Friday, February 28, 2014

Basic Pilaf ---------When Comfort Isn't Godly

You'll make the brown rice and the wild rice separately, mixing them together once they are fully cooked. Have two pots on hand, along with the package directions for each type of rice. All proportions should be based on the package directions.

-Brown rice
-Wild rice
-Broth (chicken or beef)
-Worcestershire sauce
-Soy sauce

1. Read the package directions for both the brown and wild rice. Plan to cook based on a ratio of 1:3. For every portion of wild rice, make three portions of brown.
2. As you follow the package directions for each type of rice, substitute all of the water with broth. Chicken or beef broth (or both mixed together) give the rice a yummy flavor.
3. When you begin to boil the broth and butter according to directions, add a dash of Worcestershire sauce and about a tablespoon of soy sauce to both pots.
4. Stir in the rice and allow to simmer for as long the package instructions say. Be sure not to disturb the rice -it cooks best when left t
o simmer, covered, by itself.
5. When the cooking time is up, use a fork to fluff the rice. Sprinkle in garlic and salt meanwhile. Cover each pot, again, and allow to rest at least five minutes.
6. Finally, stir the two types of rice together, adding dry seasoning as you see fit.

Rice is super easy to freeze and reheat. No thawing time required. Simply scoop rice into freezer safe bags (individual portions are a good choice) and seal, squeezing the air out. Freeze. When you want the rice, open the bag and pop it into microwave for one minute. Flip the bag over, and microwave another minute, or until ready.

Thoughts on Ungodly Comfort

A woman I work with posed an interesting question today. She asked me and a few others around, "do you ever feel like just curling up in a ball and crying for hours?"

The answer, of course, is "yes."

How can you not sometimes feel that way? Maybe curling up and crying isn't the way you express frustration and sadness, but you still feel these things.  

"Yes, of course" isn't the answer I wanted to give her though. Instead there was that oh-so-well-known pause. My subconscious immediately jumped in....make her feel better! Tell her it's okay! Fix it, quick! Be positive and happy! 

My impulse (and I suspect other's have found this in their hearts as well) is not to find out what's going on and step alongside someone in their hurt. Rather, I want to tell others not to feel in ways that are hard. I believe the lie that we aren't supposed to be sad or frustrated. I jump at the chance to "fix" what I immediately assume is broken. 

What an ungodly response I am eager to give. 

Is it Christlike to act like suffering is not part of life? Is it Christlike to react to the troubles of this world as if they are unexpected issues? Is it Christlike to fill in holes as soon as see them, assuming that God didn't dig them out? Is it Christlike to offer comfort without any thought of the Lord?

Certainly offering comfort to others can reflect the love of Christ. But that doesn't automatically make it the Godly option in every situation. Sometimes we are to step alongside someone and listen, demonstrating the Lord's care without asserting ourselves as mini-saviors. 

At times, we have to tell others that they are right to be frustrated and sad: this world is broken and pretending that it isn't sets people up for unrealistic expectations of the world and themselves. 

In other instances, we have to say that we have nothing to offer, except for the hope of Christ. There are also situations in which we don't know what to say -but we can pray.

It's almost funny, honestly, that I'm so quick to want to offer a fix instead of relying on the Lord to provide His response. It's funny because I can't stand it when other people respond to my hurt or struggles as if comfort is all that matters. Some of the people the Lord has used most in my life to lead me and point me to Him are those speak the truth of Jesus' promise in John 16:33:

"In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, for I have overcome the world". 

We live in a broken, fallen world. We can't fix it. It will be difficult. We don't have to pretend otherwise. But we have one hope to rely on and remember in all things: that Christ has won and He is Lord. 

Lord, make me able to exemplify this. Destroy my habit of offering what comes easiest, which ultimately achieves nothing. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Drinking the Word

This is not a recipe for a glass of water. No recipe this time. I don't have anything original or picture worthy at the moment! ...But I have thoughts!

Drinking the Word

Throughout the Bible, we are told to read the Word.

So, in our own modernized fashion, we do. In Western Christian culture, reading the Bible tends to take on a few popular forms. There are, for one, devotionals: bite or snack sized portions of Scripture packed in with reflections, questions, and other modern comforts. Bible study groups, also popular, frequently involve communally reading a book that mentions, discusses, analyses, or studies Scripture. Sunday morning "readings" are carefully selected (hopefully) to fit into the larger message, the sermon. Children's ministries even include the Bible: pick an out-of-context memory verse or an out of context Bible "hero". 

I shouldn't get too down on these things. They aren't wrong. It is not wrong, by any means, to incorporate Scripture into our fellowship, our teachings, our personal relationship with the Lord, or into Children's ever-absorbing minds. But reading the Bible is just that -reading the Bible- and it seems to me that many of us don't do it often.


