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God’s love

I read this today- simply breathless!

By Max Lucado

He placed one scoop of clay upon another until a form lay lifeless on the ground. All of the Garden’s inhabitants paused to witness the event. Hawks hovered. Giraffes stretched. Trees bowed. Butterflies paused on petals and watched.

“You will love me, nature,” God said. “I made you that way. You will obey me, universe. For you were designed to do so. You will reflect my glory, skies, for that is how you were created. But this one will be like me. This one will be able to choose.”

All were silent as the Creator reached into himself and removed something yet unseen. A seed. “it’s called ‘choice.’ The seed of choice.” Creation stood in silence and gazed upon the lifeless form. An angel spoke, “But what if he …” “What if he chooses not to love?” the Creator finished. “Come, I will show you.”

Unbound by today, God and the angel walked into the realm of tomorrow. “There, see the fruit of the seed of choice, both the sweet and the bitter.” The angel gasped at what he saw. Spontaneous love. Voluntary devotion. Chosen tenderness. Never had he seen anything like these. He felt the love of the Adams. He heard the joy of Eve and her daughters. He saw the food and the burdens shared. He absorbed the kindness and marveled at the warmth.

“Heaven has never seen such beauty, my Lord. Truly, this is your greatest creation.” “Ah, but you’ve only seen the sweet. Now witness the bitter.” A stench enveloped the pair. The angel turned in horror and proclaimed, “What is it?” The Creator spoke only one word: “Selfishness.”

The angel stood speechless as they passed through centuries of repugnance. Never had he seen such filth. Rotten hearts. Ruptured promises. Forgotten loyalties. Children of the creation wandering blindly in lonely labyrinths. “This is the result of choice? the angel asked. “Yes.”

“They will forget you?”

“Yes.”

“They will reject you?”

“Yes.”

They will never come back?

“Some will. Most won’t.”

“What will it take to make them listen?”

The Creator walked on in time, further and further into the future, until he stood by a tree. A tree that would be fashioned into a cradle. Even then he could smell the hay that would surround him.

With another step into the future, he paused before another tree. It stood alone, a stubborn ruler on a bald hill. The trunk was thick, and the wood was strong. Soon it would be cut. Soon it would be trimmed. Soon it would be mounted on the stony brow of another hill. And soon he would be hung on it. He felt the wood rub against a back he did not yet wear. “Will you go down there?” the angel asked.

“I will.”

“Is there no other way?”

“There is not.”

“Wouldn’t it be easier to not plant the seed? Wouldn’t it be easier to not give the choice?”

“It would,” the Creator spoke slowly. “But to remove the choice is to remove the love.”

He look around the hill and foresaw a scene. Three figures hung on three crosses. Arms spread. Heads fallen forward. They moaned with the wind. Men clad in soldier’s garb sat on the ground near the trio. They played games in the dirt and laughed. Men clad in religion stood off to one side. They smiled. Arrogant, cocky. They had protected God, they thought by killing this false one. Women clad in sorrow huddled at the foot of the hill. Speechless. Faces tear streaked. Eyes downward. One put her arm around another and tried to lead her away. She wouldn’t leave. “I will stay,” she said softly, “I will stay.”

All heaven stood to fight. All nature rose to rescue. All eternity poised to protect. But the Creator gave no command.

“It must be done…,” he said, and withdrew.

But as he stepped in time, he heard the cry that he would someday scream: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He wrenched at tomorrow’s agony. The angel spoke again. “I would be less painful…”

The Creator interrupted softly. “But it wouldn’t be love.”

They stepped into the Garden again. The Maker looked earnestly at the clay creation. A monsoon of love swelled up within him. He had died for the creation before he had made him. God’s form bent over the sculptured face and breathed. Dust stirred on the lips of the new one. The chest rose, cracking the red mud. The cheeks fleshened. A finger moved. And an eye opened. But more incredible than the moving of the flesh was the stirring of the spirit. Those who could see the unseen gasped.

Perhaps it was the wind who said it first. Perhaps what the star saw that moment is what has made it blink ever since. Maybe it was left to an angel to whisper it:

“It looks like … it appears to so much like … it is him!” The angel wasn’t speaking of the face, the features, or the body. He was looking inside – at the soul.

“It’s eternal!” gasped another.

Within the man, God has placed a divine seed. A seed of his self. The God of might had created earth’s mightiest. The Creator had created, not a creature, but another creator. And the One who had chosen to love had created one who could love in return.

Now it’s our choice.

