Sunday, December 12, 2010


From Italy -- My favorite.

My mom collects nativity scenes.  She probably has 30 or so scattered around the house, each one with a different origin, but all telling the same story.  She sets them out every year before Christmas, each has its own place.  Everywhere you look, you encounter a visual reminder of the story of Jesus' birth.

From Mexico

Last week someone asked me what my family or I do to prepare for Christmas.  My church lights advent candles, starting four weeks before Christmas.  Advent means "arrival" or "coming", and the lighting of the candles helps build anticipation and reminds us that the day we celebrate Immanuel's birth is coming.  But I didn't have an answer for what I do.

I've been reading the gospel accounts of the birth of Christ, but I'm wondering this:  What do you do to prepare for Christmas?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Bereans

What is the most important thing about you? Or me, really?  
What matters more than anything else?

A.W. Tozer, in his book Knowledge of the Holy, says this, "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us."

Reading the newspaper yesterday, I came across an advertisement promoting a controversial city policy whose headline began, "God does not exclude..." and I got upset, because that's wrong.  Scripture is plain and clear that we are included into or excluded from God's family based solely on our faith in Jesus Christ.  God does exclude.

This kind of thing is rampant, and I want you to know that it is vital to your spiritual health to have a good grasp of theology*.  Anything you hear or read about God must be founded in scripture. You cannot believe in whatever you like and be a Christian.  God is not always what you imagine him to be, so you must learn to adapt to God, instead of adapting God to you.  If you don't, you are not worshiping God, you are worshiping a figment of your imagination.  As Tozer says, "They that know thee not may call upon Thee as other than Thou art, and so worship not Thee but a creature of their own fancy..."

It's good to remember that God and his nature are not mysterious or unknowable--although at times, unfathomable.  Who God is and what he is like are plainly and clearly revealed in scripture (which is why it's so important to read the Bible).

Now, it's important to ask where we learn theology.  Everywhere.  Really, most everyone I've met has an opinion about God.  Your friends and family may or may not have Bible-based theology.  The Christian books you read may or may not be theologically correct (and it's not always bad to read them, but you need to be responsible when you do).  The songs you hear on the radio may be teaching you something contrary to scripture.  Since the most important thing about you is what you believe about God, it only makes sense to filter these things.

Final thought:  Be like the Bereans.  Examine scripture to see if the message you're hearing is true, because knowing God and worshiping him rightly is the most important thing.
"Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true (Acts 17:11)."

*Theology is the study of the God.  Your theology is what you believe about God.

Monday, December 6, 2010


It's December already? Wow.  Well then, long-time no-see, friends!  I trust you've been keeping yourself busy.  I sure have.  (You can thank the hubbs for the photo below.)

We've enjoyed celebrating autumn in the Spare household.  We didn't get to carve pumpkins on Halloween since I had other things to do (see above picture)... so we had our own Fall Festival.  (There may or may not still be an uncarved pumpkin in our hallway...)

Another thing I did this year was experiment with making pumpkin pie from fresh pumpkin.  Did you know that people actually do that?  And that it tastes pretty spectacular?  I mean, it's not weird or anything.  I'll just show you some pictures and keep talking about it.

Grandma's pie crust recipe.

I used to be afraid of making pies from scratch.  They just seem hard.  Unpredictable.  Touchy.

Pie crust is sooooo easy to mix in a food processor.

But, for those of you who are in love, you know that you will face your fears to please the object of your affection (e.g. the hubbs really likes pie).

Me & the apple pie I baked last V-day.

I actually first faced my fear last Valentine's day when I baked Nathan a double-crust apple pie ALL BY MYSELF.  I think it was good.  I can't really remember, actually.  This pumpkin pie was my second from-scratch pie.

When I'm in uncharted territory, I do what any engineer would do.  Research.  Luckily for me, there's enough pie research (some call them recipes) online that I didn't have to work too hard.  I studied common components, failure modes and the advice of experienced pie-makers.

I halved the pumpkins & steamed them in the microwave ahead of time.
Then I pureed and froze the flesh for later use.

Research showed that the best type of pumpkin to use is called a "Sugar Pumpkin" or "Pie Pumpkin". Bred especially for eating, they have a smoother texture than the traditional Jack-o-lanterns.

When it was time to make the pie, I defrosted the puree in the
sink, which is the safest way to quickly defrost something.

And, in a bind, engineers have to be creative.  So, I came up with this little contraption to reduce the amount of water in my fresh pumpkin puree.

Bowl + Flour Sack Towel + Rubber Band = Pumpkin Puree Strainer

I'm sure you're biting your fingernails, wondering how my pie turned out...

Just like mom's. Mmm.

Fear conquered.