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SCONE COLD ENCOUNTER

We Christians have our own language. We say these strange things and other Christians know what we mean and/or how to respond. Think about the Catholic church, for example. If someone mentions Paul getting knocked off his beast, we know that is when he encountered God. And, how about “God will meet you right where you are”? I understand it on an intellectual level but… What? Where?

Well, I am definitely not a theologian, but I am a baker. So, often, where I am is in the kitchen. And, guess what, He met me there today. It wasn’t a knocked off my beast and blinded kind of encounter but it hit me right in my heart.

My Middlebourne asked for a scone but I hadn’t baked one in a while. It’s a fussy little recipe so definitely not one of my quick “go-tos.” However, it is one of the few, very few, foods that the whole family enjoys so I decided to make it.

*** The recipe is below with some of my tips to hopefully make it a little less fussy. I would be honored if you would try it. ***

I didn’t see heavenly clouds as I mixed the flour and sugar. I didn’t even marvel at the triune nature of our amazing God as I broke the egg shell and separated the egg yolk from the egg white.

The recipe calls for 5 tablespoons of cut up butter to be mixed in with the flour and then the wet ingredients are added. And egg yolk, 1 cup of sour cream and a bit of vanilla extract seemed to be no match for the 2 cups of flour and half a cup of sugar. Too dry. Could there have been a mistake? Did I measure wrong? These questions come up every time I make this recipe.

As I was laboriously blending and folding, I again had to remind myself that it was going to come together. There would be enough liquid but only as the butter softened.

It was there, in that dry place, where I had the encounter – where He met me.

Do you have a dry place; a relationship that won’t work, a pain that won’t heal, a struggle that you can’t win? I do, all of them actually. In that bowl I was struggling to make it all come together, arm aching and wondering why it wasn’t working. It was chilly, even though the oven was pre-heating and the kitchen was warming. I don’t know why it took longer than usual but Jesus knew it was just the time I needed to recognize how I was struggling to make some things come together in my life and all the time wonder ‘Am I enough’, “Will Jesus help me get it together’?

It was suddenly as clear and bright as Paul’s blinding light. It can’t come together until the softening, the melting occurs. A broken, tattered heart is cold. It is hard. We Christians know all about hardened hearts. God even used it with Pharaoh against Moses. We know it within ourselves too.

Where is your heart hardened? Where is that dry place? If you melt your cold heart, can it come together? I don’t have any answers for myself and certainly not for anyone else. But I know God was showing me where I needed to start if I want to get it to ‘come together’.

 

VANILLA SCONE RECIPE

 

Dry Ingredients

2 Cups of flour

½ Cup of sugar

1 Teaspoon of baking powder

½ Teaspoon of baking soda

½ Teaspoon of salt

5Tablespoons of butter, cold

 

Wet Ingredients

1 Cup of sour cream-full fat (‘cause might as well)

1 Large egg yolk

2 Teaspoons of vanilla extract

 

Glaze

1 ½ Cups of powdered sugar

Water

 

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt together. We will deal with the butter in another step.

In a small bowl, combine the egg yolk, sour cream and vanilla extract. The is something so satisfying about laying the bright yellow yolk on the white cream. But don’t do it! It’s better to get the yolk in the bowl first. If you’ve ever dropped a teeny-tiny piece of eggshell into something white then you understand this.

Next, you are get the butter cut into small pieces and add to the flour mixture. You can do this just by cutting it with a knife but a cheese grater does an amazing job. I prefer to use the flat kind of grater and lay it across the bowl as I grate the butter right into the flour mixture. It also helps to stop 2 or 3 times to mix the grated butter in so all of it doesn’t clump up. Mix the butter and flour mixture together very well.

Add the wet mix into the dry and mix together. This will take a few minutes, depending on the temperature. Use a firm blending tool to get all the dry bit mixed in.

When it has come together, pick it up and form it into a loose ball shape then place it in the center of an ungreased baking sheet. Pat it down to a uniform thickness of about ½ inch, trying to keep it round.

Run a large knife under hot water and cut the scone into 8 pieces but leave it together.

