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Chinese Chicken Salad

March seems to be an unpredictable month in Minnesota. We could have the winter blizzard of the century, or we could have a spring thaw, or both. It’s a teaser month, a month that feels like, “I’m ready for spring, which translated means, I’m ready to shed winter clothes. I’m ready to get to the lake…up North, or today as I write, I’m ready for a crunchy salad recipe.”  I think you will love this one. It is quick and easy, crunchy and comforting.

Crunchy Chinese Chicken Salad

2 large chicken breasts cooked, cooled, and cubed

2 cups of cooked rice

About one cup celery, sliced thin

Mandarin oranges (small can) drained well…reserve the juice

Chow Mein noodles, a couple handfuls

Mayo dressing and French dressing

½ teas. Curry powder

Mix the above 3 ingredients together. In another dish take a large scoop of Mayo and about 2 Tbsp. of French dressing and stir together. Add the Curry powder. Thin this mixture all down with a small amount of Mandarin juice…..maybe one Tbsp. Stir this dressing mixture into the first 3 ingredients. When you feel the consistency is right, gently add the drained oranges and Chow Mein noodles. There should be enough noodles to add crunch, color and consistency. If you are not eating the salad immediately, wait until you are ready to eat, then add the noodles. You may also add some Cashews for garnish just before eating.

~ Enjoy!  

A Look at Lent

Lent . . . should it be a time of fasting or feasting?

Lent is a 40-day period of time (not counting Sundays) leading up to Easter, the day more accurately known among Christians as Resurrection Sunday.

A reflection on Lent, by Sharon Sheppard

Though the word lent is not found in the Bible, observance of this period of time leading up to Easter/Resurrection Sunday can take many different forms. Christians from a broad spectrum of denominations, ranging from Catholic and Orthodox to mainline and evangelical denominations.

For some, it is a somber time of fasting and self-denial. A time of introspection and repentance.

Some use it as a time to meditate on the sufferings of Jesus Christ when He went to the cross to sacrifice Himself to pay for our sins. This can bring a new appreciation for what

Others make light of it, and it becomes a joke. A non-golfer might say he is giving up golf for lent. Or a college student might say she is giving up studying for lent.

For still others, it may be marked by an emphasis on doing good deeds, hoping to earn points they hope will help them make it to heaven.

Since Lent isn’t mentioned in the Bible, it would seem we can’t go wrong by choosing one of God’s principles and devoting 40 days to cultivating one of those that we might not be practicing on a regular basis:

Love one another. Jn 13:34 or James 4:8  (Is there someone you’re having trouble loving that you need to show kindness to?)

Draw near to me and I will draw near to you. James 4:8 (Are you spending at least as much time daily time in fellowship with God as you do online?)

Godliness with contentment is great gain. Heb 13:5(Do you catch yourself complaining: about the weather, politics, the high cost of living?)

Give to the poor. Prov 22:9 (Is there someone you know who is deeply hurting financially that you could help?)

But in any case, it is probably best observed by

World Day of Prayer

World Day of Prayer,  by Mary Zigan

March 1st  is The World Day of Prayer.  This is an international ecumenical Christian day set aside annually to sympathize with the problems of other countries and cultures, and to pray with and for them. People are further encouraged to become aware of their talents and use them in the service of society.

The World Day of Prayer aims to demonstrate that prayer and action are inseparable and that both have immeasurable influence in the world. They encourage the following values: listening, speaking, faithfulness, creativity, inclusion, giving, receiving, sisterhood, trust, learning, wisdom, action, ecumenical work, and by being a Christian neighbor in a multi-religious world.

The theme for this year’s World Day of Prayer is, “Come–Everything is Ready.” At first glance that certainly feels and sounds like a misnomer.  This March, 2019, the USA began with a government shut-down, leaving thousands of people working without pay, with our nation polarized like never before in history, and with rampant fear of what the future holds.  

“Come, Everything is Ready?”

Yes! Everything is ready, we read in Luke chapter eleven. The disciples did come to Jesus and asked,Lord, teach us to pray

He said, “This is how you should pray.”

Our Father in heaven,

may your name be honored.

May your kingdom come soon.

May your will be done here on earth,

just as it is in heaven.

Give us our food for today,

  and forgive us our sins,

  just as we have forgiven those who have

sinned against us.

And don’t let us yield to temptation,

 but deliver us from the evil one.

Come, Everything is ready”

What Does it Take?

What Does It Take to Build A Marriage That Goes the Distance? By Sharon Sheppard

            With attitudes toward marriage shifting and divorce rates soaring, it’s refreshing to take an occasional look at some marriages that have stood the test of time. Here is one of my favorite true stories about couples I have known.

