All posts by Mary

The Health Benefits of Eating Whole Organic Foods and How They Can Aid in Preventing Illness

What is your opinion of organic food? Do you think of it as overpriced? Do you think of it as unnecessary? Maybe you have looked at the organic foods in the grocery store and thought the produce didn’t look as robust or oversized as the “regular” stuff.

It is interesting to note that there are many benefits to eating whole organic foods, and that many people remain entirely unaware about the ways that these foods will prevent illnesses on many levels.

Food and Health

Let’s start by understanding two of the terms we used above: whole food and organic food. These are two very different things. Whole food are those that are unprocessed and unaltered to a great degree. For example, fresh fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, and grains can be called whole foods.

Organic foods are those that are grown to very specific standards and which use no dangerous chemicals in the growing, harvesting, and processing stages of market preparation. In the United States a food cannot simply be labeled as organic without first passing the standards designed by the USDA.

So, why is it that whole and organic foods will prevent illness? Let’s start with nutrition.

The Nutrients in Nature

Because whole and organic foods are grown under relatively ideal conditions and are left as intact as possible, their nutrient levels are superior to the more “traditionally” grown foods.

Need an example? Let’s say you want to buy a bag of apples at the market. These are whole foods, right? Yes, but when they are not grown organically they are fairly saturated with some hefty chemicals. In fact, there is a list known as the “dirty dozen” and it identifies the foods that are the most heavily contaminated when not grown organically. (The list includes peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, nectarines, celery, cherries, strawberries, grapes, pears, lettuce, potatoes, and spinach)

Now, if you buy the regular, non-organic apples it means you are ingesting large quantities of pesticide residues. It also means that the nutrient properties of the fruit are likely to have been compromised too. This is because the compounds sprayed on the growing apples are intended to make them more marketable. So, the bag of luscious red-skinned apples may look far more appealing than those less glamorous organic apples, but you are going to get a lot more nutrition and good food value from that bag of organics.

Fighting Illness

In addition to upping the nutrition value in foods, buying whole and organic foods also means that you are eliminating compounds that have strong links to diseases such as cancer and immune malfunction.

Of course, there is also the very obvious link to a whole food diet and better health. Because whole, organic foods are low in fat, sugar, and sodium it means that they are less likely to cause any subsequent health problems. For example, if you avoid non-organic and processed foods and opt for the healthier whole foods you are not likely to develop diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or to become obese.

Lastly, if you did a blind taste test of organic versus non-organic foods, you would usually choose the organic as the better tasting food. This is because farmers have to grow specific varieties if the non-organic food can survive the shipping and marketing processes. Often this comes at the cost of taste and nutrition. Organic farmers don’t work that way and will grow less attractive varieties because they are guaranteed to be packed with flavor, color, and nutrition.

Going organic and eating a whole food diet makes sense if you want to enjoy a long and healthy life.

Valerie Johnston is a health and fitness writer located in East Texas. With ambitions of one day running a marathon, writing for Healthline.com ensures she keeps up-to-date on all of the latest health and fitness news.

Miracle on New Year’s Eve 2012

My husband and I were up at the barn milking the cows when it happened. Screams, distant enough that I shoved my hood back and strained to distinguish whether or not they were in fun or in terror. I’d just been watering the livestock at the back of the dairy barn, humming “Let it Snow,” thinking what a gorgeous adventure I was having, helping the love of my life milk ye old cows, tromping through 3 inches of white stuff, and just loving the calm still of a snowflaked world on New Year’s Eve. Inside the house, a table piled with our favorite finger foods awaited us, special movies hand picked for bringing in the New Year, and a roaring fire in the fire place. Life just didn’t get better than this.

Until my heart stilled at the sounds of all three of my girls screaming for help. My husband jumped away from Gertie, our Jersey-Guernsey cow that he was finishing up, and asked me if something was wrong out there. I was still in denial, hoping there wasn’t.

“I think they are just playing…I shut the chickens in early tonight, so they let Guiney out to romp in the snow a bit.” I hurried through the barn, heading for the door that was nearest the commotion.  Guiney is our female Australian Shepherd, my 12 year old’s special pet, a great dog…but one with an affinity for eating my laying hens. We dare not let them out at the same time.

