Saturday, March 30, 2013

This Easter Vigil

Holy Week.
Spring break.

The children are home and home is full of the life of children.

Yet even in this midst of great gifts, my old enemy fell heavy upon me, and my strength failed.
My heart turned in upon itself and my own selfishness threatened to consume me.

My sins can overtake me so quickly. 
It’s shocking, how near I am to destroying with my own hands all that which I hold dear.

 And yet, His love for me was not shaken even then.
I may be shaken, but His love is not.

Days passed with the weight heavy about my ankles, with me using my strength to cling to the side of the pit.

Then suddenly, it lifted.  
Inexplicable mercy.

The sun feels like spring sun, and I am outstretched beneath it.
On the picnic table at the park,
Arms splayed, face turned toward the sun--  I receive.

Who am I
That I should live and he should die?
My God my God
Beneath the rod
Why have you not forsaken me?
Oh, taste and see- the Lord is free

Is this my cruciform life, here in the sun?
How can it be that I receive such grace as that moment?

His body given for me.
And the altar is stripped, as He was stripped of all things.

And I shall be stripped- of loved ones, of health, of life itself.
But I shall still have Jesus.  
Jesus has me.

I think on our dear pastor whose course is now run.
Stripped of all things, and yet he still has Jesus. 
Jesus still has him.

And I sit under children remembering the cross, and my big-hearted soft-hearted son burrows into me and says “I hate good Friday. I wish we could just skip to Easter.”

But we have a funeral to go to yet, dear son.
Just a little more sadness.

We wait.
I will wait with you.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

sad and beautiful

It's Holy Week, and I have the same problem I always have. My body doesn't like to be still, and my vocation rarely allows it to be still anyway. Yes, I try to sit and listen or read. I know that it is good and important. But sitting often leads to... well, falling asleep.

But behold! There is a way to be fed on the move!  
I call it scarfing, and I'm trying to do lots of it this week in honor of Holy Week.

I just finished listening to this podcast on the following hymn and I had to pass it on to you. What a rich and sad and beautiful hymn- what a rich and sad and beautiful and gracious Savior we have.

You may also want to visit the Issues, Etc archives for more great Holy Week topics.
Listen live here every day.

photo credit

 "Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted"
 by Thomas Kelly, 1769-1854                        

        1. Stricken, smitten, and afflicted,
        See Him dying on the tree!
        'Tis the Christ by man rejected;
        Yes, my soul, 'tis He! 'tis He!
        'Tis the long-expected Prophet,
        David's Son, yet David's Lord;
        Proofs I see sufficient of it:
        'Tis the true and faithful Word.

        2. Tell me, ye who hear Him groaning,
        Was there ever grief like His?
        Friends through fear His cause disowning,
        Foes insulting His distress;
        Many hands were raised to wound Him,
        None would interpose to save;
        But the deepest stroke that pierced Him
        Was the stroke that Justice gave.

        3. Ye who think of sin but lightly
        Nor suppose the evil great
        Here may view its nature rightly,
        Here its guilt may estimate.
        Mark the Sacrifice appointed,
        See who bears the awful load;
        'Tis the WORD, the LORD'S ANOINTED,
        Son of Man and Son of God.

        4. Here we have a firm foundation;
        Here the refuge of the lost;
        Christ's the Rock of our salvation,
        His the name of which we boast.
        Lamb of God, for sinners wounded,
        Sacrifice to cancel guilt!
        None shall ever be confounded
        Who on Him their hope have built.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sermon, recommended

Listen to this Passion Sunday Sermon by Pastor Cwirla.

Listen Here

Why is the cross so offensive?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Weekly Challenge: Put Your Body in its Place

I notice in myself a tendency to worry too much about the things of the body.  Health is important, but it’s doesn't deserve first place in my heart or my mind.

Whether I am on or off the wagon, dealing with health or any other issue, my tendency is to focus on myself, on what I should do or not do. It’s about my work, my standards, my awesomeness (or lack thereof.)

I keep a steady pace on the treadmill of my own efforts.  Yet my body, my life, are connected to my spirit and my Church, and this week, they are to be swept up in Holy Week.  This week, we remember the events that changed everything.

The things of the body, they are not the most important things. 

Join me, this week, as we fix our eyes on Jesus. Read this excellent Holy Week Letter.

Weekly Challenge
Put your body in its place.

Father, thank you for the gift of my body. Thank you for legs that run and a mouth that is learning to enjoy healthy food. Father, forgive me for obsessing too much about these things.  Forgive me when I allow the things of this world to crowd out the Important Things. You. Your Word.
Father, this week, draw me, body and soul, deeper into Your care. Open my ears to hear Your Word. Teach my eyes to look to You, to read Your Word, to study and to grow.  Turn my heart from sin and teach it to love what is good. 
As my body struggles through this dying world, may my heart take courage as I consider His body, His blood, shed for me.

Don't forget to read Pastor Esget's Holy Week Letter.

Friday, March 22, 2013

If you knew...

