumpkin smoothie (recipes are plentiful around the blog land for these drinks)
3. Chocolate Martini mix-- I have made the non-alcohol version using 2 oz. martini mix, 1 oz. half and half, and 1 oz. flavored coffee creamer (hazelnut, peppermint mocha, and irish cream are good choices)
4. Chocolate Truffle Brownie---sinfully rich and fudgy. These are soooo good fresh out of the oven as they are loaded with chocolate baking bits (real chocolate here and almost a half pound of them).
5. Dark chocolate mousse mix kit--- super easy and fancy restaurant quality. This mousse mix takes 10 min. tops to make. I use 1 cup of heavy cream instead of 3/4 cup like the package directs. It goes a littler farther and I think is definitely rich tasting.
6. Cinnamon apples a la mode-- yummy and unexpected. Great chopped and baked in brie with some dried cranberries added
7. Raspberry and Mango dessert sauces---super fresh fruit flavor in a very thick sauce. A surprise hit.
8. Cinnamon Dusted Milk Chocolate almonds-- smooth cinnamon flavor around a milk chocolate covered almond. Bliss!!
9. Sweet and Smoky Chocolate BBQ sauce-- you don't really taste the chocolate, it just gives a deep rich flavor. This has been a big hit with all my customers. They totally bought it up last month with the Buy One Get One FREE special. Super delicious on pork and chicken.
10. Chocolate Fig Balsamic Dressing---all you balsamic lovers out there need to get this. It is sooo good. Sweet and tangy with subtle citrus notes. I love it.

I could go on a little longer, but I will stop there. I will be trying some more of the baking mixes this month and through the Winter as well as the drink mixes. Can't wait to get my Spicy Chipotle Nut Clusters. I have Choco-Caramel crunch waiting to be busted looks super yummy. Sea Salt Caramels, here I come. Stay tuned.

Get yours at Dove Chocolate Discoveries. Or contact me here for more info. Chocolate is universally liked and almost never regifted. Get your holiday orders in today!!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Boy, does this describe me to a T... I needed this today.

I got this in my email box today. I think this letter describes me to a T. I needed the encouragement that I am not the only one, but more importantly the reminder to rest in God and BE PATIENT. We are struggling with issues this year in our homeschooling, while not new, are compounded with an increase in work load. I am having trouble being patient with them, and as I pray for them, I want God to fix our situation NOW! I must be patient for God to work out his purposes, which he promises to do. I must be humble and gentle of spirit and do what I know is right and wait for him on the results. Too many times I don't do what I know I ought and then get mad when I don't get the results I want. Anyway, I am sharing this letter with you. Maybe it will encourage you too.


The Impatient Homeschooler

Gena Suarez

I have learned something about myself over the years. I keep thinking maybe this will be the day (or year?) I'll "get a hold" of a certain issue and fix it. And my problem is a spiritual one - many problems are. It has to do with patience: you know, "long-suffering." Whether it's with my husband and kids, or with those whom I work, or patience with my current situation (whatever that may be at the moment), the quandary is still the same. I'm not even patient with myself; I notice I scowl even when I make mistakes that can't be helped. I'm impatient.

In the past, I have wondered about patience. Some people come across really unruffled, calm and carefree. Even if they are going through a crisis, or their lives are turned upside down, somehow they are marked by patience, demonstrating an even-tempered and soft approach to their problems. I've often thought, Well, it comes natural to some, but others (like me) have to work at being patient. Some of us don't have that natural talent. But is it a talent? And how *does* one "work at being patient"?

Interestingly, in recent days, it's starting to come together. No, I'm not more patient. But I've discovered how to be.

It goes back to God's Word, the Bible. He has given us lots and lots of scriptural points of reference and I'm starting to think that a number of different issues are only seemingly not the same. In reality, they're tied together. I'm talking about waiting on the Lord, exhibiting self-control as well as not succumbing to anxiousness or fear going hand in hand with being a patient person. Let me explain.

I worry about everything.

Even though God's Word actually commands us to be anxious for nothing (Philippians 4:6), I blow it almost every time. If a crisis is on the horizon, even a small one, I'm shaking in my boots. Usually if I'm stressed, it's over money. TOS is a high-overhead company. Our staff/payroll costs are astronomical. It's incredible what goes on behind the scenes of the magazine to "make it happen." And while I will say over and over that TOS is the Lord's company, and His magazine, when things get rough (like payroll is due) I keep snatching what's His back into my hot restless hands, milling it 'round and about and sweating over it. Yuck. Why do I do this? I'm impatient.

God says to wait on Him. He says a lot in His Word about waiting, in fact, and we'll talk more about that below. It's so easy to spiral down into "need to worry" mode about things, even though the Lord has told us over and over in His Word that He is in control. That means COMPLETE control. He doesn't need Gena to come along and try to fix things, and worrying or becoming anxious over any of it is only a hindrance to my peace of mind. It does not bring Him glory.

I take matters into my own hands.

