Saturday, June 27, 2009

What to Make When Company's Coming, Part 2

Thought I'd share one more recipe that's so fun for when you have people over. It's a unique meal that's so yummy, and, again, this one is great for assigning parts for guests to bring. You can serve it anytime, but I tend to see it as more of a fall/winter-ish meal.

Javanese Dinner for Eight:

*1 chicken, deboned (or you can bake boneless breasts)
* 2 cans cream of chicken soup
*2-3 cups chicken broth
*curry, to taste (at least 1 1/2 teaspoons)

Cook chicken over range top. Add to the chicken 2 cans of chicken soup, chicken broth, and season with curry. Serve with rice and offer the remaining ingredients for guests to mix in to their chicken & rice (This is where you can ask guests to bring one or more of these.):

* 1 bunch green onions, sliced
* 1 cup shredded coconut
* 1/2 cup sliced almonds
* 1 large can chow mein noodles
* 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
* 1 large can crushed pineapple
*2 large stalks celery, chopped

And it's best when you put ALL of the toppings in it, so make sure your guests feel like wimps if they don't. =) But it's great...the wimps/picky eaters have plenty of options and control with this meal. It takes the pressure off the cook - it's the guests' own fault if they mix in the wrong combination of toppings. Wahahaaaa.

One other thought I have about fixing meals for company is that I frequently go Sandra Lee-style and add a store-bought item or two (dessert or sides) to go along with what I make homemade. I do love cooking for people when they're in my home and it's fun to show love by putting effort into it, but in this season of my life with two little children dirtying the house faster than I can clean it up, getting ready for company means I have to make choices to simplify in order to get it all done in time. Making simplifying choices lessens the stress for me, which in turn plays a big part in the environment I'm helping to create when guests are in our home. So that's important. And I like to think it's less intimidating to some guests you have over. There are also times when it just makes sense to pick up a Papa Murphey's take-and-bake pizza and invite someone over to share. You really don't HAVE to cook to show hospitality! Being sensitive to when there's a need you can meet relationally and listening to the nudges from the Holy Spirit about having someone over is much more important than having culinary skills and a filled pantry. Don't miss an opportunity just because you haven't had time to go to the store, plan a full meal, etc. If you really believe those things aren't what matter most, then don't be afraid to live like it.

Feel free, once more, to share your best recipe for entertaining so all of us can benefit, and I'd love to know any more tips you have or lessons you've learned on practicing hospitality in your home.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


I have a lot on my mind and weighing on my heart this week in regards to doing ministry. I'm not talking about the kind of ministry that comes with an official title or position. Or that comes through being married to someone who has the title. I'm talking about plain ol' church ministry that we're all called to be a part of. Discipleship. The building up of other Christians. The whole thing of being the Body of Christ. It's a wonderful, beautiful thing, and I love that we each get a part to play and have all been specially gifted for edifying each other and helping each other towards growth. What a special thing. I happen to love it. But I must say, there are times it gets really hard. It's a hard role to play in people's lives. You are putting yourself out there to be an example, and that requires a whole lot - constant confession and repentance when sin comes up in your life, a teachable attitude yourself, accountability, a true spirit of authenticity, and a servant's heart that puts you in a place of seeking how to help others in the first place. That doesn't come easily and naturally; we have to let Jesus give us that kind of heart. It certainly isn't what mine is like on its own. But another part of discipleship that is challenging is the willingness you have to have to speak truth in all situations. To share God's words on a situation. To proclaim His way as better than our own. Which isn't too terribly difficult for some of us....until it is resisted. When people don't want to change and really don't want their thinking challenged, it gets incredibly hard to be obedient in sharing truth. The apostle Paul's words to the Galatians (in Gal. 4:16) resonate with me just a little right now, "Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?"

It's so sad to see it happen. To see people get uncomfortable with the truth and decide to move on from it, slipping further away instead of climbing closer to where God wants us. Anyone who's ever been involved in ministry to people within the church knows that lukewarmness is a big deal. At least in our part of the world. In my experience, it's the biggest obstacle to overcome in ministering to people. To be used to help move people out of that and into real passion and love for God is quite a task. Honestly, lots of people are just wanting to stay right where they are. They want to get involved enough at church that they have good Christian friends, but that's really all they need church involvement for. It's a social organization, nothing more. They really want to be with people who think just like them so that they are never challenged to think differently. Or to live differently.My heart is breaking a little over this right now.

