Get On the Pumpkin Band-Wagon

At this time of year, the internet abounds with pumpkiny recipes, coffee shops offer pumpkin flavoured drinks and baked goods, and it seems like we just can’t get our fill of the cinnamon and nutmeg scents that come along with this seasonal treat.

So why offer pumpkin options if there are so many out there already? Well, pumpkin loaves and lattes are typically not allergy-friendly, leaving your gluten-free and dairy-free friends wishing they could experience the phenomenon that is Fall pumpkin-mania in North America. This is where Elizabeth Gordon’s fantastic book, Allergy-Free Desserts comes in. I recently borrowed this book from the library, and I plan to perpetually renew it, along with Gordon’s other recipe books. I can’t recommend them enough for allergy-free cooking and baking.

Allergy-free baking is a pain in the neck, but not so with Allergy Free Desserts. Gordon includes a recipe for her own gluten-free flour mix (a mixture of garbanzo flour, potato starch, and tapioca flour), and once you have this mix on hand (along with some xanthan or guar gum), gluten free baking is made easy. Gordon’s recipes are gluten, dairy, and egg free, making it easy to cook for anyone who has an allergy (or multiple allergies). Everything I have tried from Gordon’s books has turned out beautifully, and the pumpkin bread pictured above is no exception. I felt like I was eating a real treat, not flavoured cardboard!

Because I don’t have the permission of the publisher, I don’t want to copy Gordon’s recipe here, but I will fill you in on a little secret: add dairy-free chocolate chips. The recipe gives the option of raisins, but chocolate chips seal the deal here. I got the idea from this recipe (which I made for non-allergy folks), which incorporates both chocolate chips and a sprinkling of brown sugar on top of the pumpkin loaf to make a delicious crunchy crust that is easily replicated on a gluten-free loaf.

Want another pumpkiny idea for your allergic friends? Try this recipe from the inspiring life-style blog, A Beautiful Mess. I have yet to make it, but it is a dairy-free version of pumpkin spice latte syrup! Unfortunately, many pumpkin spice latte syrups contain copious amounts of dairy, but use A Beautiful Mess’ allergy-free PSL syrup recipe with some almond, rice, or soy-milk, and you’ve got a dairy free treat!

Happy pumpkin eating, allergies or no allergies!

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SBS 2013/2014 Has Begun!

We’ve kind of sucked at blogging lately, and here’s the reason why:

We’ve started a new School of Biblical Studies!

Our days are jam-packed with morning and evening lectures, Helen is busy studying for lecturing next week, and we’ve been getting to know our new students. They are a fantastic group and are having so much fun together already. They seem to be enjoying learning the inductive method of Bible study, and are quickly appreciating the way that the text really comes alive through understanding what it means to interpret the text from the viewpoint of the original reader.

As we come to the end of the first week of the school, you can pray for us in a few ways:

  1. Pray for our students as they get to know the method. It’s overwhelming to learn all the steps involved, but we’re confident that they will have it down pat in no time. Pray that the Lord would be encouraging them in the midst of all the new things they’re learning.
  2. Pray for Helen as she teaches Titus next week. She’ll be teaching five mornings and three evenings, and will be introducing several elements of the inductive method. This is a bit intimidating to say the least! Pray that God would be guiding her as she studies and teaches.
  3. Pray that we’d have lots of opportunities to build relationships with our students. They’re a great group and we really appreciate them already! We’re looking forward to getting to know them more.

Thank you for praying! We are so blessed to be a part of this school’s journey through the Scriptures.

Fall is in the Air!

Our students begin arriving today, and school starts Monday…what better time to post our latest newsletter?! It’s full of outreach stories, pictures, and news of what’s up next for us. We’d love for you to check it out, and if you have any questions, always feel free to contact us.

We Are Missionaries

If you have any YWAMer friends on Facebook, chances are that you’ve already seen this video, narrated by Loren Cunningham, the founder of Youth With A Mission. We love working with YWAM, and this video makes us proud to be part of an organization that sends missionaries all over the world. Though we are missionaries in our home nation, we are so blessed to be part of what God is doing in the nations through providing Bible training for those who will take the Gospel to many different places throughout the world, whether their homes, or across oceans.

Transition

Funny the difference a year can make. Helen asked me (Michael) to write a blog post. The easiest thing would have been to pass on some musical gem that was currently blessing my life, but instead I thought I might offer a little reflection. I mostly want to reflect on a big part of my life in the last 5+ years: transition. This time last year, I was coming through a large transition. This time included crisscrossing North America, moving from the United States back to Canada, selling off much of what was left of our material possessions in Ontario, and finally settling into our new home here in Alberta. Looking at the description of that season, I realize now that last year’s move was a much bigger transition than I considered it to be at the time. When I look at the effects of it on my past year, however, it does help me realize why I feel a different level of excitement at the prospect of our next School of Biblical Studies (SBS), which starts in a little over a week.