All extended metaphors break down eventually, but I'm finding this one suitable and helpful lately:

Reading the Word is like drinking water. We need the Bible to hydrate us and nourish us. 

When we don't feel thirsty, we still must take care to drink enough water. When we feel thirsty and crave flavor, we must take care to also consume water. As water nourishes our inner most parts, it enables us to live, to be healed, and to function.

Nothing is pure, refreshing, and satisfying the way water is.  That is how Scripture is to our souls and consequently, to our lives.

Reading the Word, combined with any addition, is like drinking water mixed or diluted with something else. There are some wonderful nutrients found in drinks like juice, which contains water. Further, there are some drinks containing water, like soda, that really aren't very nourishing. Ultimately, whether we drink other things or not, we need water. Just water.


Two things I'll mention that Jesus said about water:

"On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, 'Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.' By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive." John 7:37-38

Jesus answered, 'Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life'.” John 4:13-14

The Spirit is living water, a river built within us, and the Scripture teaches us about this. Christ's teaching is living water, a spring we can drink of and finally be satisfied by. 

Scripture is remarkable -which makes sense, being God-breathed and all. His Word is simple enough for children and for any person who hears it. Yet His Words are also full of a mysterious power, of life, of the ability to provide nourishment of all forms to us throughout our lives. It has remained true, relevant, and authoritative for generations. The Lord's Word is good and it is necessary.

Drink the Word. Not just when you're thirsty, and not just mixed in with other things for more flavor or appeal. Drink the Word alone, and drink it socially. But drink it because the Lord provided it to sustain us for His glory. 

(If you're looking for a place to start in the Bible, find a reference to water. The Lord has long used and provided it!)

Friday, February 14, 2014

Froot Loop Tacos---------What is Love?

In honor of my husband on Valentine's Day, I'm posting his recipe. Though I would never eat it.


Nothing really. Keep it simple, that's how he cooks. : )

-Ground Beef
-Taco Shells
-Taco Seasoning
-Taco Sauce
-Froot Loops

1. Brown ground beef in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in taco seasoning.
2. Meanwhile, heat taco shells in microwave.
3. Finally, assemble tacos to your liking, adding colorful froot loops last.

Enjoy! He swears it's delicious! And I would too...if I liked froot loops, alas.... : )

What is Love?

We know about many characteristics of love, traits like those listed in 1 Cor 13; patience, kindness, humility, etc. We certainly are aware of examples of Biblical love, like that provided in John 3:16. The Bible teaches us much about the actions and consequences of love, as in Romans 13 or John 15, which describe doing no wrong to a neighbor or laying down one's life for a friend as loving. 

But...what is love?

The definition that has most stood out to me is found on page 128 of R.T. France's Commentary on Matthew. He states that love for others "will issue in is not just a sentimental feeling but an earnest desire for their good". 

An earnest desire for their good. What a beautiful phrase. 

Consider what this means. Love is not about how we feel. It is not about how other's feel. To love others is not to please them (in fact, Galatians 1:10 reminds us that our goal is not to please people). Loving people is not about gift giving, intimacy, or even growing in a relationship. 

To love someone is to desire for them that they know and follow the Lord. That is the "good" that we all need, the best a person can do. It is the greatest wish or prayer we can offer for another person. 

This truth is so freeing and so challenging. The requirements of such a love are not what we expect. But then...that is often the case when we cease imposing our worldly definitions on the principles and concepts of the Bible. 

-Love means speaking the truth, even when it is painful, so that we better follow the Lord.

-Love requires us to build others up, even when they've torn us down.

-Love asks us to remove ourselves when we become stumbling blocks, so that others are not dissuaded from the path of righteousness.

-Love keeps us quiet when we want to hand out answers but the Spirit is already responding.

-Love teaches us to pray that others accept His mercy, even when we see clearly that they do not deserve it -we've never deserved it either.

-Love gives us a spirit of forgiveness because it is through forgiveness that Christ enables us to stand before God the judge. 

-Love causes us to do the things, big or small, that don't please us, when another will see or experience the Lord through the process.

-Loves leads us away and leads us to stay depending on the way of the work of the Lord in another's life.

Loves dismisses the question of what we desire for ourselves and commands us to desire instead for others -that they too may have the full assurance of faith and submit to the light, easy burden and yoke of the only master who -indeed- loves us enough that His desire for our good broke the bonds of sin and death forever and for all who will receive His mercy. 

True and absolute love, like that of Christ, surpasses all understanding (Eph 3:19). 
This perfect love of God's is the desire that all will come to know His truth and be saved (1 Tim 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9). 
While we were still His enemies, God desired this for us (Romans 5:8). 

