Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Proof is in the Pudding (Black Bean Brownies)

This week I had an encounter with the 'proof is in the pudding'.  I'll tell you more in a minute, but I want to set the background for this makes-no-sense proverb.  I mean really, what can be proved by looking in pudding? Or does it mean whiskey was added to the pudding?

Actually the phrase is a shortened version of 'the proof of the pudding is in the eating', meaning in order to fully test something you need to experience it for yourself.  According to   the earliest printed example of the proverb they could find is in William Camden's Remaines of a Greater Worke Concerning Britaine, 1605: "All the proof of a pudding is in the eating."

Now for my story.  Every Thursday my work place has a sit down coffee break where staff can enjoy refreshments and bat around any topic that comes up. It's one of the highlights of our week.  Each of us takes turns bringing snacks. One of my co-workers is on a gluten-free diet and we try to accomodate her needs by bringing something she can eat, too.  Being one to try new things and wanting to break out of the usual monster cookie or no-bake cookie selection, I decided to try a recipe I had read about online.  I gathered the ingredients from the Sav-a-Lot grocers on my way home from work and whipped up a batch of brownies, following the recipe carefully.  Gluten-free means no flour and this recipe replaced the standard wheat staple with of all things, BLACK BEANS!  The batter looked great, but the predominant smell wasn't chocolate as I poured it into the baking pan.  I kept hoping the Tex-Mex bean smell wafting from the oven would somehow dissipate and the final product would taste like a normal brownie. 

As soon as the finished brownies were cool enough to sample I cut out a small chunk, hoping the still pungent bean smell was just my imagination.  The first bite wasn't awful but definitely not the chocolate fix I was looking for.  The texture was perfect, just like the real thing.  Of course, I had to try another bite trying to persuade my mouth to taste brownie only.  Maybe if I wait until morning and it cools completely, I'll have a good enough counterfeit to share for coffee break.

I set the alarm early just in case I'd be making the back-up pumpkin custard recipe.  After one more hopeful nibble,  I pronounced the experiment unsuccessful and tossed the beautiful looking, perfectly bodied batch of brownies into the trash.  I did keep a few squares to take along to play a guess-the-secret-ingredient game.

Later at break, my brave co-workers humored me by 'prooving' the mystery brownies.  As the guesses came in for the hidden ingredient, --cumin?, chili powder?, garlic?--it slowly dawned on me that the beans I had used had probably been canned with some spices and seasoning.  Kind and adventuresome, some of the group actually asked for the recipe.  At home that night, a quick check of the empty bean can confirmed the suspicions, the beans had been spiked!

So there you have it. The proof of the brownies was in the eating. I'm including the black bean recipe at the end of this post, and now that we all know what not to do, we may actually be onto something good. :)

That whole experience makes me think of how we can mix worldly thoughts or things into our lives and hope their presence doesn't show or that no one will notice. We can even look good on the outside and display the right form or structure, but we can't quite mask the bad 'smell' that will show up sooner or later.  Because our hearts can so easily deceive us, the mixing may be a subtle thing we're not even aware of until His Spirit gently exposes the truth. 

2Corithians 2: 14-16 says, "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.  For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?" 

Father, I want to be this fragrance. So that others see Jesus in me, no mixed messages, but the truth without compromise. Keep me coming back to you, humbly confessing sin and allowing you to cleanse me, so I'm the real deal inside and out.

Back to the medieval pudding refered to in the proverb, it was most likely not a creamy sweet desert style pudding , but rather some form of  meat. Quoting from the site mentioned earlier, the pudding was described as "'the stomach or one of the entrails of a pig, sheep, or other animal, stuffed with a mixture of minced meat, suet, oatmeal, seasoning, etc., and boiled...Mediaeval peasants, faced with a boiled up farmyard massacre, might have thought a taste test to have been a wise choice."

Be a sweet Fragrance this week and take in the sweet scents of fall-a pile of leaves, pumpkin spices, bon fires, apple desserts, hot apple cider...



  • 1 (15.5 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee (optional)
  • 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease an 8x8 square baking dish.
  2. Combine the black beans, eggs, oil, cocoa powder, salt, vanilla extract, sugar, and instant coffee in a blender; blend until smooth; pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top of the mixture.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven until the top is dry and the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 30 minutes.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

You are Enough for Me

"God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him." -John Piper

Ever notice how the right time, the right conversation and the right people can bring an unidentified feeling or mood to the surface and you find yourself naming something that you knew was there but couldn't quite put your finger on? I found myself confessing to a friend recently that I was dissatisfied and discontent.  Saying it out loud felt good, but at the same time I now had to face what my emotions had been storing up inside.

Could I blame it all on a job that doesn't seem very fulfilling?  Was I guilty of comparing my life with  friends on Facebook? At church?  The kind of comparing that leads to wishful thinking and seeing greener pastures on the other side of the fence.  If I went to that church, my ministry might be noticed and needed more.  I wonder what it would be like to have a husband who...No, I didn't think so, although I know I'm very capable of comparing myself to others.

