Saturday, May 17, 2008

I've never really liked coffee, but I get the point

My brother passed along this story about how we respond when we're faced with adversity. I thought it was appropriate for what we've been looking at in the posts on suffering and grief. Let's all try to be a little more coffee-like...or maybe I could change it to tea...hmmm...

Carrot, Egg, or Coffee

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil; without saying a word.

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, 'Tell me what you see.'

'Carrots, eggs, and coffee,' she replied.

Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard boiled egg. Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma. The daughter then asked, 'What does it mean?'

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

'Which are you?' she asked her daughter. 'When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart?

Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you.

How do you handle adversity?
Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

Sweet stuff

How sweet is this?

HT: girltalk

Recipe Swap

It's not exactly a secret that Texans love Tex-Mex food. But recreating that at home is a challenge. That's why I was thrilled when my mom-in-law gave me a cookbook by Matt Martinez. His family runs one of the best Mexican food places in Austin, Matt's El Rancho. In fact his family began the first Mexican food restaurant in Austin in 1925. And they cater the press box during the Longhorn's home games. So, they know what they're doing.

Or so I thought when I frantically flipped through the cookbook to see how they make their Queso. Surely not. Cornstarch? Kraft American cheese? Are you kidding me?? But I jumped in and got it together...called my husband in and asked him to give it a taste. We loved it and so does everyone else we serve it to. We do it over tacos, chicken enchiladas, salads...whatever comes to mind. Provided, that is, that we can keep each other from eating it all before dinner.

Good news is that we always have the ingredients on hand. Bad news for my diet...we always have the ingredients on hand. By the way, this isn't even my favorite thing from the cookbook! Wait until you taste the guacamole! Enjoy!

Matt's Chile con Queso

1 Tbsp oil
1/2 c finely chopped sweet onion
1/2 c finely chopped bell pepper or jalepeno
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp granulated garlic
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 cup chicken broth or water
8 oz Kraft American cheese
1 c chopped tomatoes

Using a thick pot, heat the oil and saute the onion and peppers until onion is soft. Add the dry ingredients and saute for 1-2 minutes more. Mix the cornstarch in the broth and add to onions and peppers. Stir until really thick. Add cheese and stir until melted. Stir in tomatoes. Adjust thickness to your liking by adding more broth to make it thinner or cheese to make it thicker.

Notes: We never make this little of a batch! I usually double it at least if we're making enchiladas...triple if we want it with chips, too. We also like it much spicier so I use 1 whole jalepeno with seeds and one more without seeds.

8oz is about 12 slices of cheese.

For those of you who don't know, use gloves when seeding a jalepeno. The chemicals can really make your fingers burn.

When I first made it and it began thickening up, I really thought I was ruining it. Just keep going!

Friday, May 16, 2008

If God gives you time

I'm really glad that God gave me time to put this together earlier this week because our youngest is ill and now I really don't have time for any of the stuff listed here! But maybe your weekend looks a little less hectic!

Just to start...I'm writing a study for the fall on the book of Colossians. I have been thinking a lot about chapter 1 and I love these verses. How good it is that God holds everything together in my life. Colossians 1:15-20...
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

And I love how this video of Louie Giglio highlights this Colossians truth:

Prince Caspian opens today! Click here to see clips and movies times for your area. But for those of you who loves movies, it looks like there are some other good ones coming out this summer. This guy gives the round-up plus his two second take.

If you are like me, you think that times of rest are really when you will be able to get away and be with God. You picture endless quiet times...good books read...peaceful praying. Unfortunately for me, my flesh usually comes with me. That means that the very thing I want to do? Can't seem to get that done. But the thing I wish I would never do again? That I manage to accomplish. (If that sounds familiar, you've probably read this.) There's someone else out there in cyberworld who is apparently a lot like me or at least knows that I exist because he's written an excellent post called How not to waste your summer. Check it out.

C. J. Mahaney has finished up his series on modesty. Yes. I know I've posted about it each of the last two weeks! But this week, he's added discussion questions for us to check our hearts and to use when talking about this with our daughters. Good stuff to consider especially if your daughter is headed to the teen years. You can also pre-order the book that this chapter was taken from, "Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World", for just under $13 with shipping by going here and using the coupon code: 8SG1.

One of my favorite sites is The Theology Program which is brought to us by Reclaiming the Mind ministries. They have great online classes. This week I discovered a great little link to use when studying Scripture and theology gets over my head. Check out their word of the day.

