Book Review-Next Level Thinking” by Joel Osteen.

A few days ago, I felt to get out a book that Sara had written for a Daily Lily annual retreat that I and others that participate on this website attended in 2008. The Work book is titled, “The Four Bees of Giftings – Finding Your Spiritual Gifts”. The reason for re-studying this was prompted by a gift that I received for Christmas from Tammy M, “Next Level Thinking” by Joel Osteen. As I read Joel’s latest book, it jogged my memory about many similar things I had studied in Sara’s book. So, I began to study both books concurrently and found many parallels, some of which I would like to share related to our gifts.

Both authors agree that we need to be finding and using our unique gifts. And both emphasize that in order to do this we must not compare ourselves with someone else. Joel states, “Be who God created you to be. You are an original. You have something to offer the world that nobody else has. Let your gifts shine.” Sara writes, “You are unique, there is not another you. Your gifts live and die with you. If you don’t develop them, they will not be used.”

Joel contends that in order to accomplish this, we must leave behind negative mind sets and move up into “next-level thinking”; Sara puts it this way, “You can accomplish much more than you think if you reframe your thinking.”

The authors said that one of the biggest hindrances to being ourselves, happy with who we are and with our gifts is jealousy. Sara warns us: “There should be no jealousy of one another’s gifts because that would be a block to your own. If you see someone else writing a book you wanted to write, got published before you got to be published, encourage them, exhort them…because you are watering your own gift to come forth when you recognize and exhort and encourage another. When you feel happy, joyful about another’s gifts your gift will shine.” Joel admonishes us saying, “Don’t get distracted trying to keep up with someone whom you were never supposed to keep up with. When you understand you are fully loaded for the race that’s been designed for you, instead of competing with people, you’ll celebrate them. The right attitude is: They may have something that I don’t, but that’s ok. I’m not running their race. I’m equipped for my destiny.” And he uses the biblical illustration of Saul’s jealousy toward David and says Saul, “didn’t realize they weren’t in the same race. He wasn’t competing with David. If Saul had been happy for David, he wouldn’t have missed his destiny.”

These examples were a couple of highlights that I hope will encourage you as they have me. I found thinking on and comparing the same biblical truths written in two different styles/ways by two different authors to be very helpful.

Debi and Tammy M

Chocolate Zucchini Cake by Debi

It’s zucchini squash time in the garden and I have been utilizing the zucchini from my garden in different ways. Sara gave me the idea to try to make chocolate zucchini cake the other day and searched for a recipe for me. I settled on the one below which sounded very similar to what she found. Instead of a two-layer cake, I made a 9” x 13” sheet cake in a glass pan; omitted the optional espresso powder; used canola oil and dark brown sugar; sour cream instead of yogurt; and iced with the milk chocolate icing suggested in recipe link.

If you like chocolate like I do, I think you will like this cake.


·         2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)

·         3/4 cup (63g) unsweetened natural cocoa powder

·         2 teaspoons baking soda

·         1/2 teaspoon baking powder

·         1 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)

·         1/2 teaspoon salt

·         1 cup (240ml) canola or vegetable oil

·         1 cup (200g) granulated sugar

·         3/4 cup (150g) packed light or dark brown sugar

·         4 large eggs, at room temperature

·         1/3 cup (80g) sour cream or plain yogurt, at room temperature

·         2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

·         3 cups shredded zucchini (about 3 medium)*

·         1 cup (180g) semi-sweet chocolate chips

·         chocolate frosting or vanilla frosting


• Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease two 9×2 inch cake pans. (Make sure they’re at least 2 inches high, deep dish style.) Set aside.

• Make the cake: Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, espresso powder (if using), and salt together in a large bowl. In another large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the oil, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, sour cream, vanilla, and zucchini together until combined. Pour into dry ingredients and beat on medium speed until completely combined. Beat in the chocolate chips. Batter will be slightly thick.

• Pour batter evenly into cake pans. Bake for around 25-32 minutes or until the cakes are baked through. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it is done. Allow cakes to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. The cakes must be completely cool before frosting and assembling.

For pictures and complete directions visit the link below:

Book Discussion on Afterlife

“How Close Are We to Those Who Have Died?”

In her book titled “Beyond Death”, Flora Slosson Wuellner writes about contact with those who have died as opposed to “a total separation from loved ones still on earth” in the chapter, “How Close Are We to Those Who Have Died?” She discusses both healthy and unhealthy contacts and says “we judge the health of our beyond-death contacts the same way we discern whether our earthly contacts and relationships are healthy: do we feel free or controlled? Are we growing in loving outreach to others around us? Is our daily life still interesting? Do our usual activities give us energy? Do we make independent choices and explore options? Or do we feel a growing dependence, addictiveness?” She goes on to advise that “some after-death contacts should be discouraged, just as some types of earthly relationships should be discouraged.”