When I reached the big sliding south door of our dairy barn, all doubt as to the seriousness of the situation vanished. My 8 year old was hysterical, hardly able to talk she was wailing so loudly. “Mommy! Daddy!” her screams were punctuated with chest-shuddering sobs, “Guiney’s head is caught in a trap, she’s going to die, come quick!”

My husband took off running, I’ve never seen him fly over the snow so fast. Later we looked at his boot prints…all a good four feet apart. Down the long hill, past our horse pens, around the fledgling fruit trees we planted last year, and across the small pasture where we keep our broiler pens…I prayed he’d make it in time. Adrenaline pumping, I hurried to free the dairy cows from their stanchions and turned them back into their part of the barn where they could munch alfalfa and not get into trouble. I hurried to my youngest, still wailing as if her heart had broken into a million pieces, bent over in the snow, rocking and praying to God to please please save Guiney.

My own emotions were threatening to pull me under. This couldn’t be happening. If only the girls had asked before letting Guiney out. But how could they know that there was a trap set down by the field pens, set to catch the elusive critter that’s been after the chickens here of late? I hugged my youngest close and we prayed together, loud desperate pleas to the only One who could work the miracle needed a quarter mile away.

Youngest didn’t want to go near the scene, she just knew Guiney was dead, and couldn’t bear to have it confirmed. I sent my delirious little sweetheart trudging forlornly to the house, and headed down to the rest of my family. When I got within view, my hubby was heading back this way…I hollered down to him, thinking he might need something and I could save him some steps. He gestured with his hands in a way that I thought meant, “She’s gone. She died. It’s over.” The tears I’d been fighting rushed out, my rip-tide of emotions finally collapsing when all hope was gone. But then I saw Guiney, up and walking around, a ghost of a dog…as if nothing had happened. What?

I immediately thought of my little one, who had just gone into the back porch. I turned back and hollered, “She’s alive!” I had to yell it several times.

She stumbled out, in disbelief, a little nymph all bundled up in coveralls and her red “rooster” ski hood that covered her face with eye-and-mouth holes. “She’s alive?”

We were both so broken up with relief, and tears flowing, that we could hardly communicate. We hugged, our first thought after the relief was that God had graciously answered our fervent pleas. Then we headed down the snow-capped driveway to the rest of the family and Guiney-the-wonder-dog met us. Has any dog ever been so lavished with love as this precious blue-merle Aussie? I hugged and hugged my second-born daughter, Guiney’s owner, and we thanked God over and over for saving her doggie.

My oldest told me the story. She’d seen the killer trap snap around Guiney’s neck. Guiney died in her arms, having first passed out from lack of oxygen. When my husband got there, he pried open the trap with his bare hands, usually not possible. Part of the miracle. He confirmed that Guiney was dead. But not one to give up easily, he decided to breathe into her nose and work on her heart. Minutes crept by. He kept breathing for her, but her eyes were rolled back, and she should have gulped in air the minute he’d gotten the trap off. He sat her up against his chest and moved her around, hoping to stimulate things. The girls were standing a little ways away, praying, hoping against hope, and hearing their daddy pray out loud  in between breathing for our dog. He was about to call it quits, when Guiney’s eyes moved slightly.

The girls were just sure it was all over. All they knew was that their daddy had gotten quiet. But when they heard him say, “Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Lord!” they looked at each other in amazement. Could it be possible? Guiney moved a bit gingerly, but soon was up walking around. By the time youngest and I got mid-way down the driveway, Guiney was jogging to us, as if nothing was wrong. Not a dot of blood even smeared her lovely white collar.

Tonight we have much to be thankful for…we’ll always remember the miracle on New Year’s Eve 2012, when God raised our dog from the dead. This is the kind of faith lesson that will loom over all of us in future hard times, a monument to a mighty God who sees each sparrow, and dog, that falls, and who holds all of our lives in His hands.

