Monday, September 24, 2007

Chocolate Peanut Butter Squares aka "Reese's Bars"

I'm posting this recipe because I received so many requests for it after the church supper last week. I can't take any credit for it--just followed it exactly as printed in my old church's cookbook.

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar (you could maybe use a little less than this)
2 sticks butter/margarine, melted
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 (12 oz) package semi-sweet chocolate chips

Combine graham cracker crumbs, powdered sugar, butter, peanut butter, and vanilla in large bowl. Press evenly into 9x13 pan. Melt chocolate chips in microwave or on stovetop. Spread melted chocolate evenly on top of crumb mixture. Let cool in fridge (about 30 minutes). Cut into small squares (but leave them in pan). Let cool completely in fridge. Keep cold until ready to serve.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Labels!

Since I've become so popular (according to my Google Analytics reports, thanks Hannah) I decided to help out my retinue of readers by adding labels to my posts.

It was hard to make strict categories, so these labels are a little "fluid." I've added the list of labels to my sidebar, below my "Favorite Books" list.

Photos: these posts contain photos (or links to photos) of family and friends (mostly of Katie)

Videos: pretty obvious (if confused, see "Photos")

Updates: McCulloch family news

Christianity: posts that have something to say about Christianity

Scripture: posts in which a passage of Scripture is discussed

Musings: this label marks most of my posts; it's simply my day to day thoughts on various things, usually semi-serious

Provocations: these posts are a little more "fiery" than a mere musing; usually "provoked" by something I've seen or heard recently

Random: not at all weighty

Recipes: duh

Piper: As I was looking through my archives, I realized how many of my posts alluded to something by Piper...enough to deserve his own label!

Travel: Posts about our travel business (http://www.everycitytravel.com/)

Finally, if anyone can help me figure out how to make my picture on the sidebar normal again, please let me know!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

KJM Fan Club Meeting

Thanks for bearing with all my recent "serious" posts. Here's your reward for bearing with me:

video

Also, I added two new links to my "Favorite Links" list on the sidebar--one is our photo website, the other our video website.

Lastly, here are some photos from the playgroup's trip to the zoo today. It's really more like "Pictures of Katie with the Wheelers" since she is absolutely obsessed with the "Weewees" (all of whom she calls "Miney" meaning "Maggie"). Enjoy!

Watch out, Jeremiah...
looks like an older man might be making a move on your woman.
Fun shot through the bus window.
Page and Katie were best buds today.
Katie thinks she's 4 years old these days.
Here she is trying to hang with the big girls.
And just to prove that we really did see animals at the zoo, here's a pic of the Wheeler girls up close and personal with one of the gorillas. Seriously, that's a real, live gorilla RIGHT THERE.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Are you a Christian?

As a tangent off my last two posts regarding why the gospel is good news, I want to point you two other posts written by my fellow church member Owen Strachan (here and here). Just as John Piper's question exposes our heart of hearts, so Owen's posts list other questions that can help discern our hearts' true condition.

Owen intended these questions to be a resource for Christians as they seek to help friends and family members discern whether or not they are in Christ. I want to encourage all 10 people who read my blog (yes, the number has doubled since July!) to go to Owen's blog and ask these questions of yourself. May God use them in your life--to encourage you as you see evidences of His grace at work in your life, to convict you to pursue God with your whole heart, or to reveal your need to turn away from your sin and cast yourself on Christ's mercy.

Friday, September 14, 2007

God is the Gospel

The question I posed yesterday was not original with me. In fact, I completely hijacked it. It is actually the central question posed by John Piper in his book God is the Gospel.

I was reminded of this book this summer when some friends from church and I were meeting with some Chinese friends to discuss the gospel. That night we were discussing heaven and hell, and we tried to explain why heaven is such a desirable place (as opposed to annihilation or an endless cycle of death and rebirth). We spoke of the absence of sin, pain, sorrow, sickness, and death. We spoke of beauty, eternity, peace, and rest. While these characteristics of heaven are wonderful and true, they are not what make heaven heaven. GOD is what makes heaven heaven. It is because HE is there that we want to be there.

Piper's book God is the Gospel was what first alerted me to the importance of making clear that GOD Himself is the point of Christianity. So often we describe the Gospel in terms of forgiveness, atonement, justification, freedom from sin and death, eternal life, etc. To be sure, all of these are essential to the gospel. But the only reason that any of these things are good news is because they get us to God!

I urge you, Christian and non-Christian, to read this book. You can read it online here or you can purchase it here. Or you can listen to this sermon that was the basis for the book.

I'll leave you with these quotes for your consideration:

"When I say that 'God Is the gospel,' I mean that the highest, best, final, decisive good of the gospel, without which no other gifts would be good, is the glory of God in the face of Christ revealed for our everlasting enjoyment."

"The saving love of God is God’s commitment to do everything necessary to enthrall us with what is most deeply and durably satisfying, namely himself."

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Would you be happy in heaven if Jesus were not there?

Imagine heaven. No pain. No sickness. No sorrow. No death. No sin. Glorious beauty. Eternal life. Reunion with loved ones.

What if you could have all of that, without Jesus being there? Would you still want to go?

I encourage you think hard about your answer to this question. If your answer is 'yes' and you believe yourself to be a Christian, may I gently challenge that you may be missing the whole point of Christianity.