Wuellner gives an example of a grandfather of one of her life-long friends that died but didn’t want to enter his next life. He wanted to stay “earthbound” because in life he had “maintained iron control” over his family that he had pulled out of poverty and feared losing what he had gained. He wanted to do the same in death so he came to his granddaughter one night very angry that no one listened to him anymore and he wanted something done about it! The unafraid granddaughter “of great spiritual strength and insight” spoke to him lovingly but firmly and explained that though “they admired him for the many good things he had done for the family…it was time for him to move on…that Christ awaited him, friends awaited him, and that all he had to do was to turn toward the Light.” He was told to leave and not come back complaining because she needed to sleep! “He left sulkily”. Then she prayed for him and slept. Many years later he returned with a peaceful face and then never tried to make contact again.

In another incident, an ex-husband (who in life had “remained in friendly contact for the sake of his daughter”) came back and everyone from the daughter to the dog saw him. Apparently, he wasn’t angry or controlling but “had no wish to explore new options”. He wanted no part of life after death. He wanted to stay on earth where things were familiar and had “no special desire to come closer to God.” Wuellner’s friend knew this was not healthy …” his visits were disrupting their daily lives. Friends, understandably, stopped coming to his house.’” So, this friend got her prayer group to pray; “surrounded herself with God’s love and light”; and told her former husband very firmly to stop the visits, “turn to God’s Light and move on. There he would find family and friends who had died earlier. They awaited him and would welcome him to a better, happier life.” Even after assuring him he needed to go and grow, he tried to return many times.  She learned to be “very tough with him”; told him to go into the Light; don’t fear; God is with you holding your hand; we are praying for you.

Wuellner explains that these were not demonic encounters but just ‘childish, earthbound souls clinging to what they were used to, wanting people to notice and listen to them. They would not let go, release.” She says they had to be dealt with just like a clinging neighbor on earth who visits or calls too much, always needing reassurance or talking trivia. She sums it up by saying: “The fact that people had died makes no difference in the way they needed to be encountered: with lots of tough love and firmly set boundaries.”

Spring Garden Sale

Winter did not want to let go in Northern Virginia this year, but it seems spring is finally here. There is a great place to enjoy its beauty at the annual Spring Plant Sale at Monroe Technology Center in Leesburg, Virginia. You will experience beauty in color and fragrance from hundreds of annuals, perennials, aquatic plants, trees, shrubs, herbs, fruits, vegetables and hanging baskets.

Be sure to visit our new “Wellness Center” where you can find many items to help you look and feel healthy with laughter. We are offering;

Aromatic soaps, donated by Tammy Mar, and custom made 3D soap holders by Chris Mar to protect your soap for health and longevity. Chris has also brought back his popular and best selling, Pokémon, bulbasaur holders for our air plants with a few new designs added for joy. We are offering companion essential oils and aromatherapy plants to partner with our soaps and holders.

So, come and enjoy! Students and volunteers will be ready to help you wearing purple T-shirts by Custom Ink. Check out our new Bulletin Board on your way in or out to get to know friends of our community. Looking forward to seeing our return friends and meeting new. Please look for Debi and introduce yourself.

Sale days and times are Wednesday, April 25 from 10-8pm; Thursday, April 26 from 10-6pm; and Friday, April 27 from 10-5pm.

Monroe Technology Center is located at 715 Childrens Center Rd, SW in Leesburg, VA.

Photos by DC Wedding Photographer Emily Clack

Beatitudes-Matthew 5

girl student reading in library clipart
I, with some others, are going to be studying a book titled, “Forgiveness, the Passionate Journey” by Flora Slosson Wuellner. It is on the Beatitudes.

I have been reading chapter two, “Facing Our Hurt, Naming Our Need” on the first beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:2-3. The author gives us a more accurate translation of this scripture that she found from the root meanings: “Blessed are those who recognize their total need of God.”

In laying the framework for healthy forgiveness, Wuellner tells us that there are four questions we need to honestly ask “within the presence of God’s love: (1) What happened? 2) Who is responsible? (3) How do I feel about what happened? (4)What is my need right now?”

One thing I have gotten out of this chapter so far is that I have to be able to clearly name what happened in order to experience change. That is not easy and I am having to work on it.

The author ends the chapter by leading us in a meditation designed to help us enter and grow in the healing process. Even without Wuellner’s book, one can take on the study of the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5 from The NT. I think it is a good way to start 2018.

Link to Amazon for book if anyone is interested.

Christmas Sale-Poinsettias

Poinsettias are ready and showing their colors for the annual Monroe Technology Center’s Christmas Sale. Wreaths, pine roping and fresh floral arrangements are also available for your decorating needs along with other seasonal plants such as amaryllis and Christmas cactus.Stop in and enjoy complementary cookies and cider made by the Culinary Arts department or purchase some of their fresh pizza rolls. All plant sale profits support student scholarships.

If you are in the Leesburg, Virginia area please visit us. Dates and hours are November 29, 10-7pm; November 30, 10-5pm; and December 1, 10-4pm.