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Fresh Coffee From Burundi Africa

I just have to share the yumminess I'm enjoying this afternoon.
These coffee beans were roasted in Africa just a week ago. Amazing!

On Sunday, I received a bag of freshly roasted coffee that arrived on a plane from Africa just days before with Ben and Kristy from Long Miles Coffee Project. This couple is working to help the people of Burundi get a fair price for their coffee. They have sacrificed the things we take for granted her in America to show love to the people in Africa. While they are in the US, Ben and Kristy have to stock up on things they can't get in Burundi. Things like chocolate, soap, toothpaste and hugs from family...things I get every day here. I'm moved every time I read more of their adventure in Africa and their heart for the people.

This is delicious coffee.
Getting a whiff of my favorite smell.

Ready for brewing in the espresso machine.
Waiting for it to cool down. I like my espresso iced.
I make my blended espresso with 60 calorie almond milk, shaved ice, and a shot of sugar free flavoring.
60 calories of delight.

Thanks Ben and Kristy for making my coffee extra special today!

Check out Long Miles Coffee Project for more about Ben and Kristy's adventure in Africa.

Why Men Hate Going to Church - A Review

Why are there more women than men in the pews? What are the real reasons—not the excuses—for why numbers of men in mainstream churches is dropping more each year?

David Murrow has studied the subject for years and he has updated this book from the first edition he released. He’s kept only 30% of the content from the first edition and done a major overhaul in his book Why Men Hate Going to Church

Murrow proposes that men see church as a feminine activity because of what we do there. I’ll state some of Murrows arguments and also include my impression of his statements. Keep in mind, I'm filtering my impressions through my female perspective, but I did ask my husband his thoughts on some of the concepts too.

First, he says the d├ęcor of churches looks very feminine from the moment men walk in the door. Many churches are decorated in mauves, feminine shades, lace doilies and feminine stencils, flowers on the altar and scattered around the building.

Second, he says we use feminine language at church when we talk about relationships, sharing, personal relationship with Jesus, and intimacy with God. Murrow says these terms appeal more to women and effeminate men. I have to agree with some of what he says, but he implies that only effeminate men are at church (enforcing the stereotype) and I know that there are many masculine men in churches. His ideas may apply to some men, but not all masculine men are turned off by these terms.

Third, Murrow says we do too much hand-holding and hugging and encourage expression of emotion that makes men uncomfortable. He includes the dress code in this argument stating that women usually care more about their appearance and enjoy getting dolled up more than men do (p. 103). The fact that he uses the term “dolled up” to refer to wearing classy clothing is odd, since men dress up in suits for the office and business and no one labels that as getting dolled up.

The author makes a great argument in that many church activities and ministry centers around female leadership and planning. He’s persuasive in showing the ways churches can take a different approach that would appeal to men more. He says men want to think in terms of warriors and kingdoms and see God as a mighty conqueror where women think of the family of God and how he loves and holds them close. He gives ideas for how churches could be more deliberate about appealing to me in how they present God and in the songs they sing.

Murrow’s major argument for the songs we sing is that they are too intimate for men. In fact, he goes as far as saying men see it as gross (p. 99) when they sing or speak of an intimate relationship with another guy (Jesus, God the Father). He says this is a barrier for heterosexual males. However, I think he’s made a massive stereotype with that application. I asked my husband’s thoughts and he said singing a song about loving your father is way different than singing a song about loving another guy. So, Murrow’s argument might be true for some men, but others may not feel that way at all.

There are a couple of places where Murrow contradicts himself. He says the problem with more women in church than men came about in the 70’s when we starting singing more intimate praise songs instead of hymns. He says, “With hymns, God is out there. He’s big. Powerful. Dangerous. He’s a leader. With P&W [praise and worship], God is at my side. He’s close, Intimate. Safe. He’s a lover” (. 74).  Seems like a persuasive argument, until later in the book, we read that the battle to reengage men began in 1844 with the industrial revolution, when large numbers of men began disappearing from local congregations ( p. 127). This was more than 100 years before praise and worship music started replacing hymns in the church, proving the problem runs deeper than the music we sing.

Overall, this is a helpful book for the reader who can read objectively. Some nuggets will revolutionize churches. Other information may not hold up under further analysis. Either way, it will help pastors and leaders think carefully about what they do.

This statement from the author ought to wake up many church leaders: “Eventually the church is no longer fishing for men. Instead, it’s creating a comfortable aquarium for the saints. Members no longer go to church anticipating a life-altering encounter with God. Instead, they come to see friends and to participate in a comforting ritual that’s changed little since childhood” (p. 109).