Praise the Lord that, as John says repeatedly in His writings, we can love each other truly. Praise the Lord that, even when we don't and can't seem to feel affection, we can love others. Praise the Lord that, despite our mistakes or the failures of others, our love can be manifested in prayer for other people. Let our desire be that every person we encounter see Jesus as He is. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Almond + Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies-------Quantity and Quality

Prep: Stretch! The dough is thick, if you're stirring by hand it might take a little effort. Preheat the oven to 350 and grease baking sheets. Also, fun fact: almonds are actually fruit.

-1 ½ cup flour
-¾ cup brown sugar
-½ tsp salt
-¼ teaspoon cinnamon
-A dash of nutmeg
-¾ teaspoon baking powder
-¾ cup sugar
-1 tsp vanilla
-1 cup butter
-2 eggs
-2 ½ cups cooking oats
-Crushed Almonds

1. Sift together the flour, brown sugar, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
2. In another bowl, blend together sugar and butter, adding the eggs and vanilla as well.
3. Mix together the dry and wet ingredients.
4. Add cooking oats, folding into the batter.
5. Fold in cranberries and crushed almonds.
6. Drop heaping tablespoons on a greased baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until lightly golden. Allow to rest on sheet two minutes before removing.

Thoughts on Quantity and Quality

Sometimes, in our thoughts and in the decisions we have to make, we come to that scary little question: is this the Lord, or is it...evil?

Do you know the moment? When you're thinking about, perhaps, taking on another project. You're thinking and just cannot grasp whether it is the Lord leading you to do it or Satan tricking you into believing that it's the right time. There are other scenarios, of course.

I've noticed recently that one difference between the Lord and Satan is that evil often pursues quantities while the Lord desires quality.

Consider these simple, juxtaposed examples:

-One bright light illuminates a room. Darkness must be widespread to cover it.
-The Lord speaks of producing "good" fruit. Satan encourages us to produce many fruits.
-The one way is narrow, but right. The pathways to hell are numerous.
-Individual people/families have often been saved, but whole cities destroyed due to evil.
-The apostles sought deep relationships with individuals. False teachers seek the masses.
-God wanted Job to speak rightly of Him. Satan wanted Job to lose everything.
-Joseph's (solitary) faith was invaluable. Ten brothers, together, chose evil against him.
-A single word from Christ could heal. Possessed people usually had many demons.
-One perfect Christ offered salvation to all; millions of people sin.

We so frequently find ourselves making decisions, big and small, based on what will please the most people, earn us the most points, or offer the most benefits. From the time we are children, we learn that weighing risks means counting the cost. Everything has a price in our world. All things revolve around quantity.

A wise man I know has often pointed out that it is in our nature to say "just one more." We never find anything to be enough. And Satan preys on that trait. Satan is all about using things in quantities.

Think about the threats we receive from the evil one: isolation, loss, debt, failure. Little things add up and plague us, and evil whispers the lists over and over in our minds. "You had this happen, and this happen, and then this, and how much more can you take??" We are trapped, overwhelmed, and burdened by all these amounts he imposes on us.

Several weeks ago, I heard a woman on the radio talking about how the Lord pointed out to her that she maintains damaging mental lists. This resonated with me because I do it. I have lists of what went wrong this week, of what I have to  accomplish this month, and I'm constantly adding it all up and counting the cost. Evil works its way in through those lists, making me feel the need to quantify everything to justify anything. 

Philippians 4:8 comes to mind:

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

The Lord does not say to keep a tab on what He did for us, or to keep a tab on what we judge as having gone well. We are not to maintain a checklist of things to do to get right with God. He reminds us of the qualities He values and tells us that those are what matter, that those things are what should consume our thoughts. 

How often evil uses numbers and quantities to ensnare us! Yet God's desire is never for "more". In fact, His response usually concerns "less" and is about character.

Less of you, of me, of worldly lives and desires. The Lord teaches us about qualities that can withstand all the forces of evil. He asks us for our hearts. We are not made to produce as many gifts as we can to sacrifice at the altar. No amount of anything we do or obtain can satisfy God!

In fact, the Lord promises us that we can do nothing of our own accord to earn salvation or righteousness or grace. We don't even have to be concerned with terms like "enough". His grace is sufficient (2 Cor 12:9). He provides all that we need (Matthew 6). He has complete plans (Jer 29). God values genuine faith above all (1 + 2 Peter). The Lord will bring all things to completion, and work them all according to His purposes (Romans 8; Philippians 1). 

All that we need more of is God. And all that requires of us is a change in our quality of self:

"He must increase; but I must decrease". -John 3:30