Why we like Mark Cahill’s resources

Just so you can see for yourself the impact of a righteous mission-minded man on a young teen’s heart, I’m sharing this letter my oldest daughter wrote a few months ago. I hope it encourages you to check out Mark Cahill’s resources for your own family. We highly recommend them all, but our favorites, ones that we’ve watched over and over again in the past 5 plus years, are Lukewarm No More and Stand Out. They’ve had a phenomenal impact on our Christian walk. Here’s the blurb given at his site for this particular DVD:

There is now a DVD of the talk I have been giving called “Lukewarm No More.” The message is taken out of the book of Revelation Chapter 3 about the Laodicean church.

Is it possible that you are going to a lukewarm church? Or is it possible that you are lukewarm in your faith? Watching this DVD will make it very easy for you to figure that out.

The first time I ever gave this talk, there were numerous people who told me after listening to the message that they repented of numerous things in their lives that did not line up with the word of God. They stated they are now living a holy life that has been given over completely to the Lord. Listen and be challenged to make sure that you never fall into the category of lukewarm ever again.

Also includes the message “Stand Out”—two talks on one DVD!

My daughter’s letter to Mark follows…

Hey Mark,
I’m sure you don’t remember me since you communicate with so many different people in so many different ways, but I feel like I know you personally from watching all of your DVDs except for your newest one (and that problem will soon be remedied!), reading your books and first tract, and visiting one of your speaking events. You also gave our small country church a whole box of One Second After You… booklets and we have really enjoyed giving them away.

I can feel in my veins the urgency to reach lost souls before it is too late. The return of our Lord is imminent and I think that the Devil knows it more than anyone and is working over time to keep his slaves from being freed. He seems to be more aware of the present battle that is raging than most Christians these days. This year I have felt more worldly temptations than ever before, and yet every time I begin to feel discouraged the Spirit of the Most High God reminds me that I am wholly and solely His: “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”(2Cor.6:17-18) That verse always makes my heart leap!

One thing that is very disheartening to me lately is the disinterest in reaching the lost on the part of SO many Christians. I’m afraid that sometimes it makes me less zealous instead of making me work for my Lord more heatedly. Thank God, I have several friends who truly love the Lord and they are a huge blessing to me. After all, you and I are only two of the “7,000 in America, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.” If only we could keep our focus on God rather than man. I have decided that one of Satan’s greatest footholds in a Christian’s life is to keep them from reading the Holy Word of God and thus shift their vision from Christ. As Proverbs 29:18 says: “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law happy is he.”
And Psalm 119:105 “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” You’ve seen these before but it doesn’t hurt to see them again. It never does when you’re talking about God’s Word!

I didn’t exactly mean for this to be so long. I know that you are super busy. I just wanted to encourage you to keep up the good work and that I am fighting for the cause of Christ as well. Stay on the straight and narrow path, Mark, and when you begin to feel discouraged let the utter GREATNESS of our Lord Jesus Christ overcome it. We are praying for you…

Thanks so much for the DVD and booklets. I am fourteen and will be sharing these resources (or should I say “Weapons of our Warfare”?) with many young friends. The DVD will be watched at several sleepovers (or battle planning sessions) and will be loaned to many families. We have some loaned out right now actually and I just watched Watchman on the Wall this afternoon…*smile*.

Well, I had better go! Stay true until the nets are full, Mark!
Forever in Christ…

***********

Be sure to check out Mark Cahill’s site and be as blessed by his evangelistic resources as our family and many others have been! As Mark is so fond of saying…

“Until the nets are full,”

Mary

Things that make me happy!

I am having an uncomplicated day at home for the first time in several weeks. Big deep purr of contentment here. We’ve had back-to-back farmer’s markets in our community, to maximize on various tourism events, and we’re all just feeling plumb worn out. In between all of that, we’ve been processing chickens, keeping up with our big garden, and helping my hubby get ready for hay harvest. Oh, yeah, and milking two cows twice a day really uses up about 3 hours a day when you add in bottle feeding 3 calves, washing and sanitizing all the milking equipment, buckets, bottles, dairy floor…quite the job!

