A Gift. . .of Life (Guest Blog and Recipe by Denise Simmons)

Denise Simmons is a preacher’s kid, church hostess, women’s ministry director all wrapped into one person.  She is also a wife, a mother to two, and a helping hand in a time of need. If you ask her for something, she will try her best to help. I’ve discovered she is also a great pray-er who lifts up the shared concerns of others to our heavenly Father and sits at His feet, waiting for the sometimes-difficult answers. Read below for her thoughts on God’s gift of. . .life.

Also, a real treat. . .Denise is gifted in the kitchen, as well. She’s included a healthy recipe for all us New Year’s resolutionists to try in 2012. Enjoy!

Lookin’ up,

Sislyn

As I opened my devotion today, the title struck me tenderly, especially in light of the holiday season and all of the events of this week.  I have several very dear friends that are experiencing crisis of monumental proportions; injury, serious illness of close family members, untimely death, financial ruin, family away from home during the holidays for the first time, or perhaps an empty seat at the table for the first time at Christmas–the list could go on, I’m certain.  But in the face of such adversity there is HOPE, there is LIFE…

The title of my devotion so ‘spot on’ stated… MY PLAN FOR YOUR LIFE…   His plan unfolds before us if we but stop, look and listen.  Sometimes the road we travel seems blocked or is opening so painful slow that it appears we are abandon and all alone.  That is the farthest from the truth for the believer in Jesus.  For when the time is right the way before us suddenly clears through NO effort of our own.  Many times it is not as we have planned or even pictured it to be, but often better than we can hope or imagine. Ephesians 3: 19-21  says, to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, 21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen

A more pure gift can not be found, I am constantly in awe by the ease with which my Heavenly Father operates in my life when I yield to him and to see glimpses of His power and glory in every situation He is allowed to work in is a wonderful GIFT.  Today I choose to claim, Psalms 62: 2 He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken.  It is in our weakness and often our fears, that God’s power and glory can be so brilliantly displayed.  As we persevere and depend on His strength, my pray for all of us is that there will be strength beyond measure and miracles beyond explanation.  Living by faith rather than by sight we will see His greatest glory.  Oh, what a gift!!!

As you spend time with your family and friends this holiday season giving and receiving tangible gifts, linger a little longer, love a little deeper, hug a little tighter, savor every moment, for these moments we have here on earth together are quick and need to be cherished for the gifts that they are in all of our lives.  Among the many personal blessings in my life God has blessed me beyond measure with a precious family.  Parents that raised me in a Christian home and taught me to love and fear God, a husband that cares for me, protects me and provides for my every need.  To count the greatest accomplishments in my life are my two precious children (some days they fall a little short of such great accolades) but God chose them for me and me for them and to just look at them everyday is humbling to me, knowing that having them in my life is truly a ‘God thing’ and they are my richest gifts and blessings and I am so honored that God chose us to be a family unit and saw us through every detail in making that happen.

God bless you and your family, Merry Christmas 2011…

Denise Simmons

Quick Asian Chicken Wrap Ups 

Prep 20 Minutes

2 cups chopped cooked skinless chicken breast (chopped-up strips from pre-packaged chicken breasts or from a Costco Rotissere Chicken)

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

1-1/2 tablespoons light soy sauce

1-1/2 teaspoons sesame oil

1/4 cup chopped green onions

1/4 cup sliced almonds

1/4 cup crispy rice noodles

Seasoned salt and pepper

1 cup shredded carrots

1 cup shredded broccoli slaw

Four to six butter lettuce leaves  (Costco uses Spinach Pita Wraps)

1/3 cup Peanut sauce (store-bought)

1/3 cup Asian salad dressing for dipping sauce (store-bought or Optional recipe below)

Directions

In a medium glass bowl, combine chicken, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, , green onions, and almonds. Mix well. Season to taste with seasoned salt and pepper. Cover and let set in the refrigerator for an hour.

Add small containers each of peanut sauce and Asian dipping sauce to platter. (

On platter, arrange lettuce leaves. Divide up the chicken mixture and place a mound of it on each leaf. Top with crispy noodles, carrots and cabbage. Roll up the leaf and dip in one of the sauces.

Serves 4 as appetizers, 2 adults as a main course

PEANUT DRESSING (optional)

3/4 cup smooth peanut butter

1/2 cup warm water

3 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons light soy sauce

2 teaspoons garlic, chopped

2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

9/11 Revisited

SEPT. 11, 2001.  8:46 a.m., 9:03 a.m., 9:37 a.m., 10:03 a.m.

A crisp, cool September morning, a Tuesday.  Not a cloud in the azure sky.  And then the unthinkable happened.  We all sat glued to our TV’s and radios, desperate for news, as one by one of the senseless terrorist attacks unfolded.

Extreme grief.  Disbelief. Horror. Anger. Disgust. New waves of grief toppling us, as others’ pain came to light.  We began an urgent searching in our hearts–Where are You, God, in the midst of this holocaustic catastrophe? Where are You in the midst of this unbelievable pain? Have You forsaken us?

And those of us who do know Him, knew in the rubble and dust of a heart-melting moment, He was there. He had not packed up and moved away.  He had not turned His Back on us. The great El Roi, the God Who Sees, was firmly on His throne in heaven, and knew everything gripping our minds and hearts.  He was still the Matchless God of Love and Emmanuel–God With Us.

In the mind-numbing reality that followed, we who are believers could only respond to others who had questions themselves by saying something like, “We don’t understand why this happened, either.  We only know the heart of our God.  And He is a God Who understands the hurt and He is One Who cares.”

The words of a favorite hymn, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” comforted and strengthened me in the days following 9/11.  Some of its lyrics are actually transposed from the book of Lamentations, penned by the “Weeping Prophet” Jeremiah.  Jeremiah prophesied the bitter desolation of Jerusalem by her enemies. If you read the entire short book, you’ll eerily note how the word pictures of this book mimic the vivid images of 9/11.  But the nugget of hope God planted in this dismal foreshadowing comes in the middle of chapter 3, and it is a powerful statement of looking up to Him instead of focusing on the rubble at our feet:

21Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:  22Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. 23They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. 24I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him”  Lamentations 3:21-24 NIV

God is inscrutable.  His thoughts and ways are above us. He is faithful and cannot do anything inconsistent with His nature.  When we can’t understand the logic of why something terrible has transpired, we can cling to our personal knowledge of our Heavenly Father, our Abba.

That’s what children do, isn’t it? They run to their daddy, who is bigger than life and who can hold them close when they hurt.  A daddy doesn’t provide answers about something incomprehensible to a child, especially when the wound is fresh. He’s simply there to wrap arms of love around that little one, to give reassurances that yes, he is there.  And maybe, just maybe, someday when the child can handle it, he can help him make more sense of something that was so painful in the past.

That’s what He desires from us who know Him best.  Trust.  Reciprocated Love. Fierce faith, even in the face of terrible circumstance.  And a chance to know Him more intimately when we climb onto His lap.  So, during the solemn remembrance of this dark day for our nation, let us reaffirm our belief in a great God.

Remember the words of Jeremiah: I will have hope. . .Because of His great love, we are not consumed. . .His compassions never fail. . .They are new every morning. . .

Great is His faithfulness.