Thursday, March 29, 2012

E-Sword – A Handy Bible Software

One resource which I recommend for Bible study is E-Sword. It has an easy-to-use format I’ve found helpful in making Bible study easier. It makes it much quicker and easier to find verses and passages for personal Bible study or for preparing sunday school or homeschool Bible lessons.

And best of all, it’s FREE!

The E-Sword download comes with the King James Version and King James with Strong’s numbers. However, you can download multiple other Bible versions for it (many for free and some for a cost). You can download commentaries and dictionaries as well.

Of course, you can simply read the text on screen, but there are a number of other features that make Bible study easier:

·         Its handy search feature allows you to search for words or phrases, which is very helpful in doing a topical study or when you can’t remember where a particular verse is.

·         There a couple of options for comparing different translations. The compare tab allows you to compare a verse between multiple Bible versions. The parallel tab, on the other hand, places chapters from different versions in parallel so that you can compare larger amounts of scripture at once. 

·         You can also make notes on various verses or passages right in the program and save them. This is similar to writing in the margins in your Bible, but without having to worry about making anything hard to read. 

·         In addition, you can have various windows open on the same screen so that in one you view the Scripture, in another view commentary on that passage, in another view Strong’s numbers and their meanings, and in another make your own notes. Each window can also be moved around the screen and the size can be modified.

To download E-Sword for free, click here.


Note: I am not affiliated with E-Sword or its creator in any way and do not receive any money for my recommendations. I simply like to share things that have been helpful to me.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lemon Pepper Chicken Strips - A Quick and Easy Meal

This recipe is one of the absolute easiest and tastiest ways to make chicken. My husband loves these and they only take about 20 minutes to prepare.

You need:

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Olive oil
Lemon pepper seasoning

Trim the chicken breasts to remove any inedible material and cut them into 4-5 strips each. I usually cut them into strips along the grain of the meat.

Place a small amount of olive oil in a skillet (enough to easily cover the bottom). Place the chicken strips in the skillet and sprinkle generously with lemon pepper. Cover the pan with a lid and cook on medium heat.

Here's one chicken breast cut into 5 strips and seasoned. It's hard to see all of the lemon pepper in this picture.


After a minute or two, turn the strips over and sprinkle lemon pepper on the other side. I usually turn them frequently (every 3-4 minutes) as it seems to keep the strips more moist inside. Cook until golden brown on the outside and done inside (about 15-20 minutes).

I usually serve these chicken strips with flavored mashed potatoes and green beans. I like to steam frozen green beans and add a little kosher salt. Sometimes, however, I just open a can and add a little butter and Mrs. Dash to flavor them.

Here is my usual recipe for mashed potatoes (although I sometimes use instant if I’m in a hurry). These take about 25-30 minutes to prepare so I start them first if I’m making the lemon pepper chicken strips.

You need:

3-4 Red potatoes or 2 large Russet potatoes
1/4 to 1/3 cup Butter
1/4 cup Sour cream
Salt
Pepper
Garlic powder
Mrs. Dash original flavor

Wash and peel the potatoes (you don’t have to peel the red potatoes) and cut them into small chunks. Boil them until soft (or steam them). Drain the potatoes and add butter. Mash with a potato masher or fork. Add salt, pepper, a tiny bit of garlic powder, and a sprinkle or two of Mrs. Dash. Add sour cream and mix well. Serve with or without gravy. Makes about 3 servings.

The amounts of all the ingredients can be adjusted to taste. You can omit the sour cream and use milk to thin the potatoes if you prefer. I always add sour cream to mashed potatoes if they aren’t going to have gravy as they have more flavor that way. This recipe makes rather thick and lumpy mashed potatoes. If you prefer thinner ones without chunks, you can add a small amount of milk and use a mixer to smooth them out.
  
Here's the whole meal. Yum!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Inalienable Rights – Part 2: The Source of Inalienable Rights

In Part 1 of this series, I discussed the difference between alienable and inalienable rights. Remember that alienable rights can be given up or transferred while inalienable rights cannot.

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The concept of inalienable rights was developed mainly by John Locke in the 17th century as part of his social contract theory. Locke began his reasoning with what he called a “state of nature” in which there is no government and all the earth and its resources are owned in common by all people. In such a theoretical state, if all resources belong to every person equally, there must be some means of obtaining sole ownership of objects. The food that a person eats is used only by himself. If he eats food that belongs to everyone equally, he has robbed every person on the planet by violating their right to that food item. That doesn’t make sense, so there must be a way to obtain rightful sole ownership of objects. A hungry man must be able to rightfully take and eat food, thus having sole use of that food item, or else he would starve.