The last week here in Turner Valley has been staffing training for both new and returning SBS staff. One of the exercises in staff training was to take an inventory of our personality traits and learning styles, which included taking stock of the multiple intelligences. These range from musical (my strongest) to linguistic to interpersonal. The thought behind doing this in staff training is to identify the teaching style we will gravitate towards, so that we can endeavour to include others with different intelligences as we teach. One of my weakest intelligences is the intrapersonal intelligence. Intrapersonal intelligence is our ability to know ourselves. I say this as a disclaimer; I am not the greatest at introspection. That said, I want to return to the effect transition has had on my life in the last few years.

I see now as I come upon the first time in a while where I won’t be moving or changing jobs, that the change in my life has brought both good and bad things. Not every change has been great but not all have been terrible either. They all have required transformation in me, however, and that is why as I look ahead to this new school year, I am not only excited to meet all the new students that will arrive shortly, but I am also excited to have the time to grow in intrapersonal intelligence, and better get to know the man who has been shaped by the many people and places he has encountered over the last few years. My hope is that I’ll like him.

Even though some things will be familiar about the next year (same place and same work) even before writing this I have seen that new challenges await me. It’s interesting to see the work of God in my life just in the “everydayness” of it. The Bible promises that challenges will never be more than I am able to handle. It does not always feel that way, but particularly in hindsight, it becomes evident that with the presence of the Holy Spirit, there has been the grace to overcome.

As usual, I am unsure why I am sharing this with those of you who follow this blog, but my hope is that it will maybe encourage someone. I know it is always of benefit for me, but I put this out there for all to see, and pray that God does more with it than just opening my own heart a little.

Book Review: The Tapestry, by Edith Schaeffer

Well, I fear I am going to fall far short of my goal of reading 25 books this year, considering The Tapestry is only number eleven! In my defense, this book is 650 pages long; I began it before outreach and desperately wanted to finish it before we left for Asia, but was unsuccessful. I didn’t want to lug it around Thailand and Nepal with me, hence my reading and review of A Year of Biblical Womanhood, by Rachel Held Evans, but after getting back home from outreach, I delved back into The Tapestry, and am so glad I did.

I’d heard about this book in snippets of conversation from many here at YWAM Turner Valley. I looked online for it, but it seems to be relatively difficult to find. I was fortunate enough to borrow a copy (one of the reasons I was hesitant to carry it around Asia with me). Written by Edith Schaeffer, wife and ministry partner of Francis Schaeffer, it is an excellent read about their lives, beginning with recounting the lives of their parents, through to 1981, when the book was written. Francis Schaeffer lived until 1984, so the book really includes the vast majority of his life, how the couple developed L’Abri, and their ministry that grew, particularly through Francis Schaeffer’s books and the corresponding films. Edith Schaeffer is an author in her own right; she wrote well over a dozen books before her death earlier this year.

While I can’t possibly summarize a 650 page book in the space of a blog post, I can share with you some of the things that struck me most about The Tapestry. First of all, the title requires some explanation. Edith Schaeffer approaches the retelling of her and her husband’s lives through the image of a tapestry, with each person included in that story as one of the “threads.” Schaeffer sees God’s plans, and all people, as part of this tapestry, and her family’s story occupies one small corner of that work. The “threads” of that tapestry are traced throughout the book, with God bringing people together in extraordinary ways. Schaeffer often reflects forward as she introduces an individual, sharing something along the lines of, “if only we had known meeting this person on this day would result in _________ in years ahead.” It is a beautiful idea to view humanity in this way – as a tapestry created by God, meant to reflect His glory in its interweaving as the threads contribute to the greater picture. While giving value to each thread – each life – it also shows that one thread on its own is not the whole picture, and has a small (though significant and very important) role to play in the grand scheme of God’s plans.

One theme that particularly influenced me as I read this book was the value Edith and Francis Schaeffer had for each individual. They formed L’Abri, which defines itself as “study centers in Europe, Asia and America where individuals have the opportunity to seek answers to honest questions about God and the significance of human life” (http://labri.org/). While L’Abri communities have spread out throughout the world, the idea began with the Schaeffer’s opening their home in Switzerland to those curious about Christianity. All were welcome, and through having their questions carefully answered, many came to know the Lord through this first L’Abri community, which was founded in 1955. The Tapestry tells of dozens – maybe hundreds – of stories of men and women who came to L’Abri, and left changed. That Schaeffer can recall the names and stories of so many individuals who came through her door so many years ago is a testimony to her value of each person. This is a tremendous challenge to me. What does it look like to minister to “the individual?” What does it look like to meet each person where they are at, answer their questions, and pray fervently that they might come to know the Lord? This can be a difficult task if only a handful of individuals are brought into our lives – imagine encountering hundreds of individuals each month, as the Schaeffers did, both through opening their home, speaking engagements, and the seminars that their books and movies initiated!