After further scrutiny I believe the disscontent was fueled by a longing to see my life counting in ways I think are worthy and what think fruit should look like.  I had raised a heartfelt cry to be about the business of the Kingdom in ways that would yield more tangible results.  Results of the kind that end up in a ministry newsletter or get broadcasted through a testimony at church.  What was happening through my life that I could even write home about?

Never One to let an opportunity pass , the Father began to direct my moping into prayers from my heart that yearned for His presence even more than evidence of His work within and through me. As if He had pivoted the control wand to open my heart's window blind, I began to see slat -sized amounts of His light shining through.

Like what happened later in the week at a work luncheon I attended. I was seated at a table with people I didn't know.  The conversation flitted through various trivial topics and landed on recent tragedies our community had suffered.  I added a small detail no one else knew about a seeming coincident that had happened which prevented even further grief and I tagged the information as a God-thing.  Immediately, someone began to tell us about a God-sized thing that had happened in her life. We were now engaged in sharing God -sightings.  Could it be a small off-hand comment had been breathed on by His Spirit?

The next day at work I listened to a radio program.  The host of the show was interviewing, Mitch Kruse, one of my favorite Godly authors, whose wisdom  has inspired me often. He said that as he gets older he realizes how great his need for God is, not just to save him, but to be his Enough. Only Christ can satisfy our desires, and yet we have a tendency to say I need Christ plus... or I need Christ minus...Mitch prays, "Holy Spirit, you are Enough for me."  We have been made to find our ultimate joy, when we are fully satisfied in Him.   That was it! The prayer my heart was needing to express. That's where I want to be. When I get that, I will be involved in what Mitch called my 'ultimate value' of bringing His joy to others. Could it be that the Father was speaking very specifically into my situation just when I needed it?!

The next morning as I climbed into the car to leave for work, I realized my umbrella had been lifted off the floor of the garage where I had left it sprawled out to dry the night before, folded neatly and laid within reach on the passenger's seat, ready to serve me in the rainy day that lay ahead.  Could it be that the Father was showing His kindness to me through a thoughtful, tender husband?  Kindness on a day I needed to not only know He loved me in this place of neediness, but to feel it and see it through a simple act of love.

Since the blind was opened, I sense a new expectancy.  The Father is working in and around me and I know there will be more reasons to rejoice as I discover how Enough He is.  I am looking for the reasons and praying my heart continues to search for His heart even more than His hand at work.

In keeping with the eternal theme He seems to bring me back to, I anticipate a future day coming when He'll grasp the cord of the blind and lift it completely, showing me the full Glory of God in the face of Christ. What a day that will be!

What a day that will be,
When my Jesus I will see,
When I look upon His face,
The one who saved me by his grace.
When he takes me by the hand
and leads me to the promised land.
What a day, glorious day that will be.

Until then may we all find our satisfaction in Him.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

In-spite-of Grace

I pull the tan, brocaded shawl tighter around my face.  The feelings of fear and shame are constant companions.  I remember how it used to be. I draw in a sharp breath as the memories resurface. Even after all this time, I still feel the sting of all I have lost.

Our friendly bantering at the well, as women friends. 
The intimacies we shared.  Leah had recounted her troubles with Eli.  We all thought he would divorce her.  But Jesse says they seem happy now.  Her boy Aaron has sure made a great playmate for my  Jesse.  Oh, for the naiveté and carefreeness of childhood!  If only I could have my 'playmates' back.

I lift the jar off my shoulder and struggle with the pot’s clumsiness as I ease it down into position.  I make this daily journey alone now.  It’s best to come after the others are gone.  Safer.   The scornful looks, the rejection.  I never had the chance to explain.  After my two husbands, Noah and John each died,  I had sympathy from the other women and was nursed to healing with their generous gifts and expressions of love.  When did these same companions decide to cast me into a role I couldn’t break out of?  Was it after I married Oman?  He had divorced at least two other wives before me, but with my 5 children I needed his support, to survive.  Surely, it was a reasonable answer to my condition, by anyone’s standard.  Yet, I knew then that some of them were beginning to shut me out. 

I lean over the edge of the well to view my draw of the day as the jar rises to the surface.

Maybe Oman divorced me because I was older than he.  There had been no concrete charges.  He just informed me of the annulment drawn up with the city elders, as he was removing his belongings from our home. I was glad he had left me the house, but my life unraveled after he walked away. 

Then came the quick marriage with Dan, just so he could make Deborah jealous.  Why didn’t I possess the sense to see through his schemes; in spite of how badly I needed him to take care of us?

I realize my thoughts are spiraling downward again.  It doesn’t  matter anymore.  I can share my bed with whomever now.  There is no chance for absolution. In fact, the one who lives with me now, will be there when I get home.  He needs me.  He too, bears the mark of shame.  I can tell, even if he hasn’t shared his secrets with me yet.  I hoist the filled jar onto my left shoulder.

“Just a moment”, I hear a man’s voice say behind me.  I hesitate.  No honorable man would be here at this time of day.  I should hurry away.  But, there’s something in his voice and tone that beckons me to turn.  I look. He seems clean, no evidence of drunkenness.