So today I was fixing myself a cup of tea for the first “me time” I’ve had in, well, I can’t remember when, unless you count the time last week when one of my good friends stopped by and helped me peel apples for pies for the market. Now that was pure loveliness, and I’d just been spoiled the day before when another friend came over to share stove duties and helped make pumpkin spice mini loaves. God is so good to me. When is the last time you thanked him for giving you a strong back, the ability to *see* this gorgeous world and participate in LIFE with a healthy body and a family that loves you?

Things that make me happy!

  • White Honeysuckle Tea by Shang, with added goji berries and sweetened with honey–Mmm! (Sipping as I type this…)
  • Seeing a full jar of said honey, and knowing it’s the real deal, honest-to-goodness unadulterated raw, organic honey…and daydreaming about our beekeeping venture panning out…hopefully soon!
  • Time, sweet time, to take deep breaths and snuggle with pup Liz while I watch my girls play with her 5 week old littermates
  • Listening to my girls giggle as they jump on the trampoline with the water hose blasting their every move…
  • My long row of colorful rainbow swiss chard out in the garden–so purty, its oranges, hot pinks, yellows, pale greens and pinks!
  • Garden tomatoes and cukes in my CSA share this week! WOW!
  • Hymns played by my 11 year old on her harmonica–she takes it wherever we go, we rarely listen to the radio in the vehicle anymore…
  • Fresh cream on fresh blackberries with a teensy bit of sugar!
  • Murmuring lovingly to my Jersey cow, ’cause she’s so good to us and gives such amazing milk!
  • Farmer’s Markets–such a fantastic sense of community…
  • Great Bible teaching–which we’re so blessed to get three times a week, praise God!

Wow, I think I could go on indefinitely, but my tea is getting cold and I’m overdue for some time in the Bible today…

What are some of your favorite things? I’d love to hear about them!

Blessings,
Mary

Rumor has it…

Rumors abound, and when they are about me or people I love, it’s more than bothersome, it’s hurtful and annoying. Now, I’m not easily offended, and I hate to think anything I’ve said in “real life” or here on this blog has been offensive, but the fact is, I know that a lot of the passions reflected on this blog focus on hot topics. Topics many of us have strong opinions about. So I just want to clear the air here on a few things, and beg you NOT to assign titles to me that are not true. I think you’ll catch my drift when you read the following.

  1. Yes, I’m an idealist that wants to feed pure healthy food to my family. We still eat junk, and occasionally–gasp–items with high fructose corn syrup, but we do what we can to eat healthy and to eliminate the need for chemicals, etc. in our family garden.
  2. No, I’m not against conventional farmers! Not one little bit. I know that for high yields on crops modern farmers are all doing what they believe they have to do to survive. I understand that for yields, GMO seeds are a good thing. I apologize if my belief that more caution is in order when it comes to genetically modified seeds/fish/animals has caused offense in any quarter. None intended. My father-in-law, brother-in-law, and many good friends are conventional farmers and I know that they are concerned about these issues, and the health of the land as well. We just happen to come at these issues from slightly different angles, that’s all!
  3. I’m not against the medical field. But I am all for keeping your kids healthy w/o medical intervention when possible. I realize it’s not always possible. I realize we’ve been soooo blessed to not have any major diseases or broken bones, or genetic defects that require a doctor’s aid. When I express my delight in being able to cure simple illnesses with herbs and such that God’s given, and my distaste for the overuse of anti-biotics we see here in the USA, please don’t misconstrue that to mean that I am against the medical profession. The two family practice docs that saw me and mine through the girls’ younger years are priceless, and I’d still pick up the phone and call them with questions if I didn’t have a wonderful herbal nutritionist at my beck and call. *Smile* (Not to mention both of those family practice docs quit their practices for various reasons)
  4. Yes, I’m sold on the KJV Bible being the word of God for all English speaking people. Yes, I don’t see the need for any other translation, because I believe hands down that the KJV is not only the best, but the one God perfectly preserved through historical manuscripts and godly translators as He promised He’d do until the end of time, according to Psalm 12:6-7. However, I believe that people can still get saved by reading other versions, because God’s word does not return void. This is an issue between a Christian and God, I share my thoughts and convictions on it here at the blog, but I by NO means judge you for choosing to stick with your alternate version. (I may pity you a little bit for what you’re missing out on though! *wink*)
  5. Raw milk. Ooh boy. Everyone who knows me in real life knows what a fanatic I am about raw milk vs. pasteurized. But ya know what? We all are fanatics about something. Maybe you are particularly critical of people that drink beer? I’m not critical of people that drink pasteurized milk, I’m just wanting the same freedoms to buy/sell raw milk that any other freedom loving American enjoys when he chooses white bread over whole wheat. Fair enough?

