Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving Break

We had such a lovely Thanksgiving break. We had homecooked ham dinners at home during the week, then headed to the breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountains.
Our Thanksgiving tablescape. Roast ham with broccoli salad and cranberries, wild rice with sweet potatoes, turkey salad and edamame salad.

Roast ham with homemade cranberry sauce, homemade apple sauce (was on the table), garlic roasted potatoes, roasted vegetables and cornbread stuffing.
We were in awe of 125,000 acres of uninterrupted mountain views, changed now all the deciduous leaves have shed.
We had a turkey luncheon at The Deerpark.

then toured America's largest home; The Biltmore Estate trimmed with Christmas tree's as it would have been in the Vanderbilt family's day. 
Lastly, we wandered into the Bohemian Hotel, for dinner at the trendy Red Stag Steakhouse restaurant.
We're so grateful for a multitude of blessings.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever - Psalm 107.

Those Wounded by God's People and Walk the Path to God

In this interview Moira Brown sits down with Billy Graham's daughter Anne Graham Lotz (Rev. Billy Graham's daughter) to talk about her book 'Wounded by God's People' which discusses the unfortunate circumstance when people are hurt by the church, or hypocritical Christians and how to move forward from this.

Charlotte has a street called Billy Graham Parkway, which coincidentally leads you to the international airport where millions of people come and go as they ascend into the clouds on a journey. A little ironic, don't you think?
The Billy Graham Library is a memorialized legacy of the works by Billy Graham and his ministry. I strongly admire the family because they're so real in how they talk about this life journey, our walk before we reunite with God.
In this video his daughter Anne Graham Lotz talks about so many subjects that I can relate to. Christians leave the church because of hypocritical Christians, and I've met quite a few who've left me wondering why they're trying so hard to prove themselves, rather that living the life of example.
Luckily, I grew up in England, the home of the Church of England, the Queen and the protestant reformation. There are Christian churches in every village or hamlet which are all deep rooted in traditionalism. Also, there's the UM church which is a lot more progressive, but not as progressive as some of the Christian culture in America today.
My memories of church were idyllic. I remember my sister and I would skip to the graveyard in our summery floral dresses and pick wild flowers to place atop the graves. Every time I go back to England, we always reminisce over several graves of dear friends, and villagers who passed in the twenty years since my Mum moved there.
For awhile, I kept a very idyllic mindset. When I first arrived to the US I made some of my very first and lifelong friends attending South Hills Bible Church in Spokane, WA. The reason I loved that church was it's fabulous Pastor Sonny and his wife Judy, who always invited the international students to fellowship at social events, or to their house for milkshakes. Every Sunday after church and class we'd all meet at the Rockwood Bakery to chat for hours about the days sermon. A conversationalist like me loved that I could open up, and share my thoughts and views from my cultural perspective.
Then, after moving to Portland, OR for college I noticed that there weren't as many churches, but more 'spiritual' people who lived there. Our college was founded on strict Catholic roots, was 80% female and unlike other colleges there were no parties. I had lots of girlie roommates. It was a time in my life where I could live with so many different characters. I had to learn to respect different religions and cultures.
After college I moved in with my dad. I also went to work with my dad, and slipped into the routine as I had for almost nine summers before. My dad rarely opened up, or shared feelings, unless he was talking about growing up or his parents. His family, especially his dad were very strict. There was a conduct as to how you were to behave, and their German Catholic roots meant most prayers, or confessions were done in private in accordance to Matthew 6. It wasn't until he was sick that he started a Bible study, and we talked about death. He simply said "The belief in God is Heaven and the disbelief is Hell". I think when we're facing death, especially when we feel like it's before our time we question God, and ask "Why me?"
Then you look at all the injustice in the world. The pain and suffering of billions of people who just so happened to be born in a certain country, to certain parents. Why would God allow them to go their whole lives without them knowing about Him, and His unconditional love? I did lot's of theological studies on the cultural, historical and geographical views of religion, and it broadened and expanded my mind. God is love, or if you don't believe you could describe God as Energy, without which, there would be no evolution of human life.

Then I met Cory. We both had such similar thoughts and our conversations have gone all night at times. We both got each other, and felt completely comfortable around each other since we first met. However, we met while I was going through a hard time in my life. Within five years I lost all my grandparents, and my dad after a two-and-a-half year battle with cancer. Cory was kind of the forgotten one, who rarely spoke up, leaving him working from home, a little depressed and rarely opening his blinds.
Maybe there was a reason we met during the hardest time in our lives? These times got even harder. When my family, who is nuts actually accepted Cory with open arms. I couldn't believe my dad even supported our relationship, and not until recently, Cory shared that my dad once whispered into his ears "thank you for taking care of Kiki". Cory's family is also nuts, and I felt like I wasn't accepted in the same way at all. I often felt uncomfortable and judged. His family were loud about Jesus, but make some different moral choices that both my husband and I are not comfortable with. Each to their own.