I have this personality trait that is good yet can be very bad. I'm highly functional even though I have too much going on. I can multi-task very rapidly and somehow keep things moving at a swift pace. But that can have its downfalls, too, if not placed in the right perspective - in light of God's Word. See, when I really should be waiting on the Lord, being still and resting in Him (since after all, He does take care of EVERYTHING in His time), I jump the gun and try to make events happen. It's kind of like a matchmaker who really should mind her own business instead of trying to rush romance. Not that I've ever matched anyone up. But still - you get the idea. I (impatiently) get my hands in there whipping things around like a mini tornado, trying to "make it happen." God doesn't want me doing that. He wants me to move, to walk, to work hard, but not to rush what He is trying to do in my life. I have to remember that His timing is perfect. It is good and it is right. My timing is muddled and imperfect at best, and by getting myself in the way of His plan, I make myself a hindrance. Taking His work, whatever that may be, behind the scenes, and attempting to hijack it and then cram it through a blender to make it happen in MY time and MY way does not bring Him glory. It's just an icky, impatient milkshake by the time I'm done with it. He has things under control . . . always did. Still does.

I snap.

Sometimes I'm not very nice. I snap at Paul. I scold the kids a little too loudly or rush to make them mind. Don't get me wrong; we have our light, sweet times too. I love my family dearly. But I'm not what you'd call the perfect mommy/wife/homeschooler, far from it. In fact, I more represent the impatient homeschooler during times I am not letting myself be led by the Spirit. The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Impatience and a snapping lack of self-control are not. These things do not bring Him glory.

I faint. I am weary.

Are we supposed to faint? I don't mean physically; I mean spiritually. Isaiah 40:31 tells us, "But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." Apparently, we're not supposed to faint dead away (or throw in the towel). We're to keep walking, but how? God's Word teaches us that if we are WAITING ON THE LORD (key word - wait), He will meet us right there in that waiting place. He will never leave us. This means impatience is out; waiting is in. The more I worry, take matters into my own hands, and wring my hands with frustration (over whatever my "issue" is at hand), the more I realize how impatient I am. This is just a hindrance to my own peace of mind, and it does not bring Him glory.

"I give up."

How many times have I silently shrugged my shoulders and muttered these words. Shameful. No, we do NOT give up. What does God's Word say? Is life supposed to be an easy street, or are there also trials to build our character and make us more like Christ? Are we to sit down in the dirt and die? Of course not. Second Corinthians 4:8 tells us, "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair." This is true. There will be times we are perplexed or curious over what the Lord is doing. "Why, O God?!" we cry out. There will be troubles in this world, but we're not to fear; we are not to sink into despair. He has already overcome this world, we are His, and yes, we can WAIT on Him as He will protect us and take care of us. He has given us His Word. Read it and take note of His utmost care for us - if you think you are a good parent, He's an even better one. His eye is on you all the time just like yours is on your sleeping infant. I remember holding little Chloe while she was sleeping once. She was on her back, in my arms, but only just barely asleep. Every few minutes, she'd open her sleepy little eyes and peer up at me; it seemed she was making sure I was still there, gazing down at her. When she'd look up, there I still was. I wasn't going anywhere and she could be assured of it. When you look up, there He is too. Your loving Father will never leave you. He won't leave me either, so why am I so impatient? Why do I resort to "giving up" mode when I'm frustrated? It only hinders (again) my peace. No, I won't give up, nor will I despair. His Word tells me I will not. I believe Him. And I want to bring Him glory.

I don't choose joy.

You know what the irony here is? Lukey, our now 20-year-old, was our little scowler when he was 3 years old. We were always telling him, "Lukey, choose joy." It was our way of reminding him during a given "3-year-old mad episode" that he was to be a joyful boy and not be malcontent. Our friends even came to his birthday party and in his card, wrote the words "Dear Lukey, choose joy." It was a laughing moment for all of us because that little phrase was SO commonly used with little Lukey. But here I am, someone who knows that I should walk in joy because of my very salvation, not to mention everything I have seen the Lord do in my life. But when things go wrong, I worry. I fret. I am impatient and unwilling to wait (after all, my timing is better since I'm the poor soul going through the trial, right - wouldn't I be the best judge?). But what does Habakkuk 3:17-18 say? Amazingly, it's this: "Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation."

Ummm, wow. For the most part, for our family and business, the figurative "fig trees," do blossom. And "fruit" is on the vine at some point in the game, and the "olives" come (even though they're usually late). Our "fields yield meat" (so to speak), and even if it doesn't happen fast enough in MY timetable, there are eventually "herds in the stalls," not to mention the "flocks are still in the fold!" In other words, God does provide. He never lets us down. But look at Habakkuk! Even if the figs NEVER come, we are to be walking in JOY. We are to be rejoicing in the Lord because of Who He is and because of what He has done. He is our Holy God, our Savior. He does take care of us, but even if we have to wait what seems like an eternity to have things work right again, or to pay some bill, or to fix a relationship, we should be content to know that He is working things out behind the scenes and just WALK with Him in joy.

Besides, what does Romans 5:3-4 say? Check this out: "And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope . . . ," and we all know that hope in Christ does not disappoint, does it? So in our trials we find patience IF we are seeking God's Word. How can I become the PATIENT homeschooler? I think I just figured it out. My afflictions are working patience in me. I have lots of experiences I can some day pass on to others; I have hope (His Word!) I can offer. I don't have to be the impatient homeschooler at all.