Those are just the top 5 that get me in trouble. I hope most of you know that in my book, grace is the name of the game. Nothing’s gained by being critical of how others choose to do things. Don’t read between the lines here at the blog and assume I’m a hater of conventional farmers/dairies, doctors, dentists, etc.–because that couldn’t be further from the truth. If you wonder about my stance on certain issues, ask me, go to the mat with me, I’ll still call you friend when it’s all said and done. I’ve done my research, but I realize there’s always more to learn about any subject. And I realize that you’ve probably done your research too! We may have to agree to disagree. Not such a bad thing! Really!

The next time someone says something derogatory about someone else…check with the source before passing it along. Rumors hurt people. And what are you doing talking about other people behind their backs anyway? Right?

For what it’s worth, I do apologize if my diatribes here on the blog have caused any personal angst to any of my readers. This platform provides an outlet for me to voice my concerns and thoughts and inspirations and get valuable feedback from you! However, please understand that one can only be censored *so* much. Chances are, if you continue to read here, you will from time to time experience a rise in blood pressure from some of my ornery topics. I just can’t help myself. And it is my blog, after all.

Farm Happenings

Well, a whole lot has been going on at our little homestead since I last had time to write! For starters, the girls and I have been preparing for our local farmer’s market for around two months, canning jellies and jams, making homemade cold process soaps and lip balms, crocheting doll dresses and dishcloths and potscrubbers, and trying out specialty cookie recipes such as “Nutter Betters” and “M’Oreos”, Marbled Chocolate Caramel Bars and Graham Crackers.

We’ve also been preparing for the arrival of two family cows! We were able to acquire an older Jersey cow named “Phyllis”–we call her “Philly”, and a 5 year old Ayreshire named “Missy”. They have been a wonderful addition to our livestock family. And on the evening of the first farmer’s market, Philly gave birth to a bouncing baby bull calf! They are both doing great, and yes, I’m so far surviving the early morning milkings. It’s the many buckets and containers that need washed and sterilized that’s killing me over here! ;O) We are huge fans of raw milk, and having our own milk cows is a dream come true, a long time coming! Missy is due to calve sometime around the end of May.

We’re raising baby chicks again, some for laying and some for the freezer. Our garden is double the size it was last year, we have a good stand of lettuce, onions, broccoli, cabbage, rainbow swiss chard, beets and about 60 or more tomatoes–I lost count. Green beans are coming up nicely, and I need to get out there and plant cukes and melons ASAP! Always plenty to do these days, as we finish up our school year, and work on labels for our market goodies.

The first farmer’s market was last week, and it exceeded our expectations and then some. We are trying to figure out how to make more baked goods while maximizing our efficiency. Oh for another stove! My 14 year old is the one baking the specialty cookies, which are very time consuming, but amazingly delicious, and big draws for the public. All of our baked goods are 100% made from freshly ground whole wheat berries…from our butter cookie pie crusts to our M’Oreo cookies.

Hope you enjoy the pics of our little farmstead!

Happy Spring to you!

Best Healthy Cornbread Recipe

It’s a cold ‘un out there today! My husband works outside so we’re fixing one of our favorite meals–chili and cornbread. My chili is a thick one, made with browned hamburger, pinto beans, black beans, a diced onion, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, a little homemade salsa and seasonings like chili powder, cumin, and garlic. If you soak your beans overnight and let the above ingredients simmer about 6-8 hours, you’ll have a thick, hearty, stick-to-your ribs meal. Perfect for a cold day!