Focaccia

Focaccia can be toasted with jam for breakfast, used for gourmet sandwiches, served on the side with soup, used for croutons and served with the finest of Italian meals with bowls of olive oil and freshly ground pepper. My favorite time to serve focaccia is with large bowls of pasta, homemade tomato sauce, fresh basil, generous shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano and red wine.

Rosemary and Olive Oil Focaccia

2 packages of (5 teaspoons) active dry yeast

1 3/4 cups warm water

1 teaspoon sugar

3/4 cups of extra-virgin olive oil

5 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading

2 teaspoons fine sea salt

1 teaspoon course sea salt for topping

2 Tablespoons of your favorite herb for topping

By hand: In a bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the sugar, 1/2 cup of the olive oil, the flour, and the fine sea salt and stir with your hand or a wooden spoon until a rough ball forms. Using a pastry scraper, scrape the dough out onto a floured work surface. Knead the dough until smooth and elastic, 5-7 minutes. Add up to 1/2 cup flour to the work surface while kneading to prevent the dough from sticking.

By stand mixer: In the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the sugar, 1/2 cup of the olive oil, the flour, and the fine sea salt. Place the bowl on the mixer, attach the dough hook, and knead on low speed, until the dough is smooth and elastic, 5-7 minutes. Add up to 1/2 cup flour while kneading to prevent the dough from sticking. Remove the dough from the bowl.

Foam the dough into a ball, transfer it to a lightly oiled bowl, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot until it doubles in size, 1-1 1/2 hours. For a more flavorful bread, make the dough up to this point, punch it down, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. Let the dough come to room temperature before shaping.

Pour the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil evenly into a half-sheet pan. Turn the dough out into the pan. Press the dough evenly into the pan. If it is too elastic to spread without springing back, let it rest for 5 minutes. Cover the pan loosely with a dry kitchen towel. Let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot until it doubles in size, about 1 hour.

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven, and preheat to 450 degrees. Dimple the dough by pressing your fingertips all the way into it at 1 inch intervals over the entire surface. Sprinkle it with the course salt and your choose of herbs (I love rosemary, but you can use thyme, basil, oregano, marjoram, or tarragon).

Bake the focaccia until golden brown, about 20-30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan. Cut it into squares and serve warm with bowls of olive oil and freshly ground pepper for dipping.

No-Bake Lasagna with Ricotta and Tomatoes

I have quite a few jobs (you know those bills don’t pay themselves). And one of them is babysitting/tutoring a little girl who lives in Nashville. Seeing that I don’t see much sunlight being in the bakery all day and running before the sun even rises, I suggested we spend the summer at the pool. Partially because I really wanted to be outside and more importantly because I knew the little girl would love it.

Yesterday afternoon, for some reason I couldn’t find my bathing suit, so I sat poolside and threw water rings to her and her friend, as they splashed me and made sure their belly flop splashes were within my reach. When they wanted to just swim I sat there and watched them, while reading a little Maratha Stewart and doing some planning for my non-profit.

This recipe below from the May 2011 Maratha Stewart magazine looked really delicious and simple so I thought I would share it. It would also pair brilliantly with my Focaccia bread.

No-bake lasagna with Ricotta and Tomatoes:

This deconstructed lasagna is not only healthful but quick to make. The noodles aren’t baked under heavy layers of cheese and sauce — just dressed with ingredients right after being boiled.

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 7 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups mixed red and yellow cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (2 pints)
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2/3 cup chicken stock
  • 8 lasagna noodles
  • 2/3 cup small basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat ricotta cheese
  • 1 ounce Pecorino Romano cheese, shaved
  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. Cook garlic until pale golden, about 3 minutes. Add 2 cups tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook until soft, about 7 minutes. Add stock. Simmer until saucelike, about 1 minute. Add remaining cup tomatoes. Cook until warm, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions until al dente. Drain.
  • Toss pasta in skillet to coat. Stir in basil, reserving some for garnish.
  • Divide pasta among 4 plates. Top with any remaining sauce. Dot with ricotta, and drizzle with remaining teaspoon oil. Top with shaved cheese and remaining basil. Sprinkle with pepper.

Professional Photos

All of the professional photos of my baking on my blog are credited to Robert Wagner Photography. You should check out his work, he is incredibly talented. His work has been featured in New York Wedding Magazine.

www.RWagnerPhotography.com

Happy Memorial Day!

I am very close with my older brother James. He is a tremendous blessing to me and a beautiful witness of how a man is suppose to treat a woman. James is a Captain in the United States Marine Corps.

In August of 2009 he returned from overseas. In September of 2009 his Commanding Officer (CO), said he was sending him back. This scheduled return was exceedingly unexpected seeing that he had just arrived back in the United States. Two days later I flew out to California to welcome him home and say goodbye again.

