June 21, 2018
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Banana Date Chocolate Cake

 

Dessert. Love it! But… my waistline doesn’t. 😦

Unless, of course, it’s a healthy dessert. Oxymoron? Yeah. But surprisingly enough, they exist and they’re delicious!

I found this recipe for Crazy Fruity Carob Pudding Cake by the Unconventional Baker last January and thought to myself, “Hmm. Next time I have a ton of bananas that need to be used, I’m going to make this” (It calls for 9 ripe bananas). That wasn’t the only thing about it that impressed me. It’s also gluten-free, sugar-free, egg-free, and dairy-free!

Since I cook like Remmy from the movie Ratatouille, I rarely cook a recipe exactly. So, here’s my version of the Unconventional Baker’s wonderful dessert.

IMG_20180218_201946503

Cake Ingredients:

  • 6 ripe bananas
  • 1½ cups soft medjool dates, chopped finely
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • ½ cup roasted carob (or cocoa) powder
  • 1 cup flour

Frosting Ingredients:

  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 12 soft medjool dates, chopped finely
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • dash of sea salt
  • ½ cup carob (or cocoa) powder
  • flour
  • shredded coconut and almonds for garnish (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350*F. Grease a 9″ cake pan (or 2–6″ cake pans for a layered cake) and line the bottom with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Blend bananas, dates, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, and coconut milk until it’s smooth. Add remaining ingredients and blend, scraping down the sides as necessary until well-mixed.
  3. Transfer the batter into prepared pan, level out the tops and press the mixture in using a spatula. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to get rid of any air bubbles. Bake in a preheated oven for 1 hour. Remove from oven and allow the cake to cool completely before frosting.
  4. When ready to frost, place bananas, dates, vanilla, lemon juice, coconut milk, and sea salt into a blender and blend into a smooth consistency, add carob powder and enough flour to make a thick frosting (approximately 1 cup) and blend until mixture is uniform. Frost the cake and garnish. Chill until the frosting is set.

May 24, 2018
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Healthy “Gelato” Recipe

Last January, my family did a sugar fast. After gorging ourselves on all manner of chocolates, sweets, and goodies during Christmas, it was marvelous… for the first week. By January 6, my sweet tooth demanded satisfaction. So, I turned to the all-knowing Google for some help. After a few minutes of searching, I found this marvelous recipe for Healthy 5 Minute Berry Frozen Yogurt. Not only is it delicious (everyone went back for seconds or thirds) and sugar-free, I was also able to make a batch that was lactose-free for a friend that was visiting!

As I was putting it back into the freezer, I thought to myself, “This stuff is great, but next time, I’m going to do a few things differently.” So, here’s my version. Bon Appétit!

  • 2 c. frozen fruit
  • â…” c. plain Greek yogurt* (for lactose-free, use the same amount of almond yogurt)
  • ¼ tsp. stevia♦
  • ½- tsp. vanilla or lemon (optional)
  1. In your food processor, puree the frozen fruit and yogurt until mixture is creamy.
  2. Pour into a freezable container and add stevia and vanilla, blending very well.
  3. Freeze for at least 3 hours or overnight.
  4. Pull out of the freezer about 30 minutes before you serve it to let it thaw a bit.
  5. Serve and garnish with mint, whipped cream, almond slivers, etc.

 

*Increase the amount of yogurt to make it creamier

♦The original recipe called for 2 tbsp. of honey. If you would prefer to avoid stevia, be sure to melt some of the fruit blend (in step 1) and blend it with the honey. Then add the honey mixture back into the fruit and combine well. Otherwise, the honey will solidify, leaving you with honey chunks in your gelato.

May 2, 2018
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The Sword

The Bible is a sword. A beautiful sword. A powerful sword. A sword that penetrates, a sword that divides soul from spirit, joint from marrow, thoughts from intent. A divine tool for protecting and strengthening, for attacking and defending. It’s so simple a child can use it well; and so complex that a lifetime devoted to studying it will not discover all its secrets. It is a gift to mankind from his Maker.