Bake it for 18 minutes, spinning ½ way. Depending on your oven, you may want to take it out at 18 minutes then separate the pieces slightly and put back in the oven for 3 or 4 minutes if the center seems too wet.

Mix the glaze with the water until it is thin and smooth. Drizzle it on while the scone is still hot, trying to get it down the sides of each piece.

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Facing the Critic Within

We’ve never seen him (or, her – for me it’s a him) but we’ve all heard his voice. Call him the voice of doubt, the inner critic or, heck, call him the natural thief of confidence and productivity. It all means the same thing. It’s that nagging voice that comes from within. I hear it all the time. After all, I believe that I am my harshest critic.

Self-criticizing can be very detrimental. It can stifle creativity. It can cause you to doubt your abilities and the work you’re doing to the point where it slows you down or even leaves you completely unproductive. It can cause image issues, relationship fears, and often leads to full-blown depression.

All this to say that the critic within needs to be taken seriously and managed appropriately. To avoid the downward spiral that leads to self-destructive behavior, it is my humble opinion that the critic needs to be listened to and responded to because it can’t be all-together avoided. If, instead, we can harness the criticism and re-direct it into self-improvement, we will become happier and more successful people. So, how do we do that?

First, we must accept the fact that no one is perfect. We aren’t, never will be, and expec

tations of perfection are both ludicrous and harmful. Goals are great but keeping them realistic is critical so that we set ourselves up for success.

Next, we need to identify the motivational source of the voice. Is this coming from a place deep inside where we know we have room for improvement in a certain area? Or, is this coming from a place of pain? A place of deception? For some, the critic within comes from a place where they have been hurt in the past.

For example, a boy that was teased as a child for being overweight can grow up to be a man who feels fat no matter how much time he spends in the gym or how many times he passes on the French fries, opting instead for the kale salad. That’s when you know the voice is a liar and needs to be kicked out of your life. Choosing the gym and the kale salad made the man a better version of himself than accepting his “fate” as a fat man and eating French fries while watching The Biggest Loser in tears would have. But, he already made that improvement so, continuing to listen to that voice would only mean inevitable self-destruction. Time to move on.

As a Christian, I also believe that the voice within me can be the Holy Spirit shining a light on dark spots in my life that need to be exposed so that I can improve. So that I can become the man I was created to be and live the life I was created to live. That’s a voice I want to listen to because it makes me a better person and, ultimately, a happier one.

As a writer, the critic within can make my work better. Again, I just need to learn to harness it and use it for good rather than let it overwhelm me and take me down the path of self-destruction. Like me while I’m on this side of heaven, my work will never be perfect. And, also like me, there’s always room for improvement. We are all works in progress. And, until my books are in print, I’m trying to improve every little detail until I have to let go.

The bottom line is that the critic within can be a good thing. Or, it can be your worst enemy. The choice is up to you. One thing that’s for sure, we all face that voice from time to time. The trick is in how we decide to handle that standoff.

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Should Christians Have a Gang Sign?

by M.N. Kollar

At first glance, this probably seems like a silly question. Are we drag racing against the Confucians at the closed ramp at the edge of town? Are we meeting with the atheists for a rumble behind the bleachers? I hope not, as I do not race, I certainly do not rumble, and I respect everyone’s belief system. That said, if you chose to challenge a friendly Wiccan to an arm-wrestling match then that’s on you.

So, let’s take another look at the gang sign question.

I wear my faith in my jewelry selection, prayerfully in my actions, and on display in my car. Sometimes the interaction is as blatant as someone asking me to roll down my car window so they could share a faith moment with me but other times it’s just a lingering look or a finger point to let me know that person acknowledged me on some deeper level. The question is, how do we address the times when other Christians cross our paths and want to engage?

Choosing to display my faith is a constant reminder to rise above the constraints of this world and also to not flip people off in traffic. Whether you wear or display your faith, there is a question that needs contemplating: are you a covert Christian? This is not meant for judgement from the outside but for conviction from the inside. One pastor put it this way to his congregation on a Sunday morning, if he followed them out to the parking lot would he know they were Christians? Would he know they were Christians on Monday morning if he stopped by their place of work?