It's all tied together! Whether I'm nit-picking at my family, angry at myself for some goofy error, scared and anxious over my circumstances that I have no control over anyway, or simply frustrated with God's timing, it all boils down to a lack of patience on my part - an unwillingness to wait on the Lord. The fact that I refuse to wait on Him actually DEMONSTRATES impatience. How awful. I don't want to be plagued by that reality. By the way, do you know what the definition of "patience" even is? It's pretty simple and it's what God asks of us. Ready for this? Patience: willing to endure. Are we willing to endure? To endure, by the way, is to "stick it out." To survive, to subject oneself to Another (in this case, to God and His plan for our lives - yes, during the burdensome AND the easier times). Not only that, but consider the spirit we have been given by God Himself. Read Romans 8:15. It's clearly stated that we have not received a spirit of slavery, which leads to fear. No! We have received the Spirit of ADOPTION. We are sons and daughters of the living God, our wise King. "Abba! Father!" is what we say, when we start to feel ourselves slipping into fear. Daddy God! That's right - He is your Parent, your Dad. And He hears. He will never leave us any more than we would abandon our own little one. We can peer up at Him like Chloe did with her earthly parent (Mommy) and find Him there, gazing back on us. We're in His arms too.

Lord, make me endure joyfully even through my sorrowful times. The righteous DO endure to the end. My heart is willing; I am resolved to bear the hardships and trials You deem necessary for my life. Build my character as I abide in You. Cause me to remember what You showed us in James 5:10 - that we should look to the prophets of old who spoke Your Name as an example of patience and suffering. They abided in You because they knew You. And since You have called me (and know me), I want to endure in all things, great and small, also to the end as they did.

Today I choose peace.

Waiting on Him is pure peace and He blesses those who do it; He smiles on those who persevere (with rejoicing) through the trials He brings us. Waiting on the Lord is an act of worship and a symbol of our faith. I will choose to be joyful in all things, no matter the tribulation. When difficulties come I may cry for the moment, but immediately thereafter I must look up and press onward because there waiting for me is the very strength that the Lord Himself renews in me. (Isaiah 40: 31) I won't faint nor will I walk in weariness. I will bring Him glory.

Not perfect. But ever enthusiastic.

I need to be eager to read His Word and obey it. I am not the perfect homeschool mommy or beautiful, adoring wife. Think about your toddlers, though. Remember how they would traipse around behind you, following you as you were doing your chores, wanting to help? They were so eager to please. Their work was kinda crummy by adult standards, but their hearts were right there with ours. They wanted to please us - to bless us (even though they made more of a mess than anything else). We have to be that way with the Lord, our Parent. We don't get it all right. But we can follow after Him and try. We can obey His Word and even after messing up, get back up again and run after Him. Of course, He is there with us with arms outstretched, ready to let us try ever again. He dusts us off and sets us on the right path (through His Word, the Bible). He is the Perfect Homeschooler, isn't He? His kindness - His PATIENCE - drives me to want to bring Him glory.

Psalm 37:24: "Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand." He will hold you up! He will not let you spiral downward. You might free-fall for a bit, but listen, as you do it, REJOICE IN HIM. Rest in Him. Be still. He is in control even if it doesn't feel like it. Feelings are subjective at times! Lean on Him (yes, even as you are falling). Forsake your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5) and trust in Him with all your heart instead.

Psalm 55:22: "Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved." Cast your cares on Him, friends. He hears you. He sees your trials and He knows them even better than you do. He holds the timing in His Hand, too, to relieve you of them. Be patient. Let Him work behind the scenes. Trust the Lord; trust Him. He is trustworthy.

Love to you all, and abiding in Him right along with you,

Gena Suarez

Publisher, Owner

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

You had me at Chocolate...

Right after I signed up with Thirty-One to be a consultant for them, I was searching on the internet about home based businesses. I don't remember why, I just was. Well, I came across a business called Dove Chocolate Discoveries. Being the professionally trained pastry chef that I am that loves to make desserts, especially chocolate desserts, I was very very intrigued. I searched around on their site and saw that they had some very yummy looking products. I talked to my husband about this chocolate home based business I stumbled on and he was intrigued. He got on the site and looked around and sent in the form they had to find someone who lived near by to talk to. Well we were hooked up with a sweet lady in Huntsville, and I contacted her to get a little more information, but not really planning on going any further with it regardless of what I found out. I mean I had just signed up with Thirty-One and needed to at least make back what I had put into that. Besides, I was a little wary of selling chocolates in a rural area. However, after talking with Jenny and discussing it with my husband, he said to go ahead and sign up.

My passion has always been dessert and chocolate. I love to bake and make desserts. I am gifted in this. It seems logical and natural to be in business doing this. I am excited and nervous about this. And who wouldn't want to hold a chocolate tasting party where they get to have a girls' night out and eat chocolate? And let me tell you, that the chocolate is very good. And it is Dove ™ chocolate. So I have a recognized brand name that is very popular backing me up. To top it all off, I am the ONLY Independent Dove Chocolate Discoveries ™ Chocolatier in the whole county. Unlike Thirty-One, which has at least 20 consultants in our small county, I have an untapped market here. So I am pretty excited about the potential that brings.

