The Greater Blessing

As I weed my garden, I often think of scriptures and their meaning. I find peace in the garden amongst the beauty of nature. Yesterday morning my thoughts went to a phrase spoken by Jesus. When Jesus said “Your sins are forgiven” to the lame man to be healed… which was the greater blessing? Was it that he was physically healed or that he was given Eternal life? While it is wonderful to be healed, especially of a debilitating illness or emotionally healed of the problems we deal with, isn’t it better to be given life everlasting?  The lame man was given both physical healing and spiritual cleansing. We are given both through faith and redemption.  The woman with the issue of blood, who had been bleeding for twelve years, knew that if she only touched Jesus’ garment, she would be healed. She had faith in his ability to heal. Shouldn’t we have faith in his power?

Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” Luke 8:48

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20

Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” “Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.” John 4:13-15

Faith is all it takes for miracles to happen. The woman at the well believed and brought many more to believe by telling them of Jesus’ words. She had faith enough to gather others. She and Mary Magdalene knew their sins were many and saw the great blessing in what Jesus offered. Mary Magdalene anointed Jesus’ feet w/costly perfume and her tears… those who have been forgiven of much, show more gratefulness & love! She recognized the blessings he could give her were far better than anything she could achieve on her own. Faith and belief are synonymous here. We cannot be saved by how we live, but with the Spirit of God it is Possible to receive eternal life!

Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. John 3:5-6

Prayer: Thank you Father for sending Jesus to bless us with salvation and giving your Holy Spirit so we can live a life full of blessings!

Harvest and Canning

This is a deviation from my usual blog, but I wanted to share one of my passions, which is cooking. I usually post recipes and photos on Facebook, but I’ve decided to post a blog today. I’m working on being the Proverbs 31 woman!

Then God said, “Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food. Genesis 1:28

While my husband was unemployed, we planted a garden which has been a great help to us as we get back on our feet financially. The garden has struggled in the last month in the exorbitant heat, but we have still been getting a bounty! Yes, we do share with those in need and family.

Yesterday, I canned a few quarts of salsa and wanted to share the process. Here is a picture of 2 quarts: This recipe should yield 4 quarts or 8 pints.

Kimberly’s Garden Fresh Salsa:

Ingredients:

16 Cups peeled, drained & chopped fresh tomatoes (I used more than one variety.)

2 medium bell peppers, red or green, diced*

6 fresh medium-sized jalapeños, minced*

4 medium sweet onion – (Vidalia or Walla Walla), diced*

6 cloves garlic, pressed* or minced*

1/2 Cup fresh cilantro OR 4 Tablespoons dried

2 Tablespoons Lemon Pepper, preferably without salt

1 Tablespoon Kosher salt

2 teaspoons ground Cumin

1 Cup freshly squeezed lime juice, (Key lime is best) OR 1/2 Cup lime juice Plus 2/3 Cup Cider Vinegar

4 dried red chili peppers, seeded and cut up finely (1/8 inch) with Kitchen shears

Instructions:

1. Cut an ‘x’ in the bottom of tomatoes and submerge in almost boiling water for 30 – 60 Seconds. Dip out with a slotted spoon and place them on a towel or cutting board to dry. (Don’t leave them in the hot water too long or they will be mushy to work with and absorb water.)

      

2. Peel and core tomatoes. (If using grape tomatoes, peel back & cut the end off to core, as demonstrated in the first photo below. Once they are cored, chop peeled tomatoes into 1/2 inch chunks, removing any leftover core. I don’t totally seed my tomatoes because I don’t want to lose the gel, but I do remove any bad spots and some of the gel & seeds. There is quite a bit of flavor in the gel!

      

3. Place tomatoes in a colander over a larger bowl to drain while you chop up your other ingredients. Allow at least an hour for the juices to drain & then save the juice for another recipe. As you can see from the bottom photo below, I had about 2 – 4 Cups of juice; so start with approximately 18 to 20 Cups of tomatoes to yield 16 Cups.

   

4. Now you are ready to chop up the bell peppers, jalapeños, onions, garlic, cilantro, and dried chili peppers (cilantro & chili peppers not pictured).

      

5. Juice limes to yield 1 Cup of lime juice (without pulp) or 1/2 Cup of lime juice if you are using vinegar as well. (I strain mine with a sieve to remove any small seeds or pulp.) I used my juicer that attaches to a measuring cup, but I’ve put a handheld juicer/reamer on my ‘wish list’ for new kitchen gadgets! (Key limes are small & hard to juice, but the flavor is not easily matched!)

6. Measure lemon pepper, Kosher salt, and ground Cumin, set aside. (This photo also has dried cilantro in the ramekin because I was out of fresh due to the heat.)

7. Now dump all the ingredients into a large saucepan and stir to combine. I use a 10 quart saucepan. Once it is simmering, simmer for at least 15 minutes or until desired thickness.

8. Once the salsa has finished simmering, place hot salsa into sterilized* canning jars, with a ladle and a funnel – All sterilized*. Remove any air pockets with a  sterilized canning bubble remover. Leave a half-inch space at top of jar.

9. Wipe off any residue from rim of jar with a clean towel moistened with hot water. Place a new lid, which has been sterilized*, on each jar and place rims over lids. Hand tighten rims.

