What does the Bible say about Cremation? Part 3

This has been an interesting topic indeed! Please read all three posts, but especially this disclaimer posted in Part 1:

Now don’t take this wrong. I realize state laws vary regarding our options when a loved one dies. And you might have chosen the cremation route for economical reasons, this is not in judgement of anyone’s decisions whatsoever. It is our soul and spirit that go on to heaven, or hell, not our body…and many saints have been burned at the stake or died in house fires or explosions. This is not about the body being gone, or unable to be resurrected on the day Jesus returns…this issue is merely, does God have anything to say about how we treat the bodies of our dead?

If you’ve read all three parts, then you know from Part 2, that I’ve formed a conclusion, that biblically, God wants us to honor the bodies of our loved ones when they die, and that in His economy, cremation is not honorable. Is it a sin? Well, I’m not here to say it is. I do know we are under grace, not law, and the more we study God’s word, the more He reveals to us of truth. The irony of this conversation is, what a way to be even more separate from the world, not only in the way we live, but in the way we deal with death.

In Part 1, I shared how my personal “death horror” was related to the embalming process. I didn’t want to have *that* done to my body, dead or alive! So cremation seemed a fairly innocent option. Well, certain things in the Bible (Old Testament law, and yes, I know we’re under grace) point against mutilation of the body…to me, embalming qualifies as mutilation. Definitively! Again, I’m not God, and I’m not saying embalming is or isn’t a sin. (I can see the comment section now–eek!) But it’s an option I’m not comfortable with.

So we were given a link to a resource guide to Home Funeral Care which seems right now, to be the answer for our family. I realize it’s not the path most people in modern society take…but it is the way of old, the preparing of a dead loved one’s body for burial. Remember the book passages I shared in Part 1, of how this can be a sacred offering, an act of reverencing and honoring a life, perhaps highly therapeutic in the grieving process.

I realize for this to work, one’s entire family has to be “with the program.” And that’s as it should be. My family’s conviction needn’t be yours. When it comes to burial decisions of grandparents, or parents, the decisions are often not ours to make. But it is a good topic to discuss before the fact, between husbands and wives, concerning their personal wishes, and in light of the loss of a child.

To make a more informed decision, be sure to check out the following:

Our state laws require embalming unless burial takes place within 24 hours of death, or if the body is kept on dry ice. Many states also permit burial of family members on their own rural property. These things are good to know ahead of time. There are also quite a number of wooden casket companies available online, that provide caskets quite affordably. Some even ship flat for storage in the garage rafters perhaps, for the family to assemble together when needed–another rite of passage experience in the grieving and letting-go process. Some coffins even double as bookshelves, coffee tables and entertainment centers until they need to be used. Here are a few casket companies to check out:

Summing this topic up…

Don’t let the idea of home burials turn you off. They really are growing in popularity, mainly because you’re looking at an option that might cost you $250 max, compared to $6000-15,000 if you go the funeral home route.  The monetary savings isn’t what sold us though. We read several precious testimonials of those that prepared their loved one’s body, and were blessed by the healing it brought to the grieving process. Why not have a simple funeral service, on your own property if state laws allow, followed by a larger memorial service for the public at large if you so desire?

More important than these to the Christian, is to weigh our own convictions and ask prayerfully as we seek for truth in God’s word: What would the Lord have us do? Scripture says it best, As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!

What that looks like for you and yours, is between you and God!

What does the Bible say about Cremation? Part 2

It seems to me that here in the USA we are in denial when it comes to dealing with death. We prepare for the births of our children, we prepare for their educational years, we save for retirement…and some people do pre-pay and plan out their funerals, and take out life insurance policies on their spouses. But when it comes to final decisions regarding cremation or burial, we might be making them too blithely, without wanting to give much thought to particulars–without consulting God’s word for answers.

So a couple of weeks ago, our Sunday evening Bible study veered into the topic of death when we were studying the life of Joseph, and his father Jacob, in Genesis 47:29-30, was emphasizing his desire that his body be returned to be buried in the land of his fathers. Suddenly we were all discussing this matter of Christian burial, and wanting to know if cremation was a biblical option. Our pastor decided we’d devote a couple of Sunday evening classes to the topic, and here I am, to share my notes.

First a couple of passages stand out to me:

1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil.”

Jeremiah 10:2, “Learn not the way of the heathen.”

Burning dead bodies has long been a heathen practice. Take India for example. We learned that cremation is centuries old in India. Did you know that Christians in India do not want to be associated with the heathens, and so they try to avoid cremating their loved ones when they die? Interesting.

Romans 15:4 tells us that the things written “aforetime were written for our learning“. In the Old Testament, in Genesis, we are given m.a.n.y. accounts of the deaths and burials of God’s people…so it seems we are given the scriptural example that burial is His way. Even in the New Testament we see Stephen, the first martyr, carried to his burial. Conversely, we see God using fire as punishment, as a way of showing forth His wrath.

  • He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with fire
  • When Aaron’s sons offered “strange fire” to the Lord, He sent a fire to consume their bodies
  • Korah’s group was swallowed up by the ground and immediately after God sent fire to burn up 250 men that were there offering incense
  • Idols were to be burned and destroyed
  • Achan and his family and livestock were stoned and then burned

But Amos 2:1-2 was the most convincing for me…

Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Moab, and for four, I will not turn away [the punishment] thereof; because he burned the bones of the king of Edom into lime:

But I will send a fire upon Moab, and it shall devour the palaces of Kerioth: and Moab shall die with tumult, with shouting, [and] with the sound of the trumpet:

Keep in mind, this is a PAGAN nation that *transgressed* by burning the bones of the King of Edom into lime! This pagan nation reaped bigtime punishment for what we Christians are ceasing to think twice about doing to our loved ones after death.