During my time in the Tri-Cities, WA I was the unhappiest I've ever been in my life. I suffered in my faith extraordinarily. I felt like I couldn't trust God's people or the churches threw heritage out the window.
Then we moved to the South, the Bible belt, and we've noticed a big difference in the importance of Christ in the everyday lives of our friends, neighbors and passers by who wave or graciously stop to tell you a compliment. It's like the modern day Mayberry. There's no need to prove yourself, because almost everyone here is Christian. As a couple we've thrived, and Cory now works for a ministry and a wholesome family channel.
We now attend a UM church, that reminds me more of my childhood with lot's of people who are a little more conservative in their worship styles, yet progressive in their views. We study theology, philosophy, history, genealogy, geography and continue to travel to expand our life experiences. As a couple we have grown exponentially in knowledge and in our walk.
Our lives are short. If we find our God given purpose we'll have fulfillment. Our legacy is our children, and grandchildren who keep us alive in their memories, their thoughts, so be a good memory and encourage others with kind words, and hope they'll forgive you for the words you have to say to repair your relationship with each other.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Christian Salvation By Grace, The Sinners Prayer, Hypocrisy, Unconditional Love, And A Thanksgiving Prayer

As Christians we are to have faith and truly believe that Jesus was God in the flesh, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died on the cross for the sins of the whole world, was resurrected by the Father to give us eternal life, and ascended to the right hand of the Father where He is our advocate and makes intercession for us.

Susan Branch Blog | Morning Glories
How about some music.

You are born again by receiving the indwelling of the Holy Spirit upon faith in the gospel truths. My dad was raised German Catholic, as most Germans are and my mom was raised Church of England, as most Anglicans are. The question of salvation by grace, or grace and works is disputed between Protestant and Catholic churches. Although saved through grace, a Christians heart should strive to be like Christ and help those who need a blessing in their lives.

Ephesians 2:8-9 says
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast."
Many Christians receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit when churches present a salvation invitation or altar call to recite the sinners prayer, however, baptismal regeneration is not scripture in the Bible. 
Some biblical scholars have even labeled the sinner's prayer a "cataract of nonsense" and an "apostasy", although proponents of the Sinner's Prayer point to scriptures like Luke 18:10-14 to say it is in the bible.
Luke 18:10-14 says
10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
 Susan Branch Blog | Morning Glories

Although I went to a Catholic convent during primary school, and a Catholic Liberal Arts college, my mom took us to the UM church which is a lot more progressive, but not as progressive as the Christian culture in America today.
How about some more music.
Since it's beginning in the 20th century, the sinner's prayer has been prayed by individuals within many Protestant churches. These individuals feel convicted of the presence of sin in their lives and desire to form or renew a personal relationship with God through his Son Jesus Christ. It is intended to be an act of initial conversion to Christianity, and the only way to receive salvation.
On a leading Pastoral magazine's page, Dr. Jay Bohd, PHD explains the implications on the Christian faith with Personal Relationships with Christ.

A “personal relationship with Jesus” leads to relativism. After all, implicit in the notion of a “personal relationship” with the Lord is the conclusion that one can define that relationship as one pleases.

Furthermore, the danger with encouraging a personalistic view of one’s relationship with the Lord also encourages a personalistic view of the doctrines of the faith; in other words, it may lead toward “cafeteria Christianity,” wherein individuals maintain that they are entitled to believe or disbelieve certain tenets.

So, do we need a “personal relationship with Jesus”? Yes, of course we do. However, a “personal relationship with Jesus” does not seem to indicate fidelity to the Church. Conversely, though, fidelity to the Church does certainly indicate a “personal relationship” with Jesus—in the context of the Church Jesus himself instituted, and in conformity with his will.
Susan Branch Blog | Morning Glories
One of the biggest reasons individuals leave the church today is the hypocrisy, of those who claim to be Christians, yet use relativism to judge whether or not "they are good with God." When individuals look to Christians, they need to see us Walk the Walk, be a role model, an example, a purpose.

We're all imperfect, but acting as a hypocrite who talks the talk, yet acts more immoral than they do, leads individuals to wonder if we've truly repented our sins, and choose to live our lives for ourselves, and not for Christ.