            My sister-in-law, Marlene Moser, made frequent trips to check on her parents, Bob and Doris Coulter (Pine River, MN) after they moved into an assisted living apartment. The couple had been married for seventy-plus years, and now both of them were rapidly declining in health. Marlene, who has a gift for interior decorating, had arranged their cozy living quarters, and placed a small table between their two recliners to hold their coffee cups while they watched TV together.      

            The next time Marlene stopped in, she noticed that they had moved the little table to a different spot.

            “You have a new arrangement,” she commented.

            “Yes,” her mother said, “it’s too hard for us to hold hands with that table between our chairs.”

            As in any marriage, life had not always been easy for the Coulters, and during those years the two of them had weathered plenty of difficult times. There were anxious years while Bob was away fighting in the Philippines during World War II. They lost a daughter to cancer and shared other heartaches along the way. But their faith in the Lord remained firm, and their tender commitment to each other was unshakable.

            Several years ago, as I was working on an article on marriage for the Baptist Standard, I went to the experts for advice—couples who had been married 35 years or more. “What’s your best advice for achieving a love that goes the distance?” I asked.

            Over coffee and dessert, the panel pooled their combined 270 years of marriage experience to come up with their top ten tips:

  • Recognize and celebrate your differences.
  • Be quick to apologize.
  • Treat each other with respect.
  • Handle each other’s shortcomings with sensitivity.
  • Don’t expect your spouse to be able to read your mind.
  • Learn to communicate by becoming transparent with each other.
  • Learn to fight fair.
  • Keep your romance alive.
  • Become an expert at knowing what makes the other person happy.
  • Nurture your faith as a couple.

            Marriage was God’s idea in the first place. Inviting Him to be a full partner in a couple’s  marriage journey can make all the difference between a contentious relationship and one where differences can be resolved peaceably.

            From 1 Corinthians, here is some of God’s best marriage advice:

            Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. . . If you really love someone you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him.

            There are three things that remain—faith, hope and love—and the greatest of these is love.

            1 Cor. 13: 4-7, 13 (TLB)

Two Novelists Weigh in on the Definition of Love

Two novelists weigh in on the definition of LOVE:

In a passage from his novel, Corelli’s Mandolin, British author Louis de Bernieres says, “Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just ‘being in love,’ which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away.”

In another novel, Brian Moore’s The Luck of Ginger Coffey, the protagonist describes married love this way: “Love isn’t an act, it’s a whole life. It’s staying with her now because she needs you. It’s knowing you and she will still care about each other when sex and daydreams, fights and futures—when all that’s on the shelf and done with. Love—well I’ll tell you what love is: It’s you at seventy-five and her at seventy-one, each of you listening for the other’s step in the next room, each afraid that a sudden silence, a sudden cry, could mean a lifetime’s talk is over.”

How Do We Apply Love?

How Do We Apply Love?   By Mary Zigan

  The thought came to my cousin Sharon that one of our topics in the month of February should be: How We Apply Love.  I love the word apply. A picture comes to mind of something being massaged in a repetitive methodical motion. It feels soothing, gentle, and loving. What if every one of us applied love in that way? Would there be more loving kindness in our world? Another thought that comes to mind is that love is more than love over the long haul. Love fleshes itself out through committed sacrifice, through keeping short accounts, namely being forgiving, and through compromise, by not always needing to be right or have the last word.

In my book, *An Upside-Down Heart, I expressed that a lot of the conflict with my husband, Don and me, was due to the fact we didn’t apply what I just described. Our fears, our stubborn wills, and our unresolved issues from our past marriages were keeping us from intimacy, tender, consistent love, and from seeing the goodness and blessing we had in each other. For most of us, changes in perception are gradual because we can see the speck in others that needs changing, but, not so readily see the board of judgement in our own eye.

Most of us need others, a Jesus with skin on: like a special friend, a counsellor, or a   spiritual director, to help us along the way, before we grow to embrace an idea, a person, or new concept. And it comes slowly, over a period of time. However, loving commitment perseveres and never gives up.

Don and I embraced the Freedom in Christ materials, written by Neil Anderson. The Seven Steps to Freedom, particularly the step on forgiveness, was so freeing and cleansing for our marriage. It was so refreshing to read that forgiveness is not forgetting what happened, but a choice, a crisis of the will. Forgiveness is agreeing to live with the consequences of another person’s sin. Neither Don nor I wanted to hold onto bitterness and unforgiveness from our past. We began the discipline of renewing our minds to the truth. We loved each other, we cherished each other, we wanted to leave regret and grief behind and begin celebrating the best in each other. As we actively worked at connecting with God, and being more intentional with each other, our perspective shifted. And when the focus is different, the view changes. And I might add, the view kept changing for 35 years until Don passed away in 2009.

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.    