Now, I'm well-acquainted with lukewarmness myself. I've spent many more years in lukewarmness than I have in passion. And even now...almost eight years after I made a new choice to live more passionately for Jesus...I see that He's already made me different than I was, but I still struggle so much. I lack so much enthusiasm, passion, and obsession for Him. I need to grow in this. But I want to grow in this too. It's why I have people in my life to push me towards this kind of growth. It's why my deep friendships are with passionate people. People who challenge me. People who disagree with me and aren't afraid to tell me why but always do so with biblical support. It's why I am in community with other believers, on several different levels. It's why I love the church I'm a member of - that I can find people like that if I want to be around them. I'm just really sad this week that there are so many people avoiding those very relationships because they truly want to stay where they are. There are some who, instead of fleeing temptation as fast as they can, ask for clarification of the "lines" between godly and worldly living only so they can get as close to it as possible and not feel guilt or possibly not to have anyone confront them. Besides all the ways this way of thinking is detrimental to that person's spiritual growth, it also affects others, can infest a group and help others get "stuck" as well, and misrepresents Jesus to those who don't know Him.

So the issue becomes how to minister to these people. Jesus hates lukewarmness, but He loves people. I want to extend mercy, as I know very well I've been given it, and I want to love them so well that they stay within reach and are still in a place to have their hearts penetrated by truth. But what happens so often is that truth divides people. Truth offends. And we can't be afraid to share it when the Holy Spirit asks us to. The tricky part (if I had to do it on my own) would be to balance that mercy-filled patience for people with the call to encourage others' growth which sometimes requires more direct words or teaching. Thank God I don't have to figure that all out on my own! I need Him to just do that through me. And I need not be so surprised when the truth does offend. It's pretty much what the gospel is.

I needed to process this and redirect my mind towards truth, but I'll blog again soon - with more thoughts on recipe and meal ideas for company. Thanks for your responses on that! I'd love to get more recipes!!

Friday, June 12, 2009

What to Make When Company's Coming

I'm always looking for simple, fun ideas for preparing meals when we invite guests into our home. Joel and I feel strongly about the importance of developing hospitality in our hearts and putting it into practice long before we have an abundance to share from or have a completely-decorated home, perfect table settings, expert culinary skills, etc. I've found that many times people are blessed by that very incompleteness. While I've experienced blessing through many a people serving me out of the amazing skills, gifts, and wealth God has given them, I've also experienced times when those atmospheres of seeming perfection just served to intensify the temptation I was feeling to compare, complain, and struggle through my own issues of discontentment. I have seen where it does bless others - and yourself - when you don't wait to practice hospitality. (You know...wait until you have a nicer home, more money, prettier dishes, feel more confident in your entertaining skills, etc.) We just want to open our home, spend time building relationships, enjoy community, and seek to meet others' needs - whatever those may be. Sometimes people just need to hang out and enjoy a good time and easy discussion. Sometimes there are bigger problems in people's lives that they may be more willing to share with us over dinner in our home, giving us an opportunity to provide support and encouragement for their particular need. Other times we're caught off guard by how much our guests blessed us! So many great things happen when "church" also happens outside the church walls. We don't do this enough. Not as often as we've felt led. But it's an area in which we want to keep growing. So we choose not waiting to do it. And one of the ways we're working on that is in simplifying the endeavor of entertaining people in our home. We have several foolproof meals that we serve when having company over. We do branch out of this, of course, but when we find a meal that just works well for having others over, we aren't afraid to use it again. And again. And again.

Check out Southern Living's website for instructions on creating one of my new favorites, Lean Green Lettuce Tacos. I couldn't get the picture on my blog, for some reason. And I don't have time for that. So you'll have to go there to see it. I love the idea of serving the lettuce leaves in a glass bowl; it makes it so much prettier!