This question cuts with laser precision to the heart of what the Bible teaches about heaven, about salvation, about God. It is the question that John Piper asks in his excellent book God is the Gospel, which I'll talk more about tomorrow.

Until then, I pray that this question provokes you--both Christian and non-Christian alike.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Signs of the Season (and a new Katie video!)

I am so incredibly ready for fall. Here are a few tips for those out there who, like me, desire to hasten fall's advent.

1. Make cranberry scones.
I'm usually not a big scone fan (too dry and tasteless), but I've been dreaming about making these ever since Erin Wheeler served them at play group last spring. They are moist and sweet and awesome. They're actually great any time of year, but I got to enjoy them this week, so I put them on my list. Thanks, Erin, for the recipe!

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I use unbleached)
1/2 cup sugar
1 rounded T baking powder
1/4 t salt
3/4 cup milk
1 t vanilla
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup coarsely chopped apples
1 cup coarsely chopped cranberries (I used Craisins)

Combine dry ingredients. Combine milk, vanilla, egg, butter, and apples in a separate bowl and add to dry mixture. After stirring together, gently fold in cranberries. Spread batter in greased 9-10" pie pan. Spread some milk and sugar on top. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes. Do not undercook.

2. Buy a "Mulled Cider" candle from Wal-mart.
This tip is for those of you who would like to buy Yankee Candle Company's "Harvest" candle but can't justify the expense in your monthly budget. I bought Wal-mart's "Mulled Cider" candle expecting to be disappointed but discovered it was actually a great buy! The only problem is it smells so much like mulled cider that I keep walking into the kitchen to get a mug full!


3. Get a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks.
For me, this event used to herald the official arrival of fall. That is, until I found out that you could order a pumpkin spice latte any time of year. Is the Peppermint Mocha Latte available year round too? That's the real question. I am such a sucker for "Starbucks at Christmas." Doesn't the coffee taste so much better in those red cups? Anyway, the inside scoop from any of my Starbuck-employed friends re: peppermint mocha would be warmly welcomed.


3. Let your child crumple a dried leaf all over your carpet.
Okay, so not really a recommendation. It was more a discovery after the fact. I guess that's what I get for always giving her dead leaves to play with in an attempt to finish the last five minutes of my morning walk in some semblance of peace.


Speaking of Katie, she is sick again! Not with a cold this time but with a fever. Yikes. Pray for little Katie to get well soon! Until she's back to her funny self, here is a video I took yesterday before she got sick.

video

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Currently listening to...and remembering

I chose for my morning music today a beloved CD that I had not listened to for some time. Don't you love how listening to an old CD is like having a good conversation with an old friend? The CD I listened to while Katie and I ate breakfast was Sara Groves' album Conversations. Each song on that album is precious to me in some way, and this morning it called to mind many sweet relationships. In particular, I thought of my friend Jenny who introduced me to Sara Groves's music in college.

Just yesterday I was reminded of this same precious friendship when I read my friend Hannah's blogpost. Much like Hannah, as I remember the faithfulness of God in giving me such friends, I'm also reminded of His present faithfulness in giving me friends in Louisville. One of my "present tense friends" (who I think has uncanny similarities to my college friend Jenny) also posted recently on her blog about the gift of friends.
I'll close with one of my all-time favorite C.S. Lewis quotes from his chapter on friendship in The Four Loves:
"In a perfect Friendship this Appreciative love is, I think, often so great and so firmly based that each member of the circle feels, in his secret heart, humbled before all the rest. Sometimes he wonders what he is doing among his betters. He is lucky beyond desert to be in such company. Especially when the whole group is together, each bringing out all that is best, wisest, or funniest in all the others. Those are the golden sessions..."

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Sick

Katie's been a little run down the last day or so, but today her cold hit her like a truck. Classic sick day.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

"Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow"

This line from the third verse of "Great is Thy Faithfulness" was echoing in my mind as I got up from my quiet time this morning.

I'm beginning a study with a friend on 2 Corinthians, so I had just read through chapter 1. There are many awesome promises and truths in that chapter, but what stuck out to me this morning was verses 10-11. In verses 8-9 Paul describes how a recent affliction had caused him to "despair of life itself" yet God had used this trial to teach him to rely on God and not himself. In the first part of verse 10, Paul reports that God had delivered him from the "deadly peril."

What he says next is what caught my attention this morning: "He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again."

Scripture often comforts those in affliction by exhorting them to put their hope in heaven, in eternity, in our sure salvation, and in Christ's return. Just last Sunday, for example,
our new pastor(!!!!) preached a great sermon on 1 Peter 1 in which Peter comforts persecuted Christians by reminding them of their "imperishable, undefiled, and unfading" inheritance, kept for them in heaven.

In 2 Corinthians 1:10, however, Paul says that he has hope in God's ability to deliver him in this life. I know that Christians are not promised deliverance or "happy endings" in this world, but it was very encouraging for me to see this testimony that we can have hope for God to deliver and redeem in this life as well.

Verse 11 also adds an interesting element to Paul's hope: "You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many." Here we see the crucial importance of intercessory prayer. God has ordained prayer as a means of calling forth God's deliverance SO THAT thanksgiving to God will result.

I pray that in whatever circumstance you find yourself in today, you will set your hope fully on God and in his ability to save us in this life and the next.