Remember the story in the Imitation, how the Christ on the crucifix suddenly spoke 
to the monk who was so anxious about his salvation and said 
“If you knew that all was well, what would you, today, do, or stop doing?”

When you have found the answer, do it or stop doing it. 
You see, one must always get back to the practical and definite. 
What the devil loves is that vague cloud of unspecified guilt feeling 
or unspecified virtue 
by which he lures us into despair or presumption.
(From CS Lewis, Letters to an American Lady, July 21st, 1958)

If you knew that all was well, what would you, today, do, or stop doing?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

All of your strength.

 The story is told of a dad who asked his young son to lift a very heavy object, a weight far beyond the little boy’s capacity. The object would not budge. 
“Try again, son.” The boy tried again with no success. “Son, you are not using all your strength.” The boy tried again, but still the object would not move. “Son, you’re still not using all your strength!”
“Oh, Daddy, Daddy, I’m trying,” grunted the boy as he strained at the immovable object. “I’m using all my strength.”
“No, you’re not, son,” replied the father. “You haven’t asked me to help!”

(Robert D. Jones, as quoted in Mahaney, Feminine Appeal, p. 119)

His strength is our strength.

Do you understand that? 
His strength is (by grace!) our strength.

His strength is my strength.
There for the taking. And he invites me to ask for it.

Lifting the rock of my sinful nature is utterly impossible, unless I use all my strength, my strength as a child of God, my strength in Him. His strength. My strength.

We would be foolish children of God, to tackle our sins and our problems, without using all of our strength.

Forgive my forgetfulness, and my pride that tackles my problems with my puny earthly resources. Because of Christ, I am your child. By your grace, I am your child.  And You are a God eager to bless and to help. How quickly I forget this! Christ’s inheritance is mine. His riches are mine. His  holiness, self-control, and love are mine. His strength is mine. Help me to see, know, and live this today, by Your grace, and because of His blood shed for me, Amen.

photo credit balyarrweekgme2010

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Rich, Healthy Chocolate Pudding

Avocado pudding recipe

OK it's really avocado pudding, but as the title on the post says, it tastes nothing like avocado.
It is rich, chocolatey heaven.

I made this, and after I tasted it, I literally danced around my kitchen with joy.
I gave some to my neighbor, and she shouted, then rejoiced with songs of praise to God. (well, almost.)

I have be honest, here, and tell you it didn't go like I thought it would with the family. Hubby said it was too tangy.Half the kids loved it, the other half didn't.  Oh well, more for me!

An aside- this does contain honey. When I tried this I had been sugar-free for a week and at that time was free of sugar cravings as well. Did the honey set of my addiction and the craving cycle?  It did not.

Hallelujah, praise Jesus!
(Kitchen dancing commenced.)

Maybe you have to be going through sugar detox to love, love, love this, but the bottom line is, I love it.
Get the recipe here.

For those of you with kids-
I recommend not letting them see you prepare this.  Green in a dessert? (Complain, complain.)

Optional variation: Use less honey and add a frozen banana.  I haven't tried this but it sounds wonderful!
I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Photo credit and recipe here

Monday, March 18, 2013

Weekly Challenge: Stop Holding Your Breath

I used to think dieting was a lot like holding my breath.

I could do it for a little bit, with great effort, but eventually, with a great gasp, I would give up what seemed impossible, and inhale air and food again as if my life depended on it.

Then, I read this:

A diet based on quantity rather than quality 
has ushered in a new creature on to the world stage: 

the human being who manages
to be both overfed and undernourished 
(Pollan, In Defense of Food, p 122)

Oh my goodness, this is me.

My body received plenty of calories throughout the day, and yet was hungry, so hungry, all the time. Craving and eating and craving some more. And occasionally I tried to get it under control, to resist those cravings out of sheer willpower, but I just could not seem to last long this way. And that hunger, that constant hunger, was the enemy. I saw it in myself, and I hated it. 

It is selfish, it is my flesh, it is temptation. Isn't it?
But what if Pollan and others are right?

Overfed and undernourished.

Perhaps the hunger is not the enemy (or, not the only enemy).

Perhaps the hunger is just my body, working the way it is supposed to work, telling me it needs, needs things I am not giving it. Perhaps the processed foods and refined carbs I had been living on are not helping things, but making matters progressively worse.

Am I overfed but undernourished?
How would I know?

Well, I could try nourishing my body for once, and see if that helps.

So I did it. For one week, I went without sugar and refined grains. I ate tons of fruits and veggies (which was easy because my husband bought me a juicer.)

And my body thanked me.

Not a diet

Dieting, the kind that is like breath-holding, is all about what a person can’t have. This new way of living and eating is much more about what I can have. I can have things that are good for my body.  

Giving my body plenty of what it needs is nothing like breath-holding. It’s more like finally breathing in fresh air, after I had been living life suffocating under a pillow. I breathe deeply, drink deeply, and I find myself satisfied, not gasping and craving but satisfied.

Are you overfed and/or undernourished?

This week, try giving your body something it needs, and cutting out something it doesn’t.
Pay attention to how you feel, whether or not your cravings change.