Finally, I've been thinking and writing about grief this week. As we think about God and our suffering, consider this great quote...
It is the cross that gives God his credibility. The only God I believe in is the one Nietzsche (the nineteenth-century German philosopher) ridiculed as ‘God on the cross.’ In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?

The crucified one is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us, dying in our place in order that we might be forgiven. Our sufferings become more manageable in light of his. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross, which symbolizes divine suffering.”

- John Stott, Why I Am a Christian, 63

Thursday, May 15, 2008

There's seeing and then there's seeing

Behold your God - Part 2

Why would God say to Israel those three simple words: Behold your God? How are they supposed to help us when things are spinning out of control? are they supposed to give me comfort? Wouldn't it be better for God to talk about the situation more than Himself? Shouldn't He says words like: It'll be okay. I'm fixing this. It'll only be for a little while. I'll add this here. I'll bring you this person. Or even...I'm sorry. You'll be happy again...Promise.

That's what I've often done when I want to give comfort to my girls. I say how sorry I am. How I wish this hadn't happened to them. That it will be better soon. That God will do this or that for them. That they'll see one day. But that's not what God does. When He offers comfort, what He offers is Himself. Before we get into what specifically He wants us to see about Him, let's look at why He'd do this.

The best analogy I've ever heard came from a talk that John Piper did at a Desiring God national conference called Sex and the Supremacy of Christ. (Tantalizing title, huh? Yeah. You would be so blessed to listen to the whole thing.) In his second talk, he began by saying what he desired for us all...

My conviction is that the better you know the supremacy of Christ the more sacred and satisfying and Christ-exalting your sexuality will be. I have a picture in my mind of the majesty of Christ like the sun at the center of the solar system of your life. The massive sun, 333,000 times the mass of the earth, holds all the planets in orbit, even little Pluto, 3.6 billion miles away.

So it is with the supremacy of Christ in your life. All the planets of your life—your sexuality and desires, your commitments and beliefs, your aspirations and dreams, your attitudes and convictions, your habits and disciplines, your solitude and relationships, your labor and leisure, your thinking and feeling—all the planets of your life are held in orbit by the greatness and gravity and blazing brightness of the supremacy of Jesus Christ at the center of your life. And if he ceases to be the bright, blazing, satisfying beauty at the center of your life, the planets will fly into confusion, and a hundred things will be out of control, and sooner or later they will crash into destruction.

We were made to see and savor with everlasting satisfaction the supremacy of Christ.
This analogy sparked my understanding. I could really picture the fallacy of how I had been living my life. What I did when my parenting seemed to go off course was focus on my books on parenting...prayed about parenting...talked to others who seemed to be getting it "right". When my goals or dreams when askew, I focused my energy on my plans. I thought about where I was going, what God was doing in my life and in me, talked to others about my plans. When bitterness or anger or grief overwhelmed me, I focused on trying to forgive them. Or forgetting the past. Or counting it as get the picture. Whatever was going wrong became my new focus, my new work to be better.

But what would it mean if Pluto began to wobble off course? What if Mars began to go farther and farther away from the earth and threatened to hit Jupiter? How would we "fix" it? The answer would not be to send up little rockets to try to fix Pluto's orbit. It would not be to wonder about Mars...because the problem would not lie there. The problem would be with the Sun. If our planets go off course, it's because the Sun has lost some of its power, its magnitude, its supremacy over the planets. Our focus turns to the center of the solar system because that's what holds everything in place.

Our lives also have something that holds everything in place...Jesus Christ. Colossians 1:15-17 tells us about Jesus...
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
All things hold together in Him. I see this verse...I believe this verse. But sometimes like Jesus said about many around Him: Seeing, I don't see...and hearing, I don't hear. It is so hard for me to focus on what is truly the issue at hand (how I see God) and not on the situation that is causing me so much pain and trouble. But when that happens I ignore the only true source of help in my time of need. As Dr. Piper points out later in his talk, this doesn't mean that you don't use strategies to help you, such as fleeing temptation or calling others for counsel or even reading good books. But what it doesn't mean is counting on these things to get my life back on track.

What I really need is to behold my see the supremacy of
His power,
His majesty,
His mercy,
His compassion,
His might,
His glory,
His weightiness,
His love,
His wisdom,
His authority,
His trustworthiness,
His constancy,
His grace...