It is a weapon that is more often than not left on the shelf, desolate and useless to all. We have forgotten how to use it. We deny the necessity to learn its craft. Enemies of God and ignorant souls claim that it’s too old, devoid of accuracy and lacking pertinence. When we hear these arguments, we, the warriors of God, too often either hang our heads in foolish shame and silence or we lash out in mismanaged anger, absent of love. We forget that the person who questions the Bible is merely a pawn of the dark and evil spiritual forces who influence the world. But in defending the Sword, rarely do we pull it off the shelf and let it speak for itself.

So, Christian, pick up the Sword.

Before we can truly fight with it, we need to know how to handle it. Like any good weapon, it must become an extension of our arms, of our hearts. We have to spend hours practicing, memorizing the different techniques. We need to submit ourselves to Christ, the Master Swordsman. We must be an army that humbly learns from those soldiers who wholeheartedly persevere in the Master’s ways. We must devote ourselves to edifying each other with grace and extend the same mercy that our Master extends to us. We are to join in holy unity all who are called to His standard and respond in faith and obedience. The God of Heaven’s Armies has called us to be warriors.

Therefore, let us be warriors.

Let us devote ourselves to the Sword. Let us learn how to use it accurately, not to maim the weak and ignorant, but rather to defend the helpless against those forces that hate the Kingdom of Heaven. Let us allow the Sword to be what it is. Alive and active. Sharp and shameless. Let us be Sword-bearers, holy and set apart.

Let us be Biblical Christians.

April 25, 2018
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Can’t Teach an Old Dog… Or Can You?

 

Many years ago, there was a 75-year-old Christian woman who broke her back and had to spend eight weeks in the hospital. She had always had a fairly active lifestyle and quickly got bored. The bright spots were when friends dropped by to see how she was doing. As the eight weeks went on, she grew more frustrated… and more irritable.

“I don’t know what to do with myself!” She fumed one afternoon to a young missionary from her church. “I never learned to knit, the magazines and books my family brings me get old after awhile, and I am sick to death of the soap operas on TV!”

The young man nodded sympathetically and suggested, “You could always memorize Scripture.”

“Oh honey, I can’t do that. I’m too old.”

“Well, look at it this way: Moses was 80 when God called him to lead Israel out of Egypt. Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90 when Isaac was born. And don’t forget Noah! He was 500 years old when he started building the ark! 75 doesn’t sound too old in perspective. Besides, memorizing Bible verses sounds a lot easier than building a floating zoo, leading a whiny nation across a desert, or raising a little boy to be a godly patriarch.”

The woman chuckled and after the missionary left, she opened her Bible to the Psalms. That’s where she was in her personal devotions, so why not start there? By the time she went home, she had most of that book memorized… And loved the challenge so much that she decided to keep working on it.

I was told this story at a family camp when I was 13 years old. The missionary who convinced her to memorize in the first place related this story in a workshop about Bible memory. By this point, he was grey-headed himself. He smiled reminiscently as he continued, “I went to visit her at the nursing home several years later when I was stateside. She was 98 and as sharp as ever. It was a delightful visit. We talked, laughed, and prayed together. Then finally I asked her, ‘So what are you memorizing now?’

“She said, ‘Well, in the last 30 years, I’ve memorized most of both Testaments, except the books of the law and Revelations. So, I’ve decided to take a short break from memorizing. I’ll get back to it in a couple of weeks.’ When I asked her what she was going to do with all her spare time, she smiled coyly and replied, ‘Well, I have all this Scripture memorized. So I’m just going to live out what I’ve learned.’ ”

What an impact that made on me! When I get to heaven, I’m going to find her and give her a big hug. Then, I’ll look her in the face and thank her for her legacy. I never met her and I can’t even remember her name. But because of her, I have made it my goal to memorize Scripture, too.

April 18, 2018
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5 Bible Memory Time Hacks

I don’t have time to memorize.