So check out my new venture at and see what my new chocolate business is all about.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Halloween goodies are in my store

I have just added a whole bunch of Halloween tags, accents, cards, and other items for Halloween in my store this week. They are awesome little items and would be great to put on treat bags, on tags, scrapbook pages, cards, and even made into a Halloween wreath or garland. The sky is the limit here. Use your imagination and craft up some fun this Halloween season. I hope to have chocolate nugget labels made up by next week. Stay tuned....

Based on interest in the store and sales, these will be the only Halloween items I put up this year. If there is a lot of early sales, then I may whip up a few more things.

COMING SOON:I am going to be focusing on Christmas from here on out. I will probably add a few birthday items as well, but Christmas will be the focus.

Also baking mixes are in the store. I will be making several different bag designs to put in the store. You will be given a choice of a couple of baking mixes that would fit in the bag. I am very excited about the possibilities these baking mixes have as great gifts. You all are going to love them. They are awesome!!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Stuffed Jalapeno Pepper Poppers= yummy goodness!!

Okay this is a post about a super easy appetizer that is way better than those restaurant pepper poppers you can buy. My very sweet aunt Margie showed me how to make this a few weeks ago, and they were a huge hit with my wonderful husband. We grow jalapeno peppers in our garden and they are always one of the things that are a great producer for us. Not much else works out for us except okra, but I digress. Here is how you make this super yummy treat. Bet you can't eat just one.

Okay, buy a bunch of large jalapeno peppers. If you are feeding a small crowd you are going to need a lot of these. For two people, about a dozen or so.
BACON (4 strips per dozen peppers)
Cheddar cheese, you can use grated or buy a block and cut off 1/4 inch thick slabs.

STEP 1: Take the peppers and slice them in half lengthwise. Don't worry about cutting off the stems. They make great little handles for later. De-seed the peppers with a small paring knife, or if you are brave, use your fingers. You want to get out the membrane and the seeds. Leave a few seeds on if you want them to taste hotter. Beware, just a couple of stray seeds can make these babies HOT!!!

STEP 2: Really this should be your first step and it can be cooking as you do step 1. (I don't claim to be a regular food blogger so pardon my order here.) You need to fry up about 4-6 slices of bacon till it is crisp. I buy the thick sliced bacon and simply peel off the number of strips I need in a stack and take a sharp knife and cut them into pieces. Then I fry them up till crisp. Drain on a paper towel. (My aunt cuts the slices of bacon into about 3 pieces and fries them that way.) Don't discard the bacon grease. You need it for the next step. It really makes these poppers taste better.

STEP 3: Keep that bacon fat in the pan. Depending on how much you cooked up you may need to drain off some. You want grease to cover the bottom of the pan, but you don't want it to be more than coated. Your peppers shouldn't swim in the pan. Place the peppers in the pan skin side down and let cook till they blister and sort of color (brown) on the bottom. Turn and cook the inside for a minute or two. Peppers will soften, but you don't want them mushy.

STEP 4: You can do this last step one of two ways. You can take the peppers out of the skillet and slightly drain them on a paper towel. Then place them on a foil lined cookie sheet and top with cheese and bacon. Bake at 300 F for 5-10 min. till cheese is melted. Or broil them slightly till melted but beware of leaving them too long. They will burn.
Or you can place the cheese and bacon on them in the skillet and let them cook a little more till the cheese melts. If you do this method I would suggest cooking a little less in Step 3 on the skin side.

Serve these babies warm to your guests. They are sure to disappear fast. And then everyone will beg you to share the recipe.
Beware of eating straight from the pan or oven cause they will be HOT!!!! Like temperature hot, not so much spicy hot. Although these little beauties do pack a bit of a spicy punch. My husband loves me when I make these for him. He likes hot stuff. Not that he doesn't love me normally. Just sayin'. :)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Top 10...11 Thirty-One products list

This is my purely subjective list of favorite Thirty-One products. I am not really a purse girl, so you won't see many of those type bags on my list. However, I think a lot of the purses Thirty-One makes are cute. They are just too big for what I like to carry. So anyway, here is my list along with some ways to use them to organize and de-stress your life.

1. Organizing Tote--- can we say 7 pockets, room for file folders, crafting projects, inks, adhesives, scissors, other tools. It is my craft room on the go. Plan to use it lots on co-op days to finally get some of my crafting projects done. Makes an awesome diaper bag too. Wish I had one when my sons were babies.

2. All in One Organizer-- I have 6 of these babies. Two in the car to keep clutter at bay. One for portable DVD players. One for homemade bath and body product storage. Two for new Thirty-One business. They are my office to go (one for taking catalogs and such to parties, and one to keep my business papers for record keeping). I can see using this as a mini bill pay station or mail keeper.

3. Storage totes -- who doesn't need to tidy up their bedroom, which seems to end up being a stow away room. I bought a couple to put my other crafty ventures in and they match my bedroom decor. Now it doesn't look so messy.

4. Square storage tote-- can we say DVD storage here. We don't have Cable tv or regular tv, but we do have a DVD collection that grows. I can store 22 DVD's in one of these. Love it.
I think it would be awesome to use in a closet to store my husband's clothes that he puts up on the shelves.