Our cornbread recipe is a tweaked version of one we got from the back of a Bob’s Red Mill package of wheat germ. Instead of making it into the corn muffins for which it was intended, I double the recipe and put it in a 9×13″ pan, and substitute the white flour the recipe calls for, with freshly ground spelt flour. And because we try to avoid most corn products (because conventionally grown corn contains GMOs), I get organically grown popcorn from our neighbor’s CSA farm, and grind it into cornmeal. Mmm! We love this stuff…

Whole Wheat Corn Bread

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F, and grease a 9×13″ pan. Recipe may be halved for a 8×8″ square dish. And, if you’d rather make it into muffins, it should make about 24 muffins.

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour (we like Spelt berries, freshly ground), if you prefer, you could use white flour, or a mixture of the two.
  • 1 cup wheat germ
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 2 eggs, beaten (nothing compares to our own home-raised organic eggs!)
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 4 TB sugar (best is “evaporated cane juice”, if you can find it!)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder (buy “aluminum free”)
  • 1 tsp. salt (sea salt is wonderful!)
  • 2 cups milk (we love us our raw cow’s milk!!)

Stir together flour, wheat germ, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center. Combine egg, milk, and melted butter; add all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened; batter should be lumpy. Transfer batter to greased 9×13″ pan, and bake at 400*F for 20-25 minutes, till lightly browned on top. Serve warm, of course! (it’s especially good with organic local honey on top!)

(FYI–the pic above is a freebie from morguefiles, not my own, just trying to add color to the post! My own chili and cornbread look quite a bit different…)

Are you really a Christian?

In a world of people who claim Christianity, yet live their everyday lives as if our Lord Jesus Christ doesn’t exist, it’s easy to wonder if they are truly saved. Are they? Are you? Am I? Perhaps even more sobering…what about our children?

Jesus himself makes a startling statement in Matthew 7:22-23,

Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Can you imagine anything more devastating than taking your salvation for granted, and finding out on judgement day that your Christianity was a sham in Jesus’ eyes? In a day and age where people claiming to be Christians are “prophesying” and doing miracles in Jesus’ name, it pays to have discernment…and the only way to gain reliable discernment is to study our Bibles, and see what God says about salvation and the fruit of true Christianity. If it can’t be 100% proven by the Bible, then what are we doing trusting in what man says, over what God says?

Case in point. I really thought I was a Christian. My parents assured me that I’d prayed the “prayer” when I was two years old. At the age of seven, I began sweating my own “un-recalled” salvation experience. I now realize that God was prodding my heart. My biggest question at the time, was childishly simple:

Is there a difference between believing Jesus died for me on a cross 2,000 years ago, and believing any historical fact, such as “Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492”?

That question plagued me as a seven year old! I was raised in a godly home, a pastor’s daughter, my parents knew that I *knew* the ABC’s of salvation, but they didn’t know that I didn’t understand the heart’s involvement and response to what Christ had done for me. I was so young, that my head was nodding to the factual side of what needed to be done, but my heart wasn’t involved. Sure I wanted to escape hell, who wouldn’t. Sign me on the dotted line! I didn’t have a fruitful Christian life on the inside until more recently in my adult years. Thus, I fully believe a person can be a very good, moral person, and believe that they are doing everything required by a  church, or a fellowship of believers, to fit in, to be of “service” to God…and even bring others to the saving knowledge of Christ, but not be really saved. We’ve got to remember that to the Lord, all our righteousness is as filthy rags. It’s HIS righteousness, never ours, that makes the difference.

I urge you, if you are a “Christian” with doubts, please be sure you aren’t trusting in any of the following:

  1. Someone else’s assurance that you indeed “prayed a prayer” of faith when you were very young.
  2. Infant baptism, or any other baptism for salvation. Don’t take my word on this, study the instances of baptism in the Bible. There are no cases of infant baptism, and all other instances of adult baptism follow decisions of salvation.
  3. Faith in a prayer you prayed. The prayer doesn’t save you. Jesus’ shed blood on the cross saves you, once you repent of your sins and turn to Him, believing! Did Jesus or Paul ever outline a “salvation prayer” in the New Testament? A “1-2-3 Pray-after-me” type of prayer? No.
  4. Did you “make a commitment” to the Lord? Did you “trust Jesus as your Savior”? Did you “give your heart to Jesus”? None of these phrases have Biblical backing when it comes to salvation.