Congratulations! You are officially invited to join the “I Only Have 24 Hours in My Day” Club. Although I’m working with a team of rebel Time-Eating Monkeys to develop an Add-An-Hour App for all my devoted readers, but my furry friends are having a strange allergic reaction to it (dizziness, unreasonable hyperactivity, hair color change, and one even claimed that a big, blue police box landed on his front lawn). So… unfortunately, it may be another 6-8 weeks before we can work out all the quirks. 😕 Until then, here are some tricks to help you make the most of the time you have!

Tip #1: Write the verse you’re trying to memorize on multiple index cards and tape them all over your house, like on mirrors, over the kitchen sink, or on the bathroom wall. Whenever you see one, read it, then close your eyes and try to quote it.

Tip #2: Download a Bible memory app on your phone. Several are free and some even come with memory games to help you (or the kiddos) retain what you’ve learned.

Tip #3:  Record yourself reading the verses you want to memorize (Audacity, a free computer program, is a great way to do this. You can get it here. Then, listen to them while you’re working around the house or driving. When you think you know it well, pause it and quote the verse.

Tip #4: Write down the verses on either a piece of paper or on your phone. Keep it with you, especially when you’re in public. When you’re in the check-out lane at the grocery store or waiting for the mechanic to change your oil, pull ’em out.

Tip #5: On Paint, Gimp, or a similar computer app, type up a verse and set it as the background for your computer screen or phone (directions for how to do that here). If your computer has the option of automatically switching backgrounds occasionally, then make more than one. When you look at your desktop, read and quote the verse on the screen.

 

 

April 11, 2018
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How to Memorize Scripture

If you don’t memorize Scripture, does that make you a bad Christian? Not necessarily. God teaches His children different lessons at different times according to His good pleasure and grace. If that sounds like you right now, then it’s my hope that you find this article interesting without distracting you from what God is currently teaching you. However, there is much to be said for memorizing Scripture. When we internalize the Word of God, the Holy Spirit can–and often does–work through that. He uses it as a means of giving us unction, to lovingly correct us, and to multiply blessings in our lives. Because of that, it’s my personal belief that every Christian would benefit from memorizing Scripture.

But the question remains…. How do you memorize Bible verses? Well, the part of the brain that is in charge of your memory is more than gray matter. It’s a muscle. Just like any other muscle in the body, it needs to be stretched and exercised regularly. If you haven’t worked with this muscle in a while, don’t worry! It’s not too late! It just means that you’ll have to put in a little extra effort into strengthening it. So, let’s explore some memory tricks and tools you can use to help you memorize the Bible.

There are three main learning styles: visual, audio, and tactile (hands-on). Visual people learn by seeing a verse. Whenever they try to recall it, they’ll visualize that page in their Bible or the index card it’s written on. Audio people learn best by hearing the verse. Tactile people earn best by touch, which means they either have to be doing something to keep their hands busy while their mind is engaged in memorizing or they or they have to find a way to connect movement to the verse, like using hand motions or acting it out. However, if you’re like me (and most people), you will learn best when the learning styles are mixed. I typically learn best with a visual-tactile style. But when I’m memorizing, I use all three styles. I picture the page in my Bible (visual), walk around (tactile) while I’m quoting out loud (audio) and incorporate sign language when I can (tactile).

There are literally hundreds of memorizing strategies, and this article outlines the one that I like using the most. If my method doesn’t work for you, however, google “Bible Memory Strategies” and try other ways until you find one that works for you.

Step 1: Read it three times out loud.

This will satisfy both the visual and the audio learning styles. If you’re a tactile learner, come up with hand motions or play with a rubber band while you’re doing this. Of course, make sure that you understand what you’re memorizing. It does you no good if the Bible is just head knowledge– it needs to be heart knowledge, too.

Step 2: Say the verse out loud without looking at it.

Do not expect to be able to say it perfectly or entirely. If you can say 3-5 words, that’s 3-5 more words of Scripture that you didn’t have memorized two minutes ago.

Step 3: Read it out loud again.

Make note of what you missed when you quoted it in step 2.

Step 4: Repeat step 2.

You should be able to say it a bit better. But even if you can’t, just take a deep breath and try again.

Step 5: Repeat steps 3-4 as many times as necessary.

