As we here in California anxiously await cooler weather (daily temperatures are still in the 90’s), some of us are already planning holiday menus! One of my favorite appetizers is a simple-to-make chicken cranberry spread.
I’ve brought this spread to many pot-luck functions over the years, and it continues to get rave reviews and recipe requests. The unique blend of sweetness and saltiness in a cream cheese base is what makes this appetizer so popular.
1 cup chopped toasted almonds
2 cups cooked chicken, chopped fine or about 14 oz. of canned white chicken
16 oz. cream cheese, softened (whipped works best)
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup sweetened dried cranberries
Crackers for serving
In a medium bowl, thoroughly combine almonds, chicken, mayonnaise, salt, and garlic powder. Spoon in the cream cheese and mix well. Add cranberries and mix again until they appear to be evenly distributed. Refrigerate 30 minutes before serving. Serve at room temperature with crackers.
The chicken cranberry spread will make a delicious addition to your holiday table! Bon appétit!
Special thanks to my friend Gerri, for creating this wonderful spread and sharing the original recipe.
The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17, NIV
This verse is part of a passage illustrating God’s promise to Israel about the future reign of her Messiah. It describes a literal time and place in history when Jesus Christ will return to establish his rule over the earth.
And while the literal reading certainly applies to this future event, much of Scripture can also have multiple applications. The imagery of God singing makes the verse a favorite with Christians, and they often apply it personally as a promise to all of those who are or will be part of God’s family.
Most of the time, it is we humans who sing to God, but in this verse it is God who sings to us. That can be a little hard for us to envision. From other verses where we read about shouting and trumpet blasting, we can readily imagine him bellowing out a loud sound, but the prospect of God singing? That is harder for us to picture.
The Hebrew word here is rinna, which can be translated as shout for joy, a creaking or shrill sound, cry, gladness, proclamation, shouting, singing, and triumph. Yes, this word can mean a shout or cry, but it can also literally mean singing, which I think is a good reason to believe that the verse actually does mean singing. So if that is true the next question would be, when God sings over us, what does he sing?
When my siblings and I were young, my Dad used to wake us up on Saturday mornings by coming into our rooms singing silly songs he made up. Now this was certainty not unique to our family. Parents often sing to their little ones, and those without children have been known to sing to their pets! It seems to be an inherent impulse we humans have, to serenade those we love with songs of endearment. These are silly songs, where the words and the tune are made up as we go along. They are also personal, often incorporating the child’s name in a happy melodious tune, full of words that don’t rhyme. These songs are sung within the family unit, as a private bonding activity that speaks of love and affection between parents and children.
As image-bearers of God, it seems natural that we’d imitate him. And if we do imitate him, does that mean he also sings over us in the same manner? It’s one thing to think about him shouting for joy over us, but what if he sings over his children the way we sing over ours? What if that verse means that the God of the universe sings silly happy unrhymed worded songs over us, because he is a father who is crazy in love with his kids?
Is that how God sings over us? I don’t know. But since our image is modeled after his, I wouldn’t doubt if he was making up silly songs long before we were!
We humans love to get our own way. Ever since Adam and Eve decided that their plan was better than God’s plan, it has been our nature to pursue our own desires first. From early childhood, we begin to exert our own will, and learn how to manipulate others into conforming to it.
When my niece was about four years old, she and my sister stayed with me for the weekend. On the morning they were to return home, my sister packed their belongings while Katie sat on the family room floor watching television. I had given her a breakfast tray, some paper and a collection of colored pencils, and she had great fun using them to create her masterpieces. As the last of the toys, clothes, barrettes and errant socks were found and returned to the suitcase, Lori told Katie to gather her drawings together, and return the pencils to Lynnie. Katie replied that she wanted to take the pencils home with her. When I told her that she had to leave them here, Katie paused and then slowly handed over all but three of the pencils, stating, “what if I just take these?” Apparently to her, “no” might mean “maybe” if she could successfully negotiate a deal! It surprised me to see that drive we have to get our own way, so obvious in one so young.
Part of the Christian life is the battle between God’s will and our will. We struggle to obey, when what we want conflicts with what God wants for us. This is especially true when his plans don’t resemble ours in any way.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11, NIV
This verse implies that part of the good plan for us may include some things that we’ll perceive as bad, since God has to point out that his goal is not to harm us.
Many of us enter adulthood with our lives carefully planned out—and then it all goes sideways. What happens when life falls apart and we find ourselves in circumstances we never thought would happen—a life-changing illness, dissolution of a marriage, or the death of a loved one? How do we make peace with the fact that God’s plan may include him allowing events into our lives that cause us pain?
We cry out to God, asking him how this could happen. Confused and hurt, we cannot fathom how our suffering can be God’s will. This part is especially hard for us to understand. When life doesn’t work out as we planned, our will is forced to bend to his will, like it or not. We cannot change the circumstances he allows, but we do have control over how we react to them. It is within our ability to choose to trust that his plan is good, even when we cannot perceive the good right now. James tells us that we are to count it all joy when we suffer.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4, NIV
The best example of this is Jesus himself, who went to the cross willingly on our behalf, knowing exactly what it would cost him.
He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22:41-42, NIV
Jesus surrendered his own will to the will of the Father, because the cross was part of God’s plan.
For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:2b-3, NIV
The example Jesus left for us demonstrates that our suffering is never in vain. God’s plans and thoughts are not for us to fully understand, but we can know about his character. His Word shows that his love for us is vast and his plans for us are good. Ultimately we are left to trust his heart and surrender our will to his.
There is a beautiful ballad by Hillary Scott, which articulates the process of surrendering our will to God, and trusting in his heart when life is difficult.
When our broken heart is part of God’s plan, we can only rely on what we know of his character. Then despite the pain, we can accept that his will is always best for us.
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