Let me say this again. Faith doesn’t save you. Christ saves you, and faith is the channel that gets you there.

What does it take to be saved? Different denominations make different claims. Check them to see if they are biblical. Repentance of our sins, and faith alone in Jesus’ shed blood alone, is what saves us. There is nothing we can do to earn or deserve eternal life.

Our pastor reminded us last Sunday, that there are two kinds of sorrow…a godly sorrow leading to repentance, and a worldly sorrow, somewhat akin to “regret”. Check out what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 7:8-11 about these two kinds of sorrow. (emphasis mine)

For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though [it were] but for a season.

Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing.

For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.

For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, [what] clearing of yourselves, yea, [what] indignation, yea, [what] fear, yea, [what] vehement desire, yea, [what] zeal, yea, [what] revenge! In all [things] ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.

Bottom line…we can come to Christ in prayer, and repent of our sins and believe that his shed blood on the cross wipes our debt of sin clean. But it’s not our prayer that saves us. It’s Jesus alone. If you aren’t trusting Jesus 100% alone to save you–you aren’t saved–works do not save. Works are anything your church says that you need to do in addition to the above…when you add works into the mix, you are changing the gospel, and making it as if Jesus death was in vain. Dangerous stuff as Galatians 2:21 tells us:

I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness [come] by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

Romans 10:9-10 says it so simply:

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

This is only a partial glimpse into my own personal journey through this issue. I hope to share my full testimony here one day soon. Meanwhile, what would it hurt to re-examine your own heart before the Lord?

Homemade Yogurt

I’m always looking for great breakfast alternatives to cereal. Typically, our breakfasts consist of our own organic scrambled eggs and fresh fruit, occasionally muffins, blender waffles, or baked oatmeal. But homemade yogurt is a real treat–it’s easy, and we love it. We use raw whole milk in ours, and Activia yogurt for starter. Not all store bought yogurts are equal, by the way. Be sure you check the wording. It should say “CONTAINS” active cultures, not “MADE WITH” active cultures. If it was simply made with active cultures, then those cultures were killed off in the pasteurization process, and it won’t work for making homemade yogurt. You need those live good bacteria for good health, and for good yogurt!

This recipe works best with whole milk, but I’ve scoured the net for variations, and you can use lower-fat content milk with this method. For it to be nice and thick, however, you should add one packet of unflavored gelatin to the mix after stirring in the yogurt with active cultures. It seems that some have been successful mixing non-fat milk powder in as well. FYI–I have not tried adding in gelatin or powdered milk–so experiment at your own risk there!

Here’s the recipe and how-to’s. It makes around 2.5 quarts–but it won’t last long if your tribe likes it as much as mine does!

Homemade Yogurt

  • 8 cups (half-gallon) of whole milk–raw, or pasteurized and homogenized is fine, but do NOT use ultra-pasteurized.
  • 1/2 cup store-bought natural, live/active culture plain or vanilla yogurt (You need to have a starter. Once you have made your own, you can use that as a starter)
  • frozen/fresh fruit or jams for flavoring
  • thick bath towel
  • crock pot

**Note: This takes a while. Make your yogurt on a stay-at-home day so you can monitor your yogurt.

  1. My crockpot holds 4 quarts. Plug in your crockpot and turn to low.
  2. Add an entire half gallon of milk. Cover and cook on low for 2 1/2 hours.
  3. Unplug your crockpot. Leave the cover on, and let it sit for 3 hours.
  4. When 3 hours have passed, scoop out 2 cups of the warmish milk and put it in a bowl. Whisk in 1/2 cup of store-bought live/active culture yogurt. Then dump the bowl contents back into the crockpot. Stir to combine.
  5. Put the lid back on your crockpot. Keep it unplugged, and wrap a heavy bath towel all the way around the crock for insulation.
  6. Go to bed, or let it sit for 8 hours.