                                                                                                            ~ James Baldwin       

Mary Zigan                                                                                        

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Love is Bursting Out All Over

Love is bursting out all over… Mary Zigan introduces our theme for February and our two guest bloggers:

            Is there a more complex word than love? I don’t think so. We talk about a loving God, loving football, loving pizza, giving love, making love. No wonder we take the word love so for granted. Love is the oxygen for our souls and we all need it. Every one of us needs and longs for acceptance, affection, reassurance and fellowship, all forms of love, not just in February on Valentine’s Day, but all year. Forthcoming are a couple of true love stories:

The first is young, tender love just budding, as expressed by my granddaughter, Sydney Johnson:

Take the Detour

            Have you ever been driving down a familiar road and all of a sudden a detour sign appears? You think, “No! Not now!” Everything was going so smooth up until the detour sign appeared and now you have to reroute. You may be frustrated or upset by this new unfamiliar path, maybe even scared or nervous. Let me also ask you this… have you ever faced a detour that actually ended up being a blessing in disguise?

            My fiancé and I started dating last March and he continues to be the greatest blessing in disguise? I had an agenda (path) for my life. I’m a planner so you can imagine the type of life I had pictured in my head. First comes a steady job, then maybe some traveling, then paying off loans, more traveling, getting married, more traveling, settling down, the list goes on. My agenda (path) seemed so right and true to who I was and what I wanted. And then one day, bam! A detour arose. My best friend (and now fiancé) from college was standing right in front of me waiting for me to commit to something more than just being friends.

            The reasons why we love people are hard to put into words sometimes. As I love Jacoby more and more each day, it gets harder to explain why I have chosen him to be my life long partner simply because there are so many reasons that continue to accumulate. One reason that stands out to me is the way I feel when I am with him. I’m not talking just being happy or excited but really how my heart and body feels when I am with him. I am at peace about life. My deep concerns or issues that weigh down my heart seem to fizzle and be put in perspective. I laugh more. I talk more about good and bad things. I listen more. Simply put, I am more. I can be more when I am with Jacoby because I feel that I can be all that I am with him. I can be ugly, sad, happy, uptight, angry, excited, hyper, goofy, sick, stressed. You name it, I can be it because he accepts me and actually loves me for everything that I am. And get this, he loves me even harder on the days that seem like my worst!

Trusting THIS detour never ends!

Now here is the “long-haul love” of forty-plus years as expressed by friend, Julie DeMuth:

Sweethearts still….

            My husband and I have been married for over 34 years and still happily married. We are high-school sweethearts who went on our first official date for my 16th birthday. I am turning 58 on February 11th so you do the math.  Our marriage and relationship has been a blessing in so many ways. Even though there have been ups and downs, we always protect our marriage and the love that it has always provided for one another.

             To me, my marriage is everything that gives balance in our life. We put each other first and foremost no matter if we might not like the outcome personally. Our relationship has been based on a “partnership.” It is a constant give and take and making sure we don’t hurt each other along the way. Love is the best thing in the world when both partners are engaged. Making time for one another and truly enjoying what we share together is the key to a successful and loving marriage. If you put energy towards your love for one another, you will reap many rewards. It sounds so simple, but many marriages and relationships collapse when the spark is extinguished. We don’t attempt to clone one another but try to find freshness in our daily journey of life. It is best not to take each other too serious and make sure to PLAY whenever possible. Trying new adventures (travel, biking) and experiencing Life together is the best gift of love we can give one another. Our marriage is sacred and a blessing and we never take it for granted for one single day.


Then there is agape love which is the highest form of love, the love we knew nothing of until Christ came to earth as a love-gift to the world. Agape love is unconditional, divine love, the kind of love God exercises toward mankind. This love is practical not just a spiritual sensation. This love wears work gloves and handles the everyday nuts and bolts of life. It hugs the lonely, feeds the hungry, it tends to the sick and comforts the sorrowful. This love is pure, positive and practical. We are made unlovely by our sin, yet God’s love sees beneath our sin to the person he created, and when we open ourselves to His love, no matter who we are and where we have been, each and every day is Valentine’s Day!

Blessed is the influence of one true loving human soul on another. ~ George Eliot

~ Mary Z

What is God Making New in Your Life

    What Is God making New in Your Life? By Mary Zigan

              Have you got your 2019 resolution list out and in front of you? Are you determined that this year, you will stick with the diet and exercise program, or kiss your husband goodnight every night…or what is it you have planted your feet about and decided that “this year is your year.”  Well, I just heard that 80% of us resolve that “this time, we will do it,” yet it has been proven that only 11% of us follow through.

Oh, I am not diminishing what we can accomplish when we set our minds to something. We do have grit, perseverance, and plenty of opportunities to succeed. I could tell lots of success stories; here are a couple:

              A young couple I know made a decision to pay off their school loan debt of over           $70,000 and did it on teachers’ salaries in two years. They stated, “Yes, it was hard. We sacrificed, but now we enjoy the freedom that comes from disciplining ourselves.”