Not sure what changes to make?

Read up on Real Food Basics
Learn more about Basic Nutrition
Learn more about being Overfed and Undernourished

Saturday, March 16, 2013

80 / 20 in Marriage

A wife, if she is very generous, may allow that her husband lives up to perhaps eighty percent of her expectations. There is always the other twenty percent that she would like to change, and she may chip away at it for the whole of their married life without reducing it by very much. She may, on the other hand, simply decide to enjoy the eighty percent, and both of them will be happy.

(Elizabeth Elliot, as quoted in Feminine Appeal, Mahoney, p 41)

photo credit

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Compassion Fatigue: Just get back in bed already!

The scene:  Little guy doesn't want to go to bed. He's scared, or so he says.

New mother
With genuine concern, mom scoops up her little dear, and coos sweet soothing things in his ear. 

Wise mother
She is attentive and mildly concerned, but for her child’s good, she remains calm and cheerful as she comforts him, but also gives him firm direction to stay in bed. She knows that teaching her child to be tough is even better for him than offering a bandaid for every scrape.

Sucked-dry mother
Little guy screams, and mama’s teeth clench. She takes a deep breath and tries to fake proper compassion  but she is obviously annoyed by the tears, the child, everything.

Mother #3 has compassion fatigue.
And all too often I am her.   The children press in on me with their needs, their (mostly) legitimate needs.  And I try to meet them, and I fail, and I resent and pout about my failure.  And still they need, and it is impossible, unfair, too much.

All too often it is not the situation itself that is so difficult.
It’s how poorly I am handling it.

I trip over my failures, and make yet another mess that I have to clean up.

At this moment, I am writing my way through one such day. I need to breathe, to get my bearings.

What is true about this situation?
Not how to do I feel, but what is true?

The truth:  There are several children in my house, at various ages and with various needs. We just got back from vacation and life is in chaos. My husband is sick in bed. In short, my job is hard. My list is long, and my day is demanding.

I feel like this should be easier, though.. if only the kids were more cooperative, or if only I had more patience.  But the truth is that we are all sinners, and life is messy, and no one small fix is going to change that. The truth is also that sometimes this very same situation would be easy for me. The truth is my body is tired, my house is a mess, and I have handicaps with me already as I begin to face this challenging day.

The truth:  They need grace.  I need grace. We need Jesus.

The truth: We have  Jesus. I am accepted in Him, not because of what I do, but because of how much he loves.
Though this is a hard day, His grace is sufficient.

I look for his provision of green pastures and relief. They may not come right when I ask for them, but He will provide help. He cares for me, even on days that are hard.

I will pray for sanity and help, and for perspective when the walls seem to be closing in on us.  I will ask His help in fighting resentment and frustration. I will ask for his help in dealing with the interruptions, that I may see them not as personal attacks but as tasks assigned by Him, for which He will equip me.

The truth: What I need for the rest of this day, I do not have to find inside myself.  
He strengthens, He helps, He does the verbs. you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, 
for all endurance and patience with joy, 
giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you 
to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.  
He has delivered us from the domain of darkness 
and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,
 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
(col 1)

Patience, endurance, joy, not as much as I can find in my heart, nor given in accordance with my own goodness, but given as the Father loves to give- by grace alone.

And abundantly- in portions according to HIS glorious might.

God is good, even when my day is not.

Today, my job is hard, and yet it feels ridiculous admitting this is so. I do not suffer as one persecuted, or sick, or under severe trial. I do not suffer like Jesus. And yet, this job in front of me is too much, too hard for my sinful nature to bear.  I react in selfishness, I run out of love and compassion when compassion is still needed by those around me.  Have mercy, Lord, and strengthen me according to Your might and power.  Deliver me from the darkness of my own heart, forgive me, and renew me.

In the name of Jesus and according to Your Word,

Suffering from compassion fatigue today?
You will be encouraged by this post:  Trumpet Needed

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Homemade Soft Pretzels

This is one of our new favorite after-school snacks.  I try to have the dough made before the kids come home. Then, they enjoy shaping them.  Plus, the anticipation that comes from watching them bake is fun to observe!

First, here's the recipe: Homemade Soft Pretzels
Note that this makes a LOT. I could have made half a batch and still had leftovers, even in our family of eight. Second, you need a thermometer. Much to my surprise, I found one in my drawer. I don't know where it came from or if I have ever used it before, but I was happy to discover it!

Here are some photos, for your enjoyment and inspiration. Seriously, MAKE THESE.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Weekly Challenge: Get in the Picture

 Can I tell you what I see here? And can I be brutally honest?

I see "not photogenic."
I see weight to loose and stubborn pimples and a bad angle.

But you know what my son sees?

The night he drove his first car- on the race track at Disney World. 
And his mom there with him, sharing in the Best Night Ever. 

("Mom, now that you know I can drive one of these, you really should buy me one.")

And you know what? I'm learning to see things more like my son sees.  
(Read this article- The Mom Stays in the Picture)

Moms, it is so easy to be hard on ourselves, especially as