In the morning, the yogurt will have thickened—it will not be as firmly thick as store-bought yogurt, but it still has the consistency of low-fat plain yogurt. And differing batches might have varying results. I’ve never had a batch mess up, but I’ve had some yogurt that was better added to smoothies than eaten with a spoon!

Chill your yogurt in the refrigerator. Your fresh yogurt will last 7-10 days. You’ll want to save 1/2 cup as a starter to make a new batch.

To serve, blend in your favorite fruit, either fresh or a tablespoon of jam per serving. We have access to fresh strawberries, blueberries and blackberries, so these are our favorite additions. We usually just pull  out a container of homemade organic freezer jam and stir a little of it into our yogurt. Mmm! You could also just add a little honey. Voila!

Gina Conroy: Journey to the Center of God’s Will

A big welcome to my friend and author, Gina Conroy, who will be guest blogging here today. I hope you enjoy hearing from her, and that her post inspires some spiritual introspection! Remember to check out Gina’s first novella, Buried Deception, in the Cherry Blossom Capers Collection, available in stores now!

Maybe you’re like me. Someone who’s been struggling to find God’s will. Someone who’s spent your life on a divine treasure hunt, chasing after God’s will like the elusive Holy Grail, knowing that when you finally take hold of it, all will be well in the universe or at least your life.

But what if God’s will is not something you can find? What if it’s not hidden, but right next to you and all you need to do is move over to give God room to work?

I remember as a junior in college sweating over the choice to spend six months on a mission internship to Africa. Six months was a long time to be away from home. I wanted to know without a doubt I was in the will of God. But no matter how much I prayer and travailed and beat my fits against the wall, I got nothing! No revelation. No peace. Nothing!

So I took drastic measures. Over Thanksgiving break, I holed up in my dorm room and fasted and prayed. Surely God would show up in a ball of bright light, his voice booming as he pointed the way I should go. I’d even settle for his writing on the wall. But as I prayed and lamented over fasting the Thanksgiving meal, I got nothing! No bright light. No pointing finger. No writing on the wall. Why was it such a struggle to know God’s will?

Then it hit me. No booming voice, just a gentle whisper. “You choose, and I’ll bless whatever you decide.”

Many Christians believe God’s will is always black and white. That there’s a right choice and a wrong choice. Many times there is, and God makes those things clear in his word. But what about the gray areas? Should I go on this mission trip? Should I send my child to private or public school? Should I buy this house? Should I marry this person?

While I believe God sends up red flags if you stray far from his will, I also believe he lets us make choices in life, and as long as we remain close to him, he’ll bless what we decide. I think the problem comes when we think being in God’s will means we’ll have no struggles in life. And if Adam and Eve wouldn’t have sinned, that might be true. But sin entered the world through their wrong (black and white) choice, making the permissible things in life not always clear and sometimes accompanied by trials (Genesis 3:1-21.)

I’d like to tell you when I went on that mission’s trip, I never doubted I was in the center of God’s will. Quite the opposite. It was the most painful time of my life at the time, and I questioned whether I’d missed God. But the fruit of the ministry and my personal connection with Jesus helped me persevere. Despite the inner heartache and trials, it was the most spiritually fulfilling time in my life. God’s word to me was true. He blessed me and no spiritual experience thus far compares.

It doesn’t take a Biblical scholar to see that being in the center of God’s will won’t always bring peace. Look at the life of Christ. From Jesus’ virgin birth (Luke 1:29, Matthew 2:13) to his final hours Jesus was smack dab in the center of God’s will, yet his entire life was fraught with trials as he lived out his calling.

Did Jesus always like being in the middle of God’s will? His struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane right before he went to the cross (Matthew 26: 36-45) paints a vivid picture of the answer. He spent his darkest hours crying out to God, finally asking his father to find another way before he resigned to God’s will. He knew the path ahead would not go smoothly and without pain, yet Jesus chose to be crucified and be the ultimate sacrifice for our sins.

Thankfully, most of us won’t have to go to the extremes. Yet we struggle and travail like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane wondering what God’s will for our lives is when most of the time we’re already in the center of God’s will.

All we need to do is move over and make room for God.