5. Thermal tote-- it holds up to 3 bottles of water and/or some snacks. Love to take it when we go to the "city" on errand day. Perfect for taking to the park or amusement park for storing water and snacks. Hey, it even makes a great left over "doggie bag" when you go out to eat.

6. Picnic Thermal tote-- will hold up to 3 2-liter bottles, or a whole picnic's worth of food. And I think it is big enough to carry a 9x13 casserole to a potluck (just leave it on its side, not upright).

7. XXL tote-- I used this on my recent week long trip to the beach. I packed all my clothes and had room for my mini organizer filled with makeup and toiletries on top. A huge bag.

8. Mini organizer-- I use it for my makeup, my kids use it for their school supplies, you could even use it in the kitchen for organizing tools. Also makes a great portable office. It is bigger inside than you think.

9. Expand a tote day extender--- new product in my starter kit that I think will replace the XXL tote in my get away packing. Love the expansion capabilities and the reinforced bottom that gives it support and shape while packing it up.

10. Littles Carry All Caddy-- my son has one on his desk for his school supplies. I would like to have one to catch the mail in the kitchen. I would pop a book of stamps, a couple of pens, my address book in the little front pocket. I could store incoming and outgoing mail in it. This little caddy also make a great choice to deliver a small gift. Hmmm... do I see Christmas right around the corner.

11. Large Utility tote-- this one should be near the top. Probably tied for 1st. This tote is huge, has a metal frame at the top and is on my list to get more. We use one in our school room for current school books. It nestles neatly between the boys' desks and now they can just grab their books for their studies each day. Love!! I want one for my laundry room to put clean clothes to be ironed in. Just grab it by the handles and take in to be ironed. No more piles of clothes on the floor in the laundry room or next to the sofa waiting for me to get to them. (I don't leave them by the sofa for days and days. Just during the two days or so it takes to get them all ironed. ) :)

I have more favorite, but these are my top ten/eleven.
I have a Girl On the Go add on kit coming in the mail with some wallets, mini organizer, 5th Avenue purse and other items. They may make it on my list too. Can't wait to do my open house and show off all these items. I have one party booked already and my mom said she would host a party for me too. Yea!! I have a goal to get 5 bookings before the end of the year and 10 outside orders. I hope I succeed. Really I am not doing this to get money, but some extra Christmas cash after I break even from buying the starter kit, a few office supplies and postage would be a bonus.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My Thirty-One adventure

Okay, so I am no longer a Stampin' UP! Demonstrator after 9 sweet years with that company. It became too much work to fit in my increasingly busy schedule of homeschooling, housewife, wife, mom, etc.... I also found that while I still like SU!'s papers and accessories, I just was not excited about their stamps anymore. I love Papertrey Ink stamps and dies so much more for their ease of use and timeless style. What does all this have to do with the title of my post you ask? Well, I took the plunge yesterday and signed up to be a consultant for Thirty-One gifts. They make handbags, totes, organizer totes, and other storage items. My mother-in-law introduced me to the company this Spring and I really like their products. Most of the storage and organizer totes are pretty reasonably priced and very spacious. I have several totes to store my various crafty ventures (bath and body making supplies, sewing supplies and fabrics), our homeschooling stuff (books, school supplies like pencils, rulers, tape, crayons, etc.), and our expanding DVD library, the boys stuff for the car, portable DVD players, and stuff like that. Amazingly enough, I got all those things for less than $100 by hostessing a catalog party.

I chose to sign up with Thirty-One for a couple of reasons. First was to see if there was a little potential to make some extra money to pay for fun things and trips for our family. The boys and I really want to go to this horse ranch near Atlanta for a few days. Secondly, it did not seem like doing this would take nearly the prep time to do that Stampin' UP! took to do. I just have to grab some of the totes and go. I also think their hostess and customer specials are great. Thirty-One's August special is incredible: you get 15% off everything in the new Fall/Winter catalog. Amazing. I also figured with the upcoming holiday seasons, it would be a good time to promote their products as possible gift ideas. The totes are awesome for giving as gifts, filling with gifts, or toting all the gifts and other stuff to family for the holidays.

So, anyway, I hope to squeeze in some time to make this work. If you are interested in my business or want to see the products, go to Again the August special is 15% off anything in the new catalog. The new catalog goes live on my website on Monday, July 25.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Christian Response to Earth Day

EDITED TO ADD: I received a disparaging comment by an anonymous poster about my posting this article. They claimed to be a Christian, and I am not one to judge the truth of their claim to that. They said articles like this give Christians a bad name, as if this article stated something that is ungodly. This article clearly lays out truth in response to the deceptive and sometimes not so deceptive philosophies of our culture today. Satan is quite adept at distorting truth so that we serve what is created and human reasoning rather than the Creator and his wisdom. Many Christians have become caught up in the GREEN and Environmental movement because it does speak to the truth that we ARE to be good stewards of the Earth. God gave man dominion over his creation and told us to use it for His glory. Sadly, because we are all fallen and sinful creatures, even Christians do not do a good job of doing this. We take things for granted, or we end up being deceived because we are not taking every thought captive to God's Word and we can end up serving that which God created instead of God. However, a Christian should never forget that God created this world, and he sustains it beautifully and according to his nature and character every day at the minutest level. To think that we, mere humans, can usurp that kind of power and destroy what God clearly created and maintains day by day, is to deny the sovereignty of God. When you deny His sovereignty, you deny who he is at the core and you are left with a weak God who is not God at all. And what you get is exactly what this article addresses about our culture today.