10. Place jars into a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. You may check canning guides online for different altitudes.

11. Remove from water bath with canning tongs and allow to cool on a towel or a rack with a towel underneath.

Be sure to check and make sure lids are sealed once they have cooled. If the lids pop when pressed in the center, they are not sealed. If any are not sealed, you may refrigerate and still use. Do not use less lime juice or vinegar, the acid is essential for preservation! Enjoy!

(When my husband is my sous chef, he asks me the difference b/w minced, diced, and chopped finely, coarsely, etc. I have provided a key to the terms below.)

*Key to terms: Minced is about as small as you can get when chopping, about an 1/8 of an inch in size. Diced is a bit larger – about 1/4 inch in size. Chopped finely is comparable to diced. Chopped alone would be approximately 1/2 inch in size, unless otherwise noted. Pressed is put into a garlic press & squeezed out, minced is almost the same & will do for garlic. Sterilization is key in canning. You should boil all of your equipment; lids, rims, tongs, lid magnet, in a saucepan to sterilize before using. Boil 10 minutes at altitudes of less than 1,000 ft. At higher elevations, boil 1 additional minute for each additional 1,000 ft. elevation. For the jars, you can sterilize in a dishwasher with very hot water and dry with the heat, not air dry. Leave in dishwasher until ready to use. I usually run my jars through a complete cycle before I start preparing my recipe. (Some dishwashers have a sterilization cycle, which you can use.)

Praise God for his provision!

“You take care of the earth and water it,
    making it rich and fertile.
The river of God has plenty of water;
    it provides a bountiful harvest of grain,
    for you have ordered it so.
You drench the plowed ground with rain,
    melting the clods and leveling the ridges.
You soften the earth with showers
    and bless its abundant crops.
You crown the year with a bountiful harvest;
    even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.” Psalm 65:9-11

Fragrance and Beauty

Hosea 14:4-9 “The Lord says, Then I will heal you of your faithlessness; my love will know no bounds, for my anger will be gone forever. I will be to Israel like a refreshing dew from heaven. Israel will blossom like the lily; it will send roots deep into the soil like the cedars in Lebanon. Its branches will spread out like beautiful olive trees, as fragrant as the cedars of Lebanon. My people will again live under my shade. They will flourish like grain and blossom like grapevines. They will be as fragrant as the wines of Lebanon. “O Israel, stay away from idols! I am the one who answers your prayers and cares for you. I am like a tree that is always green; all your fruit comes from me.” Let those who are wise understand these things. Let those with discernment listen carefully. The paths of the Lord are true and right, and righteous people live by walking in them. But in those paths sinners stumble and fall.

Thoughts on these verses:

God says he will be like the refreshing dew. = There is no end to the dew, it is new every morning, it is continually replenished. We should Look for Him, Expect Him, Feed on Him and His Word.

Then you will bloom like the lily. = The lily is compared to great beauty.

Your roots will go as deep as the cedars of Lebanon. = The cedars of Lebanon were more fruitful as they aged and their roots held firm, as we are to hold firm to our faith and in our relationship with God. (Also, the cedars were resistant to rot and decay and repelled insects. We should be resistant to sin and repel the enemy.)

Your branches will spread like a beautiful olive tree. = Branches will provide shade for others, to guard them, nurture them, teach them in the knowledge of God.

Flourish like grain. = Each stalk of grain produces many seeds and grain feeds others.

You will be fragrant like the oil of the cedars of Lebanon. = Fragrance attracts

You will Blossom like grapevines. = Constantly bearing fruit again and again, season after season and make new wine. Be an example of the true grapevine, Jesus Christ and our Father is the Gardener. (John 15:1)

Fragrant as the wines of Lebanon. = Again, fragrance attracts and wine quenches thirst.

The Lord answers our prayers, He cares for us. = We should have a prayer relationship with God. Not a ‘laundry list’ of our desires but prayers of thanksgiving and worship, we should care for him as He cares for us.

He is the tree that stays green. = The cedars of Lebanon are evergreen, we should not wither, but have life continuously.

Jeremiah 17:7-8 “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord  and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.”

He is the source of our fruit. = Our fruit can only ripen and be fully formed through Him. How can any bad fruit come from God?

Matthew 7:16-20 You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.

When we are wise in the Lord, we understand. = When our wisdom comes from God, we have understanding.

When we have discernment, we listen carefully. = When we perceive what is true and good, we will listen intently to the Word of God.

Proverbs 4:10-13 My child, listen to me and do as I say, and you will have a long, good life. I will teach you wisdom’s ways and lead you in straight paths.  When you walk, you won’t be held back; when you run, you won’t stumble. Take hold of my instructions; don’t let them go. Guard them, for they are the key to life.

Righteous walk in the true and right paths the Lord has prepared, however sinners will stumble and fall in the very same paths. In the NIV, it says the rebellious will stumble. If you are not following God, you are rebelling.

Prayer: Father, help me to seek you daily and worship you, to recognize your refreshing ways Every day. Help me be firm in my faith, to attract with the beauty that comes from inside of me, which is your light. Help me to guide others to you and show them the fruit which you have given me. Help me to be an instructor, an encourager, and a protector of those who are less mature in their faith. May I be fruitful and fragrant with your love. In Jesus’ name, Amen