I need to see Him in His fullness. If I could, I could walk on water even in a storm. I could rest my soul, even when I am burdened. I could be at peace, even when I am troubled. Easier said than done sometimes when I am overwhelmed. But now I have a focus. After lots of practice, my heart and mind turn to God more readily as I ask Him again and again...God, who are You here? What kind of God do I know You to be? How are You feeling about this? How confident are You about where it's all going? And then I listen to His Word (esp. Isaiah 40-42 and 50-55) tell me the answer. And then I say it again and again...and listen a little more the next time.

Then slowly...sometimes begrudgingly...sometimes heart settles. Peace returns. Grief may linger. Sadness sometimes stays. But like a child soothed on her dad's lap, my breath finally catches and I sink in.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Behold Your God

It's become a joke with the women around me that I can link anything back to the book of Isaiah. I love that book. And within that book, I especially love chapters 40-66. It's a section of hope and promise...chapter after chapter of the LORD declaring who He is, especially who He is for His people. But it's important to keep in mind that for those hearing it the first time, they wouldn't necessarily have heard it as good news.

Isaiah was writing about the future...He had just spent 39 chapters telling them what was wrong with their hearts and what was about to happen...that God is going to send His people into exile. They would lose their homes, their loved ones, their country. (On a side note: It's telling that the last story of chapter 39 is about Hezekiah learning that the kingdom was going to fall soon to Babylon and indeed nothing that is in the king's house will be left. The Babylonians will take it all, including Hezekiah's sons who will be in power then. Hezekiah's response to this? That's good news. WHAT? Yep. He thought it was a good word. Why? The Bible tells us in vs. 8 that Hezekiah said to himself: At least there will be peace and security while I'm still alive. He didn't even care about what will happen to his own children. Tragic.)

Then in chapter 40, God uses Isaiah to offer hope, but they don't do a great job of hearing it. The basic message is this: Though I'm about to destroy you, I will once again build you back up. Though you have transgressed against me, I will redeem you for My Name's sake. Rather than having His words bring them to repentance and remind them of their faithful, covenant God, the people remain as they were...hard-hearted, stubborn, faithless. It's like taking your child to the doctor and telling them that they are going to have to get a shot. I'm sure that you, like me, keep saying things after that sentence. Things like: It will only hurt for a short while. It's necessary because you're sick. It's to make sure that you stay healthy. It will protect you. It's going to be okay. But it's like they can't hear you. Their face stays set in fear and their eyes swim with tears, no matter how many words you say. That's what happens to us when God says: Here's a hard thing, but I will bring you through it. We stay focused on what's happening to us.

But God loves us and desires to comfort us, to help us through these times of loss. He wants Barry to hear Him in this time of loss. He desires to comfort Cecelia as she mourns her husband. He loves Sandy and wants her to hear Him. They aren't like the nation of Israel. They aren't being punished and being carried off into exile. But they can identify with the loss...and the message of comfort remains the same. What does He give them though? What message is He trying to get to us when hard times come? What are the words that He wants us to hear? The words that if we could hear His voice would bring us comfort?

The answer may surprise you. I'll give you a hint before I write here. He begins the passage with His desire to comfort, but it takes God 9 verses before the actual words of comfort begin. Three little words to hold on to...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

ESV Update

I just got an email today from the folks who are doing the ESV study Bible. I didn't realize that their pre-sale of 35% off ends Thursday (May 15th)! That puts the hardcover one at about $33 and the leather ones at just under $50. (Instead of $50 and $75) Of course, you can always opt for the "premium calfskin" for a mere $155! A steal considering that it was originally $240!! As my mom and sister, professional shoppers, would tell you: It's not what you's what you save.

You can also download and read the introduction to the book of Luke by Wayne Grudem.

Have I mentioned how much I love Grudem?? As you can see in the sidebar, he's a favorite of mine to listen to. I also highly, highly recommend his Bible Doctrine book. Also, he's put together a book called Christian Beliefs which is simply Bible Doctrine for younger believers. It's a great primer on foundational beliefs. Cassie and two of her best friends are meeting together to go through it.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Hopeful grieving

Cecelia's husband...
Barry's dad...
Barbara's mom...
All died this week.
Sandy's mom...
Andrea's baby...
Jenny's husband...
All grieved for this past weekend.

This was a hard week for so many who lost people they loved...especially if the loss was of a mom or of a child. It was also a hard week for those who sat and remembered those they loved whether they lost them in the past year or years and years ago. I know as you read this, you could add to the list above.