So I would request that those who may stumble across this blog actually read what is written before making a rash decision. Maybe ask yourself if you have been taken captive by the deceptive philosophies of the world. Then if you disagree with what you read, instead of attacking my character, why don't we respond with Christian love and humility and simply click out of my blog and you are not obligated to come back. Thank you.

I received this letter in my email today from Vision Forum. It is a very good response to the whole Green and environmentalist movements. I love these letters as they confront culture with the truth of God's word and lovingly bring people face to face with that truth. Even we as Christians can be deceived by so many of the lies that are prevalent and accepted in our culture and buy into them to some extent. Anyway, since tomorrow is EARTH DAY, here is a good response and way of seeing this movement. This letter was written by Doug Phillips, President of Vision Forum Ministries.

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse
(Romans 1:20)

A Christian Response to Earth Day

All men are religious because all men have an object of worship. All men have faith in something. In the end, men will either worship and serve the creature, or they will worship and serve the Creator. But they will worship something.

In the 18th century, many began to worship the mind. The religion of that day was rationalism. In the 19th century, this god morphed into scientism. But science failed to provide the answers to ultimate questions. The men of the 20th century looked for a more immediate solution to the problems of humanity — they chose to worship the State. This failed. Statism proved to be a harsh taskmaster. In the absence of any real solutions from rationalism, scientism, and statism, men fixed their attention on a new god — or rather, an ancient God that just needed a new facelift.

That god is the earth.

21st-century men are earth worshippers. They are sanitized pantheists. Of course, they don't call themselves pantheists or earth worshippers, but religious devotion to the material world is the essence of this modern faith.

This religious devotion to the material world as god comes in many shapes and sizes, but it has become ubiquitous in our culture. The new pantheism is at the heart of the green movement. It is reflected in the priorities of Hollywood, in the agenda of politicians, and in the curriculums of the government schools. It is found in the marketing campaign of Madison Avenue, in the reality TV shows of cable television, and sadly, even in pulpits across the nation. The worship of the creation has become a defining undercurrent in our culture, even as it is reshaping many of the cultures of the modern world.

And this is one reason why this Friday, April 22, millions of people (perhaps billions) representing the countries of the United Nations will stop to celebrate the high holy day of this religion as they pay homage to the earth God. Of Earth Day, evolutionary anthropologist Margaret Meade once explained that:

EARTH DAY is the first holy day which transcends all national borders, yet preserves all geographical integrities, spans mountains and oceans and time belts, and yet brings people all over the world into one resonating accord, is devoted to the preservation of the harmony in nature and yet draws upon the triumphs of technology, the measurement of time, and instantaneous communication through space. EARTH DAY draws on astronomical phenomena in a new way — which is also the most ancient way — by using the vernal Equinox, the time when the Sun crosses the equator making the length of night and day equal in all parts of the earth. To this point in the annual calendar, EARTH DAY attaches no local or divisive set of symbols, no statement of the truth or superiority of one way of life over another.

Should Christians care about the earth? Not only must we care about it, we have a holy duty to engage the earth. The difference between the objectives of biblical Christianity and radical environmentalism can be found in the religious assumptions of both groups.

Four Lies of the Radical Environmentalist Movement
With Earth Day comes billions of dollars worth of environmentalist propaganda driven by their religious worldview. Some of the themes you can expect to hear repeated this year include the following:

  1. The Earth Is Our Mother: The very expression “Mother Earth” is popular parlance in our culture and reflects the old pagan longing to worship the physical world. Modern environmentalists, with their devotion to the idea that man is just another life-form to spring from the womb of the earth on the evolutionary journey of life, speak openly about earth being the mother of man.

  2. Human Life Has No Greater Intrinsic Value Than Animal Life: The notion that man is an insignificant blip in the universe and that our planet is almost as insignificant as man is an oft-repeated concept of the modern environmentalist movement. Radical environmentalists complain about the carbon footprints of humans, and the sin of “Speciesism” — man discriminating against lower life-forms.

  3. The Greatest Crisis Facing Humans is the Despoiling of the Earth: From the media campaigns of former Vice President Al Gore, to the film agenda of Avatar, radical environmentalists want you to believe that the single greatest problem facing humanity is the environmental destruction of earth.

  4. Absent a Radical Shift in Private Practice and Public Policy, the Environmental Crisis Will Lead to the End of Life on Earth: Modern pantheists care deeply about the future. One thing is clear: Radical envioronmentalists have their own eschatology. They see the end of the world coming because of nuclear waste, global warming, the loss of rainforest in the Amazon, or any of a host of perceived environmental hazards.

Four Christian Assumptions About the Earth

  1. The Earth is Witness to the Power and Authority of God the Creator Who Alone May Be Worshipped: The Bible teaches that the very existence of the earth is a reminder to all men of the eternal power and Godhood of Christ, so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:20). It reminds us that as long as the earth continues, the promises of God will remain faithful (Genesis 8:22; Deuteronomy 7:9). Significantly, the Bible warns us that the consequence for man rejecting the witness of creation is that he worships creation itself (Romans 1:22-25).