“May I have a drink?” he says.  His eyes are sincere as they gaze at my face.  He makes no inappropriate glances at my womanliness.  I comply. He helps me lift the heavy jar down off my torso, then fills and tilts the small cup floating on the surface of the water to his lips.

He begins a conversation with me.  How odd, I muse. 
He’s one of Them. Most of Them disdain even coming into our region. 
And men never speak to my gender.  I’m torn between feeling distrustful of his motives and curiosity as to why he is disregarding custom. So I ask him why he would do this.  He talks of some kind of water that he has that quenches thirst, so a person never gets thirsty again. 

Odd answer. I try and categorize the stranger.  Is his mind the simple kind, or is he maybe deluded?  I decide to play along with him and ask more about this miracle drink.  Then I’m completely caught off guard as he changes the subject.  Immediately, I feel the familiar panic inside as he asks me to bring my husband to him.  My heart beats faster.  I say I have no husband.  He opens my fear wider as he states that I’ve had five husbands and now have a live-in. I want to feel anger at his brashness, but I’m stunned that this stranger knows me. He keeps his eyes on me,tenderly, and suddenly there is no place to hide. Caught in the unfamiliar position of being exposed yet not condemned, I grasp for some subject to divert the focus from me. I have to regain composure.

Sure that my visitor is at least a prophet, I boldly ask some religious controversial question about where to worship.  He graciously allows my diversion and even though I had planned to stall for time to sort my feelings, I am aware that his answer is satisfying my longing for acceptance and validation. God, he says, wants worshippers who worship in spirit and in truth. 

I have just owned up to some ugly truth and my heart is beginning to believe I can worship again.  My cold interior is beginning to thaw.  I am in awe and wonder aloud if the Promised Messiah, the Wonderful Counselor I’ve been taught would come someday will be something like him, only I say  ‘something like you’, because I am sharing the thought with him.  He says quietly and simply, “I am He”.

I need little convincing; who else could know me so well and love me like I had only imagined was possible before, and in spite of who I had been.  This reality begins to possess me and I feel about to burst with exuberance.  Just then companions of his approach us, hesitantly, probably all questioning the unlikelihood of a woman sitting beside him.

I see my chance for escape and quickly get up, leaving the water jar, leaving a life I was in just minutes ago, and running towards town.  No shame ran with me, no need to hide anymore.  I begin to tell the story to anyone who will listen. As I look back now, part of the miracle of this whole encounter was the fact that many, most in fact, listened to me and were clamoring for me to take them to him. 

He stayed there, in our region, among us for two days.  He worked his magnificent forgiveness and love in all of us.  We are different now. The Messiah has come. 

I'm almost finished with a book by Andy Stanley, The Grace of God.  Chapter 11 is about Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman. Andy says:
"Like the woman from Sychar, we have all developed ways of coping with our past and ways of coping with our current circumstances.  We all have approaches for coping with the uncertainties of tomorrow.  Sustaining grace becomes a reality only after we have put away our inappropriate, self-serving  coping mechanisms.  I think this is why Jesus dug around in the woman's past.  To resurface what had been there all along: thirst. Thirst for forgiveness.  But beyond that, he resurfaced thrist for the ability to face her past and cope with the present. For Jesus to quench her thirst, she needed to feel it.  So in his own way he exposed and then pushed aside her coping mechnisms.  He wanted to bring grace to the point of her greatest thirst.  But to do that, she needed to be thirsty.

The same is true for us. We can't receive God's forgiving grace while continuing to prop ourselves up through denial and self-effort.  To experience God's in-spite-of grace we must allow ourselves to feel the thirst created by our past.  The past must be embraced before it can be overcome...Culture teaches us to hide our weaknesses. Culture encourages us to compensate for our weaknesses.  Jesus encourages us to acknowledge our weaknesses and then cling to him for the grace to function in spite of them."

Andy says that just as the apostle Paul asked for God to remove a hinderance in his life and God's answer was that His strength is made perfect in weakness, so when we admit we are weak, God can be strong in and through us. That's how we realize his sufficient grace.

Lord Jesus, help me not to try and hide or cover up my weaknesses.  I want to  rely totally on your grace, believing you will sustain me in-spite-of what my past holds or what is happening around me now.

This childhood song comes to mind:

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust him,
How I've proved him 'ore and 'ore.
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus,
Oh, for grace to trust him more.

Monday, October 10, 2011


A Bible Study on Revelation asked us to relate work and worship.  A commentary gave the definition of worship as worth-ship.  Who/what are we assigning worth to? How are we worshiping while we are working?

It's in the fruit of our lips,
The silent prayer,
To do good and share.

The smile of welcome,
The song in our heart.
To listen, His art.

The helping hand,
Loud praise in the car,
Refusing to spar.

Extending forgiveness,
Gossiping none,
Focused on One.

Love shown to all,
Joy filled to the brim,
Mirroring Him.

To worship is heavenly as Revelation so vividly depicts.  Everything I do, done in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to the Father through him is my heart showing worth-ship.  To know Him is to love Him.