In this age of reality TV and social media, many Christians profess themselves publically, so that everyone knows that they have a “personal relationship with Jesus.” Oftentimes these Christian seekers pray for themselves out of a personal agenda, and proclaim “a word” that they “felt” was given to them by the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 6:5-6 says
And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
 Susan Branch Blog | Morning Glories
Non-believers may not believe in God, care for church, or some Christians behavior and would rather just accept death, and rest forevermore under the Earth. Perhaps if we all saw each other equally, and not as "special" or "chosen", for God is a universal symbol of unconditional love.
Ephesians 2:4-5 says
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”
1 John 4:9-10 says
"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."
We all want to live our lives with purpose, and to know why we're here, and where we'll eventually go. We join a church family to hear the parables and the word of God from the pages of the Holy Bible for example, an encouragement, for fellowship, and support as we navigate this path called life.
Susan Branch Blog | Morning Glories
Let's pray
by Vienna Cobb Anderson
God of all blessings,
source of all life,
giver of all grace:
We thank you for the gift of life:
for the breath
that sustains life,
for the food of this earth
that nurtures life,
for the love of family and friends
without which there would be no life.

We thank you for the mystery of creation:
for the beauty
that the eye can see,
for the joy
that the ear may hear,
for the unknown
that we cannot behold filling the universe with wonder,
for the expanse of space
that draws us beyond the definitions of ourselves.

We thank you for setting us in communities:
for families
who nurture our becoming,
for friends
who love us by choice,
for companions at work,
who share our burdens and daily tasks,
for strangers
who welcome us into their midst,
for people from other lands
who call us to grow in understanding,
for children
who lighten our moments with delight,
for the unborn,
who offer us hope for the future.

We thank you for this day:
for life
and one more day to love,
for opportunity
and one more day to work for justice and peace,
for neighbors
and one more person to love
and by whom be loved,
for your grace
and one more experience of your presence,
for your promise:
to be with us,
to be our God,
and to give salvation.

For these, and all blessings,
we give you thanks, eternal, loving God,
through Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Staying Warm and Cozy

The weather has started to cool down in the Carolinas. I've been staying warm and cozy indoors, with a cracking fire and my warm fuzzy socks on. Despite our cooler temperatures, I'm grateful we're not as snowed under as several other parts of the country.
We've been living here for about eight months now, so we're still exploring the different neighborhoods, and mostly know our way around the Southside. This video tour, and my countless pins of places to go on Pinterest make me excited for it to warm up again so we can go out and explore.
Susan Branch

Last night, we had a delicious dinner at Maggiano's Little Italy (an Italian restaurant). We actually sat at that very table and shared the special dinner for two. We had a really nice time catching up on the day.

Also last Sunday I tested a new recipe, that I created myself;
Tomato and Cilantro Frittata Recipe

6 eggs whisked
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
2 diced tomatoes
1 cup of cilantro (stalks removed)
1/2 diced yellow onion
5 rashes of crispy bacon
Serves 2-4
In the oven broil/grill your bacon on 425 for 15-20 minutes until lightly crispy. While that's in the oven whisk together the eggs, pepper, cilantro, onion and tomatoes.

Remove the bacon and place on paper towel and dab until dry, slice finely and add to the mixture. Bake mixture on 425 for 25 minutes until golden brown.
Make sure that the egg is well cooked and no longer raw.
If you have a breakfast recipe, please share it with me.
Susan Branch
Have a good rest of the week.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Celebrating 61 Years

Happy 61st wedding anniversary to hubby's Grandee & Papa. Grandee has been sick and could use all your thoughts and prayers.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Well hello November!

Well hello November! I haven't blogged in awhile because I've been busy spending time with my family. My sister came to town for two weeks, her first time in our new home, and we celebrated her birthday, Halloween and a new investment.

Here's a recap, so I can remember all the things we did and all the places we went.

Sunday the 26th
Welcome to...
America the Beautiful
Susan Branch

My sister arrived as the night was beginning to fall. We took her for some down home country cooking; Cracker Barrel for a welcome dinner and to talk about her flight.

We came home to sing happy birthday, blow out candles and open gifts.

Monday the 27th
After the jet lag wore off  just a little we got to go to a favorite Mexican restaurant of ours, Casa Rita's (with a coupon) and we shared two plates between the three of us.

Then we went over to Cinemark, for a dollar movie and saw Maleficent.
Have you seen the movie?
I'm not usually into mythical/unrealistic movies, but I was really captivated throughout this one. I thought the evil godmother, played by Angelina Jolie was both spiteful and enduring. She saved the child she cursed, and the child eventually changes the course of the whole kingdom.
It is worth the watch if you haven't seen it yet! 