In the real world it is not always appropriate to declare the Word of God in a board meeting. But the Word should manifest in our demeanor both in that same meeting and throughout the day. If you are in such a close walk with Jesus that someone may ask you how you keep your cool, then maybe it is the right time to let them know that it is the 24/7 influence of Jesus in your life that has you anchored.

As an aside, if you still have some work to do before people start wondering what that special something is about you, rest assured you’re in the same boat as most of us. But what a glorious summit to climb toward? Yes, your goal could be to become the person in your circle with the best hair, the biggest bank account, the whitest smile, the fanciest car or the fittest body. Those are fine goals but, then what? Beauty fades, cars rust, money can’t buy the most important things and bodies age. If we keep striving for that close walk with Jesus then we get to be a beacon to others while making our inner and outer lives amazingly radiant. That is something that will last. That is a goal truly worth striving for.

So, we are to walk like Jesus and to talk like Jesus. But then what? Well, then we need to connect, either with other people on the same journey or maybe with someone who is curious about the journey. Jesus was not a solo act. As we know full well, discipleship was central. There has been a great effort to build small intimate groups in the churches, and that is wonderful, but here we are talking about connecting in the every day.

How do Christians connect in the day to day routine of life? How do we lift each other up and let each other know that we are not just seen but acknowledged for our faith?

When you are wearing or displaying your faith and others have a moment to share their experience or just say how they like your cross, then that is clear and meaningful and wonderful. There have been times, just a gesture as someone drove past me, that left me wondering if that person was thanking me for letting them merge or if there was something more significant taking place.

The question now is, how do we use the few seconds at a traffic light, passing people in the mall, or standing in line at the cash register, to acknowledge the shared love of Jesus Christ? This brings us back around to our original question: Should Christians have a gang sign?

I like the idea of a variation of the ‘Three finger salute’. After a minimal amount of research, I have come to know that there are a number of like salutes already in circulation. So, we need a way to differentiate our salute from the Boy Scouts, the keyboard warriors (Ctrl+Alt+Del which is an old friend of mine) and various others. I like the three fingers and that is because it represents the Holy Trinity, but I’m not married to it in any way. I believe that the main thing is that we Christians have a way to acknowledge and lift each other up in the day to day.

I would love to hear back from anyone who has a thought or suggestion about getting Christians to see, really see, each other in the every day.

Leave a comment here or hit me up on twitter: @MnKollarW

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A Cross In Your Car

by M. N. Kollar

 

Does having a cross in our car make you drive more Christian?

For me, it does and I’m about to tell you why.

First, let’s examine it from the vehicular perspective. When my husband drives my car, he always takes down the cross I have hanging from the rear-view mirror because it interferes his view of the road. He is a good bit taller than I am and it apparently hangs at just the right level to be a distraction for him. If you are going to have a cross in your car then it definitely needs to be somewhere that is not a distraction. Instead, it should be more of an interaction. I’ll explain…

There are times when I go over an extra bumpy patch in the road and the cross swings furiously. It can be a little much and it is at those times that I grab the cross to steady it. It took me a while to see the irony but, when I’m going over a very bumpy patch in life, I hang on to the cross of Christ and it steadies me. Now, the cross hanging from my rear-view has become a constant reminder that when I drive over those patches, it is extra important that I stay grounded and rooted in the Word so I can find calm and peace.

Let’s next take a look at the internal perspective. When you see the cross in your car it should be a reminder, but of what? Other than perhaps the aforementioned stabilization example, I think the answer to this question will be as varied and personal as everyone who ponders it. For some, it might just be a general reminder to drive like you would have others drive; let that person merge, leave that extra room… For some, it will be a constant prayer for intervention in a circumstance of pain in our lives. The silent sound that comes from us may be a song of praise for the favor we enjoy or a wail to Heaven for intercession. Either way, it takes that sound, that song, that wail away from the altar and into the world. That cross in your car can take your prayer show on the road.