While The Tapestry is a long read, I would definitely recommend it. It is a fascinating and challenging autobiography/biography of a couple and of a family that have had tremendous influence, leading many to the Lord, whether in person, or through their well-read books and films.

The Ripple Effect

When Michael and I taught 1 & 2 Kings last month (was it already last month?!), I had initially planned to speak on the kings’ successes/failures (usually failures) in trusting God. There are few examples of kings trusting God. One that comes to mind is Hezekiah, king of Judah, and even this example is not perfect. In 2 Kings 18-19, we read of how Sennacherib, king of Assyria, came “against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them” (2 Kings 18:13). Though Hezekiah’s initial response was not a demonstration of trusting in God, he eventually turned to the Lord by sending to the prophet Isaiah concerning his predicament. Isaiah reassured Hezekiah, telling the king that God was going to put a spirit in the king of Assyria so that he would hear a rumor and return to his own land, where he would fall by the sword (19:7). Hezekiah trusts in this word from the Lord, and despite the threats of Sennacherib, the Lord defends the city of Jerusalem. The predictions concerning Sennacherib come true (2 Kings 19:35-37).

Another of the few examples we have of kings trusting in God, is king Josiah. Josiah was only eight years old when he took the throne (2 Kings 22). Eighteen years later (presumably when he was old enough to make national decisions!), we read of Josiah’s desire to repair the temple (2 Kings 22:3-7). Out of this initiative comes the finding of the Book of the Law. This book is read to Josiah, and Josiah is, to say the least, worried. You can only imagine the state Judah would have been in at this point if they have been missing the Book of the Law for so long that they wouldn’t be familiar with its contents! Some scholars think that this book could have been Deuteronomy. If that’s the case, Josiah would know the people were in trouble. Take a moment to read Deuteronomy 28, and you’ll understand what I mean; this chapter outlines the blessings that come from following the Law, and the curses that are promised if the Law is not followed. If there’s any doubt as to which category Judah falls in at this point, simply read 2 Kings 23. This chapter is filled with Josiah’s reforms – the changes he makes to the nation as a response to the book that was found. The king rids the land of vessels made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven (23:4). He deposes the priests who had made offerings in the high places, and those who burned incense to false gods (23:5). He goes to great lengths to make sure no one would burn their son or daughter as an offering to Molech (23:10). The list goes on. Judah was filled with idols and idolatry, and rather than succumbing to such idolatry (as most of the kings did), Josiah trusts God and rids the nation of it.

This might not sound like such a big deal, but rest assured, it is. The nation was riddled with false gods, and the people turned to these false gods rather than Yahweh. For Josiah to take such extreme action and break the nation of these lies would have taken courage, conviction, and extreme trust in God.

Now, when I initially planned to speak about trusting God as I taught 1 & 2 Kings, I planned to share stories like what I have shared above. But God had different plans. I felt He wanted me to go deeper with this, and He highlighted to me the way these kings – these individuals who trusted God – would have an incredible effect on the nation. Just think about those who saw Hezekiah turn to God as Sennacherib prepared to pounce on Jerusalem; would they not be greatly affected by his trust in the words of God, as spoken by Isaiah? What about those who lived during the time of Josiah? His ridding the land of idolatry would have a profound effect on those who saw his trust in the One True God. Rather than putting his trust into multiple gods to “cover his bases,” Josiah was prepared to put all his trust in Yahweh, and the people of the nation would have seen that, and taken notice. Perhaps some may have even imitated him; perhaps some thought that if Josiah was prepared to trust God in this way, they should too.

Yes, Hezekiah and Josiah were kings. Yes, even before the days of Facebook and Twitter, these men would have a platform from which they were watched and followed. But what about us today? Even if we feel we have no influence, and even (gasp!) if we don’t have Facebook, a blog, or any other form of social media, we can influence those around us. How? By trusting in God. Trusting God looks different. It is not the cultural norm, and it stands out. When we trust God, whether it is in finances, direction for our lives, or for healing, the people around us will notice. We may not affect an entire nation with our trust in God, but we just might affect a handful of people around us. Our small acts of trusting in God can have ripple effects that lead others to trust in the Lord.

I encouraged the SBS students in Nepal that, if they live out trusting God, they could have an effect on those around them. In Nepal, this could mean having an effect on the Hindu mindset that permeates the culture there. While we may not live in a society that is 80% Hindu, we do find ourselves in a culture that is increasingly apathetic towards God. How might your trusting in the Lord have a ripple effect that will challenge and encourage those around you to get to know the One True God, and put their trust in Him?