Locke said that it was in doing work that an object owned in common comes to belong to only one person. The result of a person’s labor belongs to that person. When a person performs work on something and thereby increases its value, he obtains a “property” in that object. (Note that this is a slightly different use of the word “property” than we use today.) Thus, when a man picks apples, for example, he mixes his work (in picking the apples) with the objects and thus obtains a property in those apples. The gathered apples have greater worth than apples on the tree because they are easier to consume. (An apple in the hand is worth two on the tree…or something like that.) He now has a greater right to those particular apples than anyone else because his labor has been invested in them. The apples are then his private property.

Once private ownership of a particular item has been established, the property that a person has in it (the alienable right to it) can be traded or given to someone else. If anyone wants to consume those apples, they should pay the man who gathered them for his labor by giving him something of value in return. Thus a man who owns apples may trade some of them for nuts owned by someone else or for wood to build a house or for various other objects owned by others. However, it would be wrong for someone else to take, use or destroy the apples without having the property rightfully transferred to them by its owner.

This was the beginning stages of Locke’s logic from which he developed his political theory. This same logic, that the result of a person’s labor belongs to the person, can be applied to God.

God, as the Creator, has invested His work in creating people. He thus has a property in us, giving Him the right to do with us as He pleases. It would be wrong for anyone to use or kill a human being because to do so is to usurp the right that God has to His property. Thus what we see as our inalienable right to life is really God’s right to His property. Such rights cannot be transferred or given up by us because the right to each person is actually owned by God.

Some of the rights that God originally had to us have been given to us by Him. Since God actually owns the rights to us, His right to us is alienable from His perspective and He can grant some of those rights to us. For example, by giving us a free will, God has given us the right to choose what we will do with our time and our labor, thus allowing us liberty. God has also given human beings stewardship over the earth and the various plants and animals that inhabit it. There are a number of implications of these rights that God has granted us that I will discuss in the future.

One thing that is important to note is that inalienable rights – as rights that a person naturally has that cannot be given, taken away, or transferred – can only exist if humans are the work of a Creator. There is no logical basis for such rights in any other scenario.

If there is no creator, if nature is all that there is, there can be no right or wrong; there can be no metaphysical entities such as rights. The only thing that evolution could tell us is that might makes right and that the only thing that matters is to get as much as you can and to survive in whatever way is necessary. If humans have come to exist through eons of slow gradual change as evolution would tell us, how could it be that humans obtained inalienable rights and other branches of the evolutionary tree did not?

Often times, people try to answer various moral and ethical questions by appealing to society. Society, they say, can decide to grant rights or make laws for the good of the group. While this may be true, such “rights” created by society are arbitrary and not inalienable. If society can grant us rights, it can take them away just as easily.

Thus, naturalistic causes cannot be a source of inalienable rights. There is no way that truly inalienable rights can exist unless humans are the product of a Creator.

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In Part 3 of this series, I discuss some of the implications of inalienable rights in society and government.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Being on the Same Team

My husband and I have never had an argument. That’s right. Not once in nearly two years of marriage or the nine months of dating before that. A lot of people will probably think that’s because we never discuss anything serious or because we avoid talking about problems, but that is not the case. We talk about everything and we do sometimes disagree. We just don’t argue about it.

You see, arguing involves two people who not only disagree, but insist on their way. It’s a me against you attitude. And it’s usually rather emotional. Doug and I talked about this before we even got married and decided that we would do our best not to handle disagreements by arguing about them. Instead, we make it point to remember that we are on the same team. The goal is not to get our way or prove that we are right, but to find the best solution together. So we discuss issues rationally and work toward finding the best solution – whether that’s his idea, my idea, or some other solution. Handling problems from the perspective that we are teammates really helps keep us close and minimizes friction between us.

Of course, it helps that we usually see eye to eye on things. And it also helps that we both are the logical, analytical type. Neither of us is likely to fly off the handle or break down in tears. But I’m convinced that having a team mentality can help anyone have a better, less contentious marriage.

The thing to consider, though, is that you can’t remember to think of your spouse as your teammate when problems arise if you don’t during the rest of the time. In other words, it has to be a permanent pattern in your thinking, not just a good intention during times of disagreement.

Part of the reason that Doug and I started thinking and talking about being on the same team was an observation Doug had made years before we ever met. There was a man he knew at work who had been happily married for many years. While the other guys at work would often make jokes or complain about their wives, this man never did. He never called her his “old lady” or made fun of her in public. Instead, he always spoke of her as if she was the best thing that ever happened to him. It was obvious that he loved and respected her. Doug decided then that he wanted a marriage like that.