              Another story: a friend of mine decided last year that she was going to get the last 15    pounds off. She did, and has kept it off. In sharing with me her accomplishment, she stated: “Recovery from bondage to excess food, although painful and arduous, results in freedom.”

Both of these stories are from Christians who know they cannot go it alone. They know that as we walk the road of surrender and saturate ourselves with God’s grace we may find we receive gifts from Him we never dreamed possible.

As for me, this year I resolve to learn to draw my life from the reservoir of the resurrection life of Christ. I want to take some deep breaths, and breathe in the clean, life-giving air of God’s holiness. I’m asking Him to bless me with more of His supernatural gifts so that the resolutions I make for 2019 will be fueled by the power of God. Together we can do anything!

How about you? The end of the year and the beginning of another is an opportunity for a fresh start. What might God be making new in your life?

A Difficult Year, But it Wasn’t All Bad

2018 was a difficult year in many ways, but IT WASN’T ALL BAD . . .

           I subscribe to a cool news magazine called THE WEEK, and a column I always make a point of reading is the one called It Wasn’t All Bad.

           Here’s a sampling of some true anecdotes that they passed along to their readers to help us see that all of the news isn’t bad:

  • When Kevin Booth made an early-morning stop at a food bank in Sumner, WA, he hoped only to pick up some bread the workers leave out for homeless people like him. But he noticed a brown paper bag next to the breadbox, and looking inside, he discovered it was stuffed with $17,000 in cash. Rather than walk off with the haul, he handed it to a volunteer inside the pantry. No one claimed the money after a 90-day period, so police let the food bank—which feeds 1,000 people a month—keep it. “There are a lot of people who would have taken it,” Booth said. “I’m just not that person.” (from THE WEEK Dec. 21/Dec. 28, 2018)
  • A Magalia, CA, garbage man is being hailed as a hero after he rescued a 93-year-old woman from a fast-approaching wildfire. Driver Dane Ray Cummings had been told by his supervisor to head home to avoid the blaze, but he refused, determined to finish his route and check on older residents. At his last stop, he saw Margaret Newsum standing out on her porch, waiting for help. He seated her in his cab—breaking company protocol—and drove five hours to safety while Newsum shared her life story, including the time she sang backup to Frank Sinatra. “It was the best conversation I’ve had in a truck,” Cummings said. (from THE WEEK, Nov. 3, 2018)
  • A Minnesota woman is being likened to a superhero after she saved her husband’s life and four days later gave birth to their first child. Ashley Goette was 39 weeks pregnant when she woke to her husband, Andrew, gasping for air and suffering cardiac arrest. She performed CPR for 10 minutes until paramedics arrived and took Andrew to the hospital, where he was placed in a medically induced coma. He woke the next day, and Goette headed off to be induced. After a 22-hour labor, their son, Lennon, was born. The family is now at home together. “We’re really lucky,” said Goette.  (from THE WEEK, Nov. 9, 2018)


   ~ Sharon Sheppard

Getting a Jumpstart on Next Christmas

Getting a Jumpstart on Next Christmas . . . By Mary Zigan

            I love getting a jumpstart on Christmas. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, Christmas begins on December 1st. At least, that’s when I get out my Christmas Journal that I began in 1999. Each day of Christmas I happily journal what happens to make the season memorable. I log what I bake, the Christmas cards I send, the guests I have in, the concerts I attend, when the house gets decorated, and when our special Christmas sausage is made.

            It is so much fun planning and preparing. But all too soon, Christmas is but a memory, and then there are all the things to tear down and put away. I have a philosophy, not just at Christmas, but year-round: “Bring something in, take something out!” If you bought new things for the tree or other artifacts this year, maybe something needs to go.

            Would you like a few tips for storing and making next year’s routine less painful so you will be better prepared for the following holiday season? If so, select three areas of your home to set items out on for sorting them when you are taking them down.

  • One area is for items you are keeping and storing
  • One area is for items you are tired of and will repurpose
  • One area is for broken, shabby-looking items to be tossed

               Here are a few practical tips for storing some of those once-a-year Christmas items:

  • For extension cords…use cardboard toilet paper rolls
  • For individual ornaments…use clear plastic cups stored in beer or wine cases
  • For Christmas bulbs…egg cartons
  • Wreath…hang it on a hook and place a large trash bag over it
  • Small beads…keep in an empty water bottle
  • Wrapping paper…use a clear garment bag with hanger

           I promise, you will feel happy you took the time to carefully store your Christmas trimmings.  Might I suggest, however, Please do not stow Christ. Keep Christ not only in Christmas, but out where He can be seen through your life all year long.