Now, on to examining the external perspective. Do people have specific expectations about a person based around certain accouterments? Of course they do. Just think policeman, fireman, etc. You expect these people to be ready to assist when they are on duty and if you know someone is a public servant, even if they are off duty, then should a crisis arise, you would still look to them. This is the same thing with a Christian, except there is no off duty for us. It may not be a rushing river rescue but that kind word or that friendly smile may just be a life saver for someone.

Ever felt taken advantage of because of that cross hanging from the rear-view mirror? Yes. I have had that woman wave as she pulled out in front of me and I regrettably intoned “I wasn’t gonna let you in, lady.” For me, that kind of thinking usually just lasts a few seconds until I remember that she saw that cross and made certain assumptions about me. Those assumptions did not make me feel taken advantage of in the long run but instead, as my attitude transformed, made it clear to me that I was spreading the love and the Word. After all, despite my annoyance, I did wave back…with ALL of my fingers.

Give it a try. Put a cross in your car and see if you drive more Christian!

Please obey all traffic and safety rules but, on the off chance you are pulled over by one of the boys or girls in blue, then let me offer this scenario for your consideration:

“But officer, I keep my eye on Jesus and He keeps His eyes on the road. If I was going too fast then I guess you need to give the ticket to…yes…yes…I will take a breathalyzer…”

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It Was Just a Little Thing

by M. N. Kollar

There are those little things that end up being big things. Your car gave you trouble starting and you missed the doomed flight. That’s big. That was God’s hand at work in your life and you know it. That was no whisper, that was a shout that shook you to your knees.

But then there are the little things that just end up being… little things. Maybe you are running late and getting flustered because you can’t find your phone and then it rings. It’s not even your boss, it’s a wrong number. Some people call these events ‘coincidences.’ We, as Christ followers, are admonished to not believe in ‘luck’ or in ‘coincidences,’ not while we are sitting in God’s hand.

Do we really need to search every little thing for traces of Jesus? How do we keep our eyes on Jesus and keep from losing our minds by overthinking everything? There is a balance to be struck, certainly. Maybe our brothers and sisters in cloistered communities are able to keep Jesus always in focus and see his influence in every area of their lives but it’s not so easy for the rest of us. Children, jobs, chores all take our time and our attention away, making it too hard to maintain our proper focus and too easy to speed past those little things without a thought.

If you are working to reframe your day, your life and your lens in order to achieve a consistently biblical worldview…but not quite there yet…the club welcomes you. Until we reach that level, it is in the quiet, contemplative moments that we can look back over our day and see His divine hand at work. Quiet moments.

With everything we know about self-care, most no longer see it as a luxury or as being selfish. Instead, we’ve come to know it as a vital component to physical and mental health. Christians also know this is soul-care time; spiritual health is vital. We use quiet times for powerful prayer, a casual talk with our Creator or just listening for that still, small voice.

‘Reflective time’ might be a more accurate descriptor of what we need to actively carve out so we can look back at our day. This is not something you can put off until tomorrow as you have to reflect on today, today. The little things are already small in our big today, but tomorrow they will be like grasping after gossamer dreams. It may take some practice and discipline, but it goes a long way toward cultivating a grateful heart.

What do you find when you reflect on the little things of your day? If you are having a hard time finding Jesus and His handiwork in your day then what does that mean for you as a Christian? It may mean just a focus shift for some of us. There are many pieces of art that show a dejected person walking while his unseen angels battle demons just behind him. If we see the demons as anything from depression to traffic, then we can understand how powerful that imagery is. We whisper ‘Thank you, Jesus’ when we make it into the grocery line right before the person with the full cartload but forget what kind of hurry we would have been in if we were caught behind them. We forget the panicked drive to after school pick-up that never happened.

Seeking His hand at work throughout our day can reveal things about ourselves and about God that can really empower us and help us learn to trust Him. That searching eye needs training and looking for Him in those little things can help bring Him into focus in our every day.

 

Maxine Kollar is an author whose new book series “The Channel 24 Chronicles” is being published by Shine-A-Light Press. The first book, “Perched for Progress” is expected to be released in the Fall of 2020.