The secret to memorizing is repetition. At this point, it’s nice to have a someone to quote to, especially if you’re feeling discouraged or brain-tired.

Step 6: Do something else for about 10 minutes.

This gives your mind a break and will let your memory muscle relax so you can hit the verse again with new fervor.

Step 7: Quote the verse to yourself again, and check yourself afterward.

Don’t be upset with yourself if you don’t remember it entirely. Memorizing, in general, isn’t easy; memorizing Scripture can be mentally– and spiritually– grueling. Just repeat steps 3-6 again. When you can say it completely, give yourself a well-earned pat on the back!

It takes a lot of effort to “hide God’s Word in our hearts so that we won’t sin against God” (Psalms 119:11). The mind is a complex “computer” that sometimes forgets things that we want to remember. Bible memory isn’t as simple as moving the verse onto a mental flash drive to keep it safe for years to come. Truth be told, the process is more like engraving steel. Over the next few weeks–and even months–quote the verse to yourself and others. The more you quote it, the more it will be chiseled into your brain… and the less likely you will be to forget it.

Warning: symptoms of excessively memorizing God’s Word include a closer relationship with your heavenly Father, improved memory, increased mental function, enhanced spiritual sight, and increased knowledge of and confidence in Biblical truths. If you experience any of these or other positive side effects, praise God and then tell a friend.

April 4, 2018
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Bible Memory: The Difference Between “Hard” and “Impossible”

Do you think you can’t memorize Scripture? It’s okay. You’re not alone. Lots of people think that.

But… let me ask you one question. What’s your phone number and address? You have those committed to memory, right? “But,” I can almost hear you say, “those are easy things that are split into easy-to-memorize sections.” Okay, yes. But there are several small, easy-to-memorize verses in Scripture, too. Even those that aren’t short can be split into smaller phrases. Take a passage I memorized a few weeks ago, Psalms 119:57-58 (CJB): “Adonai, I say my task is to observe Your words. I beg Your favor with all my heart. Show pity to me in keeping with Your promise.” Here’s how I would split it: Adonai, I say my task/ is to observe Your word/ I beg Your favor/ with my whole heart/ show pity to me/ in keeping with Your promise.”

So what about jingles? If I asked what the Nationwide Insurance jingle was, would you be able to sing it? “Sure,” you may be thinking, “but those commercials are everywhere. Plus, they’re put to music, which makes it easier to remember.” Well, you can do the same thing with Bible verses. In fact, keep checking back–in a few weeks, I’ll explain a few ways to make Bible memory more accessible to you on a day-to-day basis. Also, many artists like Steve Green, Nathan Clark George, and Sandra McCracken (among others) have put Scripture to music. Seriously, this is one of the best ways I have found to memorize Bible verses.

Let’s turn to something more complicated, like your favorite movie or TV show. If we were sitting together in a coffee shop right now, could you give me a synopsis of it? I’m sure you could. And, if you’re like my brother, you could give me a nearly-perfect line-by-line recitation of your favorite scene. “Well, yeah…” You may say, “but that’s because I’ve watched it so many times!” That’s a good point! Repetition is a key aspect of memorizing. So here’s the deal: if you take a Bible verse and go over it as many times as you’ve watched that movie, you’ll have it down just as well.

How about your best friend’s face? Could you describe it for me? “Sure, but what’s that got to do with anything? There aren’t any facial descriptions in the verses I’d memorize!” On the contrary, the Bible is overflowing with passages that show the character of God (Psalms 119, Matthew 5-7, and John 14-17 to name a few). If you commit yourself you memorizing Scripture, you’ll understand God better. More than that, you’ll be able to recognize His handiwork easier next time you see it.

The point is, if you can remember your phone number, address, the Nationwide jingle, the storyline from your favorite movie, and your best friend’s face, then your memory is by no means disabled. It might be a little rusty, but it is still workable. All it needs is some exercise. How do you do that? By using it. Start with a short, simple verse like 1 Corinthians 10:31 “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God,” then move on to harder verses. I promise that as you keep working on it, the easier and more rewarding memorizing will become.