  2. The Earth Was Made for the Glory of God and the Benefit of Man Who Was Made the Pinnacle of Creation and of Infinitely Greater Value than Animals or the Earth Itself: Man is the pinnacle of creation and has more eternal value than the earth or any of the creatures who live on it (Psalm 8:5). Man is not a carbon footprint; he is the image-bearer of God. This means that the most "insignificant" human life (insignificant only in the eyes of man) is of inestimably greater value than that of a blue whale, a snail darter, a spotted owl, a mountain, or a tree.

  3. The Earth Has Been Placed under Man who Has a Moral Obligation to Subdue it and to Exercise Wise Stewardship over the Earth: Man is God’s appointed steward on earth, and his core mission is to be His agent of dominion over it. Toward this end, God has placed all things under man to be used for his benefit and to be carefully stewarded and cultivated for God’s glory. “Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet” (Psalm 8:6).

  4. The Earth is Not the Problem: The reason why the earth suffers is because of man’s sin that has plunged the earth into judgment. Man brought death and judgment to earth. In fact, the whole creation is groaning and waiting redemption (Romans 8:22-23). Despite the righteous judgment of God on earth, He is merciful and promises the continuation of the seasons and the fundamental stability of the planet until the end of time (Genesis 8:22), at which there will be a new heaven and new earth (2 Peter 3:13).


All men are religious because all men have an object of worship. In the end, they will worship and serve the creature, or they will worship and serve the Creator. But they will worship something.

Earth Day, and the radical environmental movement that spawned this high holy day of pantheism, are at war with the Gospel because they perpetuate false worship. The Christian response to the idolatry of Earth Day might be reduced to this simple thought: Jesus Christ is the Creator, and He alone is to be worshipped. He created man as the pinnacle of creation and determined that humans would be the only part of creation to be made in the very image of God, and that man as the image-bearer of God would rule over the earth.

On a practical level, this means that Christians need to stop allowing the radical environmentalist movement to define the issue. We must cease from being the tail and become the head on the question of our duties, privileges, and responsibilities vis-a-vis creation. The Bible has a great deal to say about our use of the resources of the world and our relationship to the earth. Of all people, Christians who honor the Creator should have a passion for creation. We are losing the debate through subversion, silence, lack of vision, and because of the Christian community’s fear of the God-ordained, perpetually valid, creation precept called “The Dominion Mandate.” This mandate directs man is to rule over the earth, subduing it and taking dominion over it for his benefit and for God’s glory. Implicit to the Dominion Mandate is the duty of man to cultivate, wisely manage, and carefully steward the planet.

Finally, man’s problems will never be solved through the elevation of human reason, the power of science, or the interventions of the state. Nor will rescuing the biosphere of planet earth save man or ensure him a future on this planet. You cannot save the earth. But human beings can be saved. And the only hope of salvation is found in Jesus Christ — the Creator! It is this Creator through whom we live and breathe and who by the very power of His word holds the worlds together. He will someday establish a new heaven and a new earth and will bring all of His people into Glory.

Another God's World News post

This is really late, but worth reading as it reminds us of how history is either revised to suit a current agenda or just left off the table and out of books. Again, this is from my weekly teaching God's World News newsletter I get.

So, It's February

What event first comes to your mind when you think of February--other than family birthdays? Probably Valentines Day. That's a good one. There's also, in my opinion, a bad one. But that doesn't mean I think we should forget it.


On the contrary, February marks what I believe to be one of the most significant and world-changing events of the 20th century. For the millions of families living in post-War Eastern Europe and elsewhere, it was the most significant. It was the 1945 Yalta Conference, where Allied leaders Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Joseph Stalin (AP photo) met in the Crimea to determine the post-war fate of war-torn nations.

My purpose here is not to expect your agreement, although I do. My purpose is to keep alive a memory that powerfully informs our behavior in 2011. The decisions of those in power are, in a real sense, matters of life and death. As the followers of Christ and as the teachers of children, we have an undeniable responsibility to remember, to learn, to apply.

Look up one of those famous photo ops from the Yalta Conference. There sit Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin, seemingly yukking it up and looking forward to dinner and a movie that night. Oddly enough, Prime Minister Churchill does look to be the outsider. He was--even though he caved.

To refresh your memory, those three men, humanly speaking, were pretty much in charge of the world at that moment. What a shame. For what they did was shame itself. Roosevelt, in his own words, had already decided that to encourage Stalin to be a friend of the free world, he would "give him everything I possibly can and ask for nothing from him in return."

Under the united pressure of Roosevelt and Lenin, the three Allied leaders agreed to hand over to the Soviets strategic but devastated Poland (already a victim of joint Soviet/Nazi invasion early in the war), half of Germany, and the rest of the Eastern Bloc nations.

And if that wasn't shame enough, Stalin was entreated to enter the Pacific Theater against the Japanese. As a follow-up to his cooperation, he would later be given Manchuria--primarily through the influence of the United States. That, of course, would pave the way for the Soviet-sponsored crushing of China by Mao's Communist Party.