Tuesday the 28th
We had a morning meeting, we had to do a final walkthrough of a condo we've been working really hard to buy together. We each now own our homes outright, and are co-owners of a lakeside condo.

Susan Branch

Afterwards, we went to the Southpark Mall and browsed the stores then went for a delicious lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. I felt bad eating out without hubby, so I ordered his favorite; spaghetti and meatballs to go, and he was pretty happy about that!

How cute is this dolls house?

Wednesday the 29th
Another early morning. Two days in a row of getting up at 5:30am. This morning though, my sister and I went back home for supplies to pick up a dead cat, we affectionately named nutmeg. Nutmeg had been run over and was lying on the side of the road. We brought him home, and that night, my hubby built a coffin. He did a wonderful job, and wrapped nutmeg in one of our cats blankies.
Poor thing!

 That day we were invited to hubby's ministries tailgaiting party. It was a good time of fellowship.

Barbara Cerullo was challenged.

We had to support a football team so hubby wore his Carolina Panthers shirt, and I routed for the Florida Gators.

 Afterwards we went over to Highway 55, a 50's style diner for milkshakes, yum!

Not far from the diner was the pumpkin patch. We headed there and there wasn't much selection. We left it a little late in the season, oops!

Susan Branch

I picked an imperfect one, that I felt sorry for and named it s-m-a-s-h.
Thursday the 30th
We all had the day off and went to sign at the lawyers for the condo. Afterwards, we went for coffee before an introductory meeting with our rental company. Then a celebratory lunch at our favorite local Thai restaurant.
Then we rolled up our sleeves and cleaned the condo thoroughly. My sister cleaned up the balcony and kitchen, hubby was Mr. fix it and I did the bathrooms, vacuuming and took the listing pictures.

The one on the second floor.

 We came home and carved our pumpkins. Soph and Oscar wanted to be in on it too! 
If you do it with heart
Susan Branch

Friday the 31st

Halloween was fun this year. We watched a lot of scary movies, and I'm still catching up with all the sequels. We dressed up as saints and sinners and I helped my sister put on a slew of tattoos.

Then we came inside to eat homemade Taco salad, yum!

Saturday the 1st
We started the day with breakfast at Cracker Barrel. Remember all the tattoos? Obviously this was a good time to video chat with our Mum. Ha ha! Bless her heart, she was a good sport.

Then we had another meeting with our rental company, before heading out to dinner at Macaroni Grill. We hadn't been there since our anniversary.

September Eleventh . . .
Susan Branch

 Sunday the 2nd
Ikea, for a shopping trip to get more kitchen cabinets. We found out that they are discontinuing our style in February, so luckily we have almost finished and have everything. Oh and free coffee with our family card.
Monday 3rd
We were so tired, so we didn't do much besides dinner at Showmars. We looked through old family photos and watched a few family home videos.
Tuesday 4th
Still tired, so we spent the day relaxing and I made homemade spinach lasagna. I got a nice compliment from hubby, he said that he preferred my lasagna over the one he had at dinner the other night!
Wednesday the 5th
Nobody can come to the South without a little Southern food, so today we went to Cajun Yard Dog, a down home Louisiana style restaurant and I had my favorite; shrimp and grits. We shared some bread pudding, then w a d d l e e d down to Barnes and Noble to browse the books.
Hubby found a book about your star signs, and read all our birthdates, they were so true, we laughed SO hard!
Susan Branch
Thursday the 6th
After all the excitement the day before, we just went to Cantina 1511 for dinner tonight. It was much spicier than the first time we tried the restaurant but we got to walk around and see the surrounding shops lit up with twinkly white lights.
Friday the 7th
We spent a lot of time outside, and played with the dogs. Soph and Oscar have become buddies with the dog next door. It's been fun watching then run up and down at the same time on opposite sides of the fence. Buster was a stinker and ran under the bushes, luckily I got him out. My sister started packing and we went to Cracker Barrel for a last dinner.
September Eleventh . . .
Susan Branch

He's quite the charmer, isn't he? He rolled around in the crushed leaves.
Saturday the 8th
On my sister's last day here we called our Mum, then we went for brunch at Bravo! Afterwards we did a little shopping. We came home so she could finish packing and say goodbye to all our pets. They were sad to see her go, especially her roomie Boo, but Sophie was pleased to get her spot on the chair back.

And off she went from the Queen City back home...
Jane Austin
Susan Branch

 ...thanks for visiting and spending time with us.  
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