As I passed through security at the airport it really hit me that James was leaving again. I had two hours before my plane took off for California, so with a little Lady Antebellum playing in my  ipod I walked over to Starbucks to get a Cappuccino. I always travel with books to read and reached into my North Face book bag to pull out a book about Saint Padre Pio.

Right then it dawned on me that I should pray for a miracle that James wouldn’t be deployed through Saint Pio’s intercession, as he feast day was mere days away. Why hadn’t I thought of this before, I thought to myself. This was just the sort of thing that would delight Saint Pio. Saint Teresa of Avila once said, “We pay God a great favor by asking big things of Him.” So with faith and love in my heart I prayed for James. When I arrived in California my eyes welled with joyful tears as I saw him walk toward me wearing his favorite Rainbow flip flops (total California style).

The morning that I was going to say goodbye to James I got up early to go running down by the beach. The elevator was broken and there was a sign on it that said to use the stairs. As I approached the stairs I thought it odd that they elevator would be broken because it was an extremely upscale hotel where weddings were hosted. I opened the door to go down the stairs and couldn’t believe what I saw. The entire stair case was covered with roses!! I was in awe, because roses are a sign that Saint Pio is close to you. I knew Saint Pio was doing something, especially since this was the day before his feast day.

California mornings are usually slightly cloudy and that morning was no different. I ran 6 miles just as the sun was rising and the view was breathtaking. All of the surfers were just getting to the ocean, driving up in their jeeps with their surf boards on top and morning coffee in hand. It was gorgeous.

James told me to meet him at a cafe’ for breakfast. He called, said he was running late and to go ahead and order. I ordered belgium waffles, a cappuccino and a mimosa. James and I always drink mimosas in California and I ordered mine with a smile. About fifteen minutes later, just as my waffles were served, and the steam still rising from the plate James walks in. As the waiter pours the champagne and the bubbles fizzle James sits down. “You’re never gonna believe this, but I’m not going. My CO (commanding officer) just told me I’m not going.” I knew it was Padre!! James continued to say that out of 1,000 men and women that were being deployed he was the only one told he was staying. To this day no explanation has been given to him.

Blessed be God and Happy Memorial Day!

photo credit: Robert Wagner Photography

The Birth of Made in His Image

In April 2011 a friend recommended that I see the movie There be Dragons. Set during the Spanish Civil War, it tells the story of St. Josemaria Escriva and his childhood friend Manolo Torres. As the two lads grow up, Josemaria answers God’s call and becomes a Catholic priest and founds the movement called Opus Dei (work of God). After leaving the seminary himself, Manolo becomes a spy for the fascists.

As hatred, betrayal and jealousy climb throughout the movie for Manolo he becomes a slave to his anger. As a Catholic priest fighting for his life, Josemaria chooses to spread seeds of hope and forgiveness. On one particular occasion while Josemaria and his priests were hiding for their lives in a psychiatric hospital a beautiful red-headed woman approaches him and shows Josemaria the scars on her wrists where she had cut herself. One can see the fear in her eyes as she says, “I was raped and still sleep with the lights on. I lock my door at night and put a chair under the door handle.” Gentle tears rolled down my face as she continued to say, “I have accepted that God can be terrible. And now my prayers are deeper. I fight Him with love.”

My heart almost pounded out of my chest. Her courage was inspiring and her innocence radiated true beauty, as she said gently, yet firmly, “I fight Him with love.” This woman had suffered immensely, but her response to suffering was saintly. She was probably one of the most minor characters in the movie, yet her reply “I fight Him with love” the most compelling line I have ever heard from a movie.

With every fiber of my being I hope that my own echo to suffering can be the same as hers.

With tremendous joy and peace in my heart I am exceedingly excited to announce the main reason for my blog. I have had a strong desire for over a year to start my own non-profit for girls and women called Made in His Image. And I would like to use this site to help promote my efforts as I have begun the preliminary ground work for this endeavor.

Made in His Image will work to help girls and women alike who have been abused, raped, suffered from mental illnesses, eating disorders, the effects of addictions and self-esteem. Through sharing my own testimony I will use Made in His Image to educate women on God the Father’s unwavering love, mercy and healing Hands. It will teach women about the dignity we all possess being created in the image and likeness of God. This work will only be accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit.

I have failed to show my appreciation countless times for the crosses God has asked me to carry. I want to use this non-profit to gather girls from around the country and ultimately the world to “fight Him with love.”

If you would like to donate to my work or know of anyone who would be interested please contact me and thank you for reading.