I call Yalta "a shame." It was worse than that for the many millions who suffered for generations because of it and for the many millions (without exaggeration) who were eventually slaughtered by the communists. The Soviets made Hitler look like Mr. Rogers--although for some reason the liberal American media and U.S. public schools and universities, in my view, like to pretend it didn't happen.

So, why did I bring up our behavior in 2011? Please allow me briefly to mention a couple of things piquing my own concerns right now.

First, I have been reading a masterful, poetic, disturbing, historical (and, I believe, historic) novel by Michael O'Brien called Island of the World. With a subtle and profound Christian worldview it unfolds a heart-wrenching picture of the world in post-War Croatia that should be required reading for every history teacher, surely for every Christian school history teacher.

Island of the World has stirred my resolve to encourage fellow believers not to forget truth in this world of revisionist "history."

Last May marked the 65th anniversary of V-E (Victory in Europe) Day. For the first time ever, U.S. troops marched in a parade in Red Square, Moscow. It hit me hard and still does.

Proverbs says, "A discerning man keeps wisdom in view." In other words, wisdom is needed for making right choices.

For a long time, the United States has been called "the leader of the free world." But sometimes that title is too flattering. Sometimes there doesn't seem to be much wisdom in view. Without wisdom, even leaders of a nation like the United States won't understand what "the free world" stands for.

And one more current event "piquing my own concerns right now"--the city council of our very liberal and "diverse" community is developing a plan to recognize the "right" of homosexual couples to enjoy the official benefits of married couples. I expect a yes vote, considering the makeup of our city council. One of the members, for example, has been an escort at our only local abortion business, ushering victims past those narrow-minded Christians praying out on the sidewalk.

Sometimes, I fear, we are tempted to use the fact of God's eternal sovereignty as an excuse for our own laziness as warriors in his army. Please join me in stamping out that excuse as we do our best to teach our children how to serve him in real time.

-- Norm Bomer

God's World News: Fretting and Getting

It's a little late in posting by me, but this is good. Once again, God's World News takes the current events in our world and bathes them in God's truth so that we see them from a Christian worldview.

Fretting and Getting

Where are we Christian parents and educators in this tumultuous 2011? It's easy to remember times when the world seemed to be crumbling somehow, somewhere. It's hard to remember a time when it seemed to be crumbling on every front.

That's what it seems to be doing right now--both abroad and at home. It's hard not to get discouraged.

But as members of Christ's church triumphant, we must first "get" something else. It's called faith. And sometimes (I speak confessionally), we don't get it.

Our faith in Christ is faith in the Sovereign Creator of the universe. He knows what's going on in detail. That's reassuring, since he is also in charge of what's going on in detail. Moammar Gadhafi is not in charge. Osama bin Laden is not in charge. Stephen Lerner is not in charge. Sometimes our own focus on current events can get a bit foggy on that point.

In case that last name rings no bells for you, Stephen Lerner is a former leader in the radical SEIU (Service Employees International Union), a repeated White House visitor, and a compadre of Patrick Gaspard, President Obama's White House political advisor until recently. He is now executive director of the DNC.

Mr. Gaspard is also a former executive of the SEIU.

Why all this profile stuff? Perhaps you listened Mr. Lerner's strategy speech to a recent meeting of American Marxist revolutionaries (published by The Blaze online). He laid out a plan to, in his words, "inspire a much bigger movement about redistributing wealth and power in the country." He spelled out a strategy of "civil disobedience," "disruption," and "mobilization" to "destabilize," to "cause a new financial crisis," to "bring down the stock market." The goal? To crash the U.S. economy and "build something new."

Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz last week officially asked Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate "Mr. Lerner's terrorist plans." But even if such an investigation should occur, the startling signs of "our way of life" crumbling remain. I hear gloom-and-doom warnings about that every day from Christians.

I go to bed pretty uneasy about these things too. Like I said, our faith can be weak. But wait. When the Bible speaks of weak faith, it's talking about Christians who are oppressed with legalism--like the guy who eats only vegetables (Romans 145:2) when he could be enjoying God's bounty (including steaks and BLTs).

Our bigger faith problem has to do with what Jesus referred to as "little faith." I guess that's a lot like weak faith. But it implies something far more serious--faith that's little, not because it's weak (misguided) but because it's not fully resting in God. That, of course, is what sin does to all of us. But, as our pastor says, we who are being sanctified in Christ are (or should be) less successful at sinning than we used to be.

Will Mr. Lerner and his influential comrades succeed in overthrowing our government or in bringing an end to capitalism? I believe we should do our best to make sure they do not. But what I believe is more important, we should remind ourselves and our fellow believers--every day--that no terrorist of any kind is sovereign and that we ourselves are not sovereign either.

Our faith is not our ultimate hope. God Almighty is our ultimate hope, and our faith is nothing unless it rests in him. That's what I mean when I say we sometimes don't "get" it. Crumble, crumble. Fret, fret.

Time for good news. God has promised never to leave us or forsake us. And he has promised that the world's evil crumblers will ultimately fail. So, he tells us over and over in Psalm 37, "do not fret." That doesn't mean go numb. It means do with hope the good work we are called to do.

"I have told you these things," Jesus assures us in John 16:33, "so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

-- Norm Bomer