We reason it away though. We think, cremation is affordable. It’s sanitary. It’s just their body, not their soul or spirit. It’s easy. Our pastor pointed to Joseph’s bones…wouldn’t it have been easier to burn them rather than keep track of them for the 400 years the Hebrews were enslaved in Egypt, not to mention the hassle of carrying them around with them for 40 years of wandering in the wilderness before finally getting to put them to rest in the promised land? It kind of makes you think, doesn’t it? Why weren’t the Civil War soldiers’ bodies heaped in a big pile and burned after the battles? That would have been easier, cheaper, more sanitary, and less messy. But it would have been so disrespectful. Instead, burial “details” were sent out to bury the dead, because those men deserved a special, honorable burial. Can you see how desensitized we’ve become?

1 Corinthians 6:19 says that our body is the temple of the Holy Ghost. Even though our spirit and soul are not there anymore, the temple is. God bought us–He owns our bodies. We should glorify God with our body, whether in life or in death.

Think about this a little more with me. Laws in the Old Testament forbid mutilation of the body. Are we “without natural affection” (2 Timothy 3:3)? A hundred years ago, when families prepared the bodies of their loved ones for burial, they called it a “decent, Christian burial.” Can you imagine them stoking up the fire outside and throwing their dead family member’s body into it? If we had to prepare our child for burial, would we choose to cremate? Could you burn the body of your pet when it dies? Most people, I would hope, would shudder at the thought. But we don’t have to “watch it happen”–so we sanitize it in our minds, we deny the horror of it.

Why did the Roman Catholic Church burn martyrs at the stake? To humiliate and dishonor their bodies. They actually exhumed the body of John Wycliffe, put it on trial, found his bones guilty and burned him at the stake. No doubt their intention was to dishonor this man and his work on the Holy Scriptures.

Romans 14:7-8 sums it up,

For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.

For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.

The Bible may not seem to summarily answer the question of cremation vs. burial for Christians, but it does put forth principles, that when studied, hold the answers. Do you agree?

Part 3 will deal with other options available to us when a loved one dies, because if you recall from Part 1, my horror at the embalming process is what turned me to consider cremation in the first place. So what is a gal to do? Stay tuned!

Read Part 1 here.

What does the Bible say about Cremation? Part 1

I’ve had some reading time lately, being “stoved up” but healing from  brown recluse spider bite after-effects…and came across this gem in a recent book by Christian historical author Jane Kirkpatrick. For context, the book, Where Lilacs Still Bloom chronicles the true life story of  German housewife Hulda Krager whose passion was hybridizing apples, daffodils, and lilacs on her family farm. Sadly, she outlived her husband and all of her children…so she was well-acquainted with death.

In the first half of the 1900’s, it was the family’s privilege to prepare their dead loved ones for burial. My heart went soft and weepy at the thought, as I read the following taken from Hulda’s musings of her daughter on page 301 of the book:

“I thought of Martha and how we’d bathed her body and dressed her, choosing the right dress, weeping as I gently brushed her cheeks, prayed over her, all the acts of reverence honoring her life.”

This musing of Hulda’s was triggered by something an undertaker confided in her when he was over in her lilac garden, collecting starts to give to grieving families who used his services. He said this:

“My work (is) filled with stories told when people are grief stricken and weakened by loss. They let me into their lives in the most intimate ways, dressing and caring for their loved one, something that used to be done at home.”

So by now you are wondering where this is heading, right? Here’s *my* personal context. In high school, I took an English Comp class in which we were required to read a “descriptive” article detailing the process by which a dead person is embalmed. Suffice it to say, that there article convinced me that cremation was much to be preferred over embalming. For one thing…as the undertaker in the above quote said, the process of preparing someone for burial is a very intimate one. I don’t like the idea much, but always thought it was one of those necessary “evils”, if you will. However, that aside, embalming is gory, mutilating…I could go on and on, but feel free to read up on it if you truly want to go there.  Cremation seemed much preferable to me, in addition to being much more economical. I don’t want to leave my family saddled with a lot of funeral expenses and debt. And I didn’t think there were any other choices really. But I’ve always been bothered by the idea of cremation…I don’t really want my children to have to process the fact that their mother’s body was burned up in a crematorium.

I never stopped to think about checking it out in the Bible. What does God say about cremation and burial? How did Christians do it in the Bible? I did have an interesting conversation about it with a friend about 3 weeks ago, in which we both agreed that it didn’t seem biblical, but we couldn’t say why exactly, other than it seemed to have a pagan origin…funeral pyres, etc.

I’ll leave you with the final words of Hulda Krager spoken about the ways she’d prepared her beloved daughter for burial…

“all the acts of reverence honoring her life.”

Is there anything “honorable” or “reverencing” about subjecting a loved one to cremation or embalming? Personally, I think not.

Now don’t take this wrong. I realize state laws vary regarding our options when a loved one dies. And you might have chosen the cremation route for economical reasons, this is not in judgement of anyone’s decisions whatsoever. It is our soul and spirit that go on to heaven, or hell, not our body…and many saints have been burned at the stake (another reason to rethink cremation?) or died in house fires or explosions. This is not about the body being gone, or unable to be resurrected on the day Jesus returns…this issue is merely, does God have anything to say about how we treat the bodies of our dead?

More on this soon, with scripture!

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.

Rejoicing in hope…Romans 12:12