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson publishers for review purposes.

What do you think? Why do you think more women attend church than men? Do Murrows arguments make sense to you? Leave your comments below.


Living Close to God When You're Not Good At It - A Book Review

Have you ever opened the Bible and read something but felt nothing? No response. No real connection. Does your mind wander when you pray? Gene Edwards can relate. He calls himself spiritually handicapped because he didn’t feel the same things other people described when they spoke of their relationship with Christ. He couldn’t imagine himself spending an hour in prayer every day, even though he as a very successful speaker and author in the Christian realm.

Gene Edwards has written his quest for closeness with God in Living Close to God (When You're Not Good at It: A Spiritual Life That Takes You Deeper Than Daily Devotions. Edwards started out by researching the life stories of great Christians and read many books about prayer. He had a desire to have a consistent closer walk with Christ, but couldn’t make the connection needed to make it happen. His first breakthrough came when he realized that he could break out of the traditional way others defined their spiritual walk and come up with creative ways to read God’s word and pray.

When he decided to memorize Psalm 23, it changed everything. That progressed to walking and talking with the Lord and from there, his spiritual life changed to the point where he now would describe a vibrant Christian life. His journey involved slowing down and listening to God.

This book describes Edwards’ process of learning to fellowship with God all day long and he says it’s the key to stop feeling like a failure at daily devotions and start walking with God. The book is a great reminder for the busy person and the one who struggles with establishing time with God. This is a fairly quick read, with about 130 pages plus about 45 more for discussion and end notes.

The one negative about this book is that I think he draws it out to make it book length, when much of Edwards’ discovery could be easily communicated in an article. After a while, it seemed repetitive. However the study guide in the back is helpful for discussion with a group, with a friend, or for deeper personal reflection.

Kindle Edition for $9.99
Nook Edition for $9.99

I received a copy of this book from Waterbook Multnomah for review purposes.

Freezer Meals - I'm Lovin' It

At the beginning of November, I knew I had a lot of writing projects and other responsibilities. And I knew that I wouldn't have time to make meals from scratch every night. So, I decided to try making meals ahead of time and freezing them. Turns out, I love it! Every night, I knew what was for dinner and I just checked the menu in the morning to make sure I thawed what needed thawing.

When I started out, I chose to make simple meals, not meals that needed recipes. I knew that if I made it too complicated, I wouldn't stick with it. My November menu included things like tacos, lasagna, chicken enchiladas, stirfry, and meat loaf. If the meal involved meat that needed browning, I browned and seasoned it and then froze it in meal-sized containers. I made two meatloafs and froze them in the loaf pans. I baked a bunch of chicken breasts and cubed them  up for stir fry and shredded some for enchiladas. I browned steaks and cubed them for chili and beef stew. At the end of the day, I had at least 25 meals worth in the freezer. 

In planning my menu, I just printed a blank monthly calendar off the internet and then had my day planner with me as I scheduled meals. That way, if we had a meal somewhere else, I could pencil that in and didn't need to cook. Or if there was a night I'd be away from home, I wrote frozen pizza on so my guys would have a quick meal (I also froze several homemade pizzas).

Once I had the menu planned, then I thought through each item to see which ingredients needed to be added to the shopping list. I do one big monthly shopping since we get paid once a month. On the first Saturday of the month, I had a cooking day.

Last month, I found that I swapped meals around a few times based on our schedule changes. And that worked great! 

This month, I'm keeping it simple again. Maybe next month I'll try a few recipes that involve more complicated cooking. I can only wonder why I didn't try this a long time ago!

We don't eat out very often, so we're home most evenings. Believe it or not, my grocery bill for an entire month for a family of four is around $250 (avg $75 per week) and I don't use many coupons. Between Sam's Club bulk stuff and Aldi, I can get most of our food. I get a few things at Wal-Mart and a few things at a local grocery store and I often shop for what's on special. For the most part, it's cooking from scratch versus boxed meals that saves the money. I also find that making one big trip to the grocery store is cheaper than weekly stops when I'm likely to pick up things we don't need.

There are some helpful websites that have tips for getting started on freezer meals. I'm still discovering more of them. Here are a few:
There are many other sites out there with ideas, but this will get you started if you're thinking of making meals ahead. Be sure to come back and comment to let me know how it worked out for you and if you have great ideas to share, I know we'll all want to hear them.

If you're already a make-ahead meal person, we'd love to hear your favorite dishes that freeze well.


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