When we were talking about how things would be in our marriage, Doug brought up this story. It hit me then that it’s easy to get sucked into the “complain about my spouse” habit - especially when everyone around you is doing it. I know when men or women get together and talk and one starts complaining, it can easily degenerate into gossip and complaints. It’s like we want to outdo each other with stories of how bad we have it. It’s almost like talking about someone behind their back is somehow okay if it’s your spouse. But if anyone should be able to count on you to have their back, to stand with them against the world, it should be your spouse.

The other problem with this complaining attitude is that tearing down your spouse to other people also causes you to focus on the negative aspects of your spouse. Everyone has less than perfect attributes, but focusing on them only leads to nitpicking, dissatisfaction, and friction in the marriage. Complaining is corrosive to a marriage. It is far better, for our own sake and that of our marriage, to focus on the positive aspects. And when you start purposely focusing on the ways in which your spouse is wonderful, you get more and more grateful for your relationship.

So, Doug and I make it a point to refrain from complaining about each other, even to other people, and even in jest. My husband is my best friend and I love him. I want him to know that I am on his side, no matter what. We are going to encourage each other and stand by each other when we’re together and also when we’re apart. When others complain about their spouses, I try to turn it around by bragging about my husband. I focus on the positive aspects, not the negative ones. It’s no wonder then, that we are quite happily married. It doesn’t happen by accident. It takes a conscious decision to be, at all times, on the same team.



Coconut Cake

My husband Doug and I both love coconut. When we were planning our wedding, we decided that we wanted the groom's cake to be coconut. However, since coconut is a fairly mild flavor, it can be hard to find a cake recipe that really tastes coconut-y. I tried a couple recipes (with Doug being a very eager taste tester) and came up with this one, which is the one we used.


Cake:

1 box white cake mix (without pudding in the mix)
1 3.5 oz package coconut cream pudding mix
3 eggs
1-1/4 cup milk
1 tsp coconut extract
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut

In a large bowl, stir together cake mix and pudding mix. Add eggs, milk, coconut extract, and butter. Blend thoroughly for 3-5 minutes to give the pudding time to develop. Gently stir in flaked coconut. Pour into greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown on top and done in the center.


Frosting:

1 can white (not vanilla) creamy frosting (not whipped)
1 tsp coconut extract
1-1/2 to 2 cups sweetened flaked coconut

Stir together frosting and coconut extract until thoroughly mixed. Stir in flaked coconut. Spread over cooled cake.


Notes: Cut the cake very carefully or it will tend to tear apart due to the coconut strands catching on the knife. You can chop the coconut finer beforehand if you wish to avoid this problem. If you can't find a cake mix without pudding in the mix, that's fine. It will just be a little more dense and moist. You can also substitute any creamy homemade frosting, omit the vanilla, and add the coconut extract and flaked coconut.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Inalienable Rights – Part 1: What are Inalienable Rights?

A Republic, such as we have in the United States, is a government that governs by the rule of law, the highest purpose of which is the protection of inalienable rights*. The laws are set by the people, by means of their representatives. Society must necessarily make laws that do the most good for the most people. However, those laws must not violate the inalienable rights of any person or they are not just.

So, what are inalienable rights? And how does one obtain them?

Inalienable rights are those rights that people have by virtue of being human and they cannot be rightfully given up or taken away. As developed by John Locke and used in the Declaration of Independence, inalienable rights are the direct result of human creation by God. Just as we gain rights to those things we create, God, as our Creator, has rights to us. Some rights have been granted to us, but some rights God retains. From our perspective, these rights that God retains are seen as inalienable rights. Such rights cannot be given up, taken away, or transferred by us because they do not belong to us, but to God.

Inalienable rights include:

·         The right to life (the most fundamental right)
·         The right to liberty, and
·         The right to own property (notice that this is not the right to use any particular property, but the right to own property in general).

These three are among the most basic inalienable rights. Other inalienable rights such as the right to bear arms, the right to a fair trial, and freedom of speech and religion are mentioned in the Bill of Rights. Note, however, that not all inalienable rights are listed in the Bill of Rights (nor was the document intended to be a comprehensive listing).

In order to better understand inalienable rights, it is helpful to contrast them with alienable rights.

Alienable rights are rights that can be transferred to another person or given up. For instance, the right to any particular property such as a car or house is an alienable right and can be transferred to another person or given up.

The implications of the inalienable rights concept are profound and far reaching. This concept provides logical rationale for many of our laws. For instance, the concept of inalienable rights means that I cannot rightfully kill another person (or even myself) because to do so would be destroying God’s property. Thus murder and suicide are both wrong and illegal. Similarly, I cannot rightfully enslave another person (taking away their liberty), nor can I sell myself into slavery. Thus slavery is illegal.

*Inalienable rights are also known as unalienable rights. See Part 5 of this series for more information.

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In Part 2 of this series, I discuss the rationale for inalienable rights and explain why inalienable rights can only come from a Creator.