It was an especially hard day for Cecelia who buried her husband today. We grieve with her but not, as we were reminded at the funeral, as those who have no hope. We have hope because Charlie loved Jesus. We have hope because Cecelia loves Jesus. But most of all, we have hope because Jesus triumphed over death and his promises are sure. One day He will return for us. We will rise again. And one day, we will be with Him in glory. We won't cry anymore. We won't feel this shattering loss. We won't grab our hearts when the ache threatens to overwhelm.

But until that day, what can we do for those who feel their loss so keenly? The answer is simpler than we can imagine and harder to do than any of us would like to admit. We have to stay with them. Keep them in mind. Think about them. Imagine what it's like today to be where they are. What's so hard about that?

It's hard because part of our curse is that we don't sustain the right emotions for long. (Though I find it quite easy to sustain the wrong ones!) We want to love the LORD with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. We want to delight in Christ every day. We want to rejoice in the Lord always. We want to not be afraid, to be strong and courageous. And we make a start, don't we? But we can't hang on for long. We have to go again and again to God, depending on Him to finish in us what He Himself began. Looking again to Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, who did what we can't...stayed focused on God. We look only to His perfection and confess again and again our failure.

So, it's not really a surprise that often we don't comfort well. Paul wrote to us in 2 Corinthians 1 to remind us that the reason we ourselves have been comforted is for it to be passed along. In verses 3-6, he writes...
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.
If we've been through anything, it was to get us ready to comfort others. So, what's the down-to-earth way to do that? Well, a woman named Molly Piper is helping us all along. Just months ago, she lost her baby days before she was to give birth. She's written a series of posts that share with us all what we can do to help a grieving friend. Click the link above to see the first one. At the end of that, you'll see a list of writings on this subject that you can click on. I think that all of us who have walked this path would agree with what you'll see there.

Then get busy. Call someone and put into practice what you've read there. Make a meal. Write a card. Do something. Anything that let's them know they are not alone...that we, the body of Christ, see them. We stand with them. Their pain moves us. Like Jesus, we weep for no other reason than they are weeping.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Memories of Mama

Mother's Day thoughts Part 5

We have all had that moment, haven't we? When we flopped into our rooms, slammed ourselves down on our beds and said those fateful words: When I grow up, I'll never _______ ...words that reverberate over and over in us after we have kids...finally to be repented of completely when those kids become teenagers.

Consider this post the opposite of that temper tantrum. These are some of the things I remember about my mom. But whether by DNA or temperament, or simply because the way we live life has changed, most of this list of things will not be a part of the legacy I leave my girls! But they are things that I treasure when I think of my mom.
  • Hearing the on again, off again hum of the Kenmore sewing machine at night while I drifted off to sleep.
  • Watching her sew tiny, tiny arms on outfits for my Barbies...just like the ones in the store. No, even better, because sometimes they matched my clothes!
  • Making snow ice cream shortly after the first flakes of winter fell.
  • Hanging up laundry on the line and running through the sheets. Knowing from the look on her face, she really didn't want me to do it, but smiling at the fun I was having.
  • Holding the hymnal while her finger ran across the words.
  • Feeling her stroke my hair as I lay on the pew with my head in her lap.
  • Hearing those hymns again and again as she softly sang while she worked.
  • Watching her hands, strong and sure, as she planted in the garden.
  • Watching her face as the day's cares washed away as she watered each night.
  • Grinning, half embarrassed, half delighted, as I watch her enter a room bopping and swaying to some tune in her head.
  • The girl-like grin that crossed her face when I told her that "nobody" called today.
  • The smell of cookies and the sight of all the sprinkles and candy beads on the kitchen counters at Christmas time.
  • The look on her face anytime she thought about Christmas!
  • The soft slide of yarn as she crocheted everything from blankets to pot holders to stockings to shoes.
  • Seeking out her face in the crowd from the stage...feeling so proud in my bright, new dress that she made just for me.
  • Finally finding her eyes and watching her smile get a little larger at me.
  • The sureness of her hand in mine as we would walk across the busy street to get my brother from school.
  • The bone-deep certainty I have always had in knowing I was hers...I was loved...I was home when I was with her.
My girls may not ever try on those crocheted slippers to see if they fit, or wear a dress I've labored over at night while they slept, or hand me clothes pins to secure the sheets on the line...but I pray the last one will be as true for them as it is for me.

How deep the Father's love for me, to give me my mama.
I love you, Mama.
Happy Mother's Day.