I recently made these lettuce tacos, and it was a hit at our house, so I'm thinking I will make this in the near future when we have someone over. When I do cook a meal for someone, I like to choose things that provide lots of fix-ahead flexibility. This is because my crazy children tend to surprise me with certain needs right at cooking time. So we choose menus that don't limit us to doing all of the cooking in the hour right before guests arrive. That way we're not rushing around desperately trying to get ready at the last minute, dealing with unexpected interruptions or delays. I'm not a good multi-tasker, so this is an important one for me.

We've also gotten creative with what entertaining looks like, and I highly recommend this. Especially when you have a budget to consider. Sometimes it's not about serving a big meal. Sometimes it's just inviting a family over for homemade ice cream and sundaes on a summer night, after we've all eaten dinner at our own homes. We love doing this with our family friends who have kids, and we just throw them in the backyard to play, or we all go outside. Hosting outdoors definitely cuts back on some of housecleaning efforts in preparation! Because Joel and I are currently leaders of a rather large community group at our church, we find that it helps us to usually have two or more couples over at a time. And we feel fine asking people to bring something. They usually ask anyway. But definitely make it a group effort! Maybe it's a bring-your-own meat cookout scenario. We love doing this! Especially with larger groups. Or you can have grill-your-own-pizzas night. My friend Shelly and her husband once invited our family over for this, and it was an idea that I tucked away in my mind to use in our home. (I copy and steal ideas from people all the time.) Ask your guests to bring one or two pizza toppings to share and you provide some more, then prepare the dough (recipes for this are all over and everyone can pile up their personal pizzas from the plethora of topping offerings, and you grill them for everyone.

And in the next few days, I'll share some more recipes I love for entertaining. But please, please help me out. Let me know your best simple meal plan for hosting others (simple is essential for this girl) in the comments section. I wish I had more readers and we could do one of those fun linky things, but alas, I'm not that popular. So, do you have a favorite go-to meal you like to serve guests in your home?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

God of Variety

There's a Bible study class we attend on Sunday mornings at our church, and I just can't get it off my mind this afternoon. Our discussion today, like most Sundays, was very rich. Everyone was engaged. We were all learning from each other. And it seemed we were all experiencing conviction. The difference with this particular group than a lot I've been a part of is that next Sunday, there will be people in there who ask you if you put into practice the truth of which you were convicted the previous Sunday. It's hard. And so good. Today, the teacher wrapped up the discussion a few times, yet people kept sharing more. Bible study just wouldn't end. And it was one of those moments you just knew it wasn't supposed to. God was still convicting hearts and enlightening minds to truth. And I liked it. Enough to cry about it. =)

I was overcome with thankfulness for this particular hour I get to spend on Sundays with that unique, sometimes even random, group. And I'm grateful that God doesn't show up just when you're with your like-minded, similar friends. When He shows up through the differences of the people studying Scripture together, it creates such beauty. Unity becomes something much more powerful. And the whole concept of unity immediately seems simpler than it was. When I'm with that group, it's like a whole piece of God's character that I paid little attention to before is suddenly clearer in focus. His heart for mosaic-type worship bears heavier on my own. When you build relationship with those people with whom you may never otherwise interact with, if not for your shared love of Jesus, you receive glimpses of God's character that can overwhelm, inspire, and even startle you. The thing bonding you is HIM. The power that is available for unity is quite a gift. I'm just a little shaken by it today. And it makes me think a lot about what my reasons and motivations are for seeking and being in community with others in my church.

What a blessing it is to be a part of a group that brings passion, authenticity, and variety to the table! These people in this class sure bring ALL of that. And God uses it every single week. I really do think it's important to not limit our relational connectivity within the church to only those in our same age group/life stage. We're always gravitating towards those like us, and while it's good to be in community with those we match up with in terms of season of life (there are lots of benefits there too), it's really refreshing to also connect with people, whether through studying God's Word or through service of some kind, who bring such diversity in perspective through different backgrounds, ages, personalities, and experiences. It makes me a different girl. And today I'm just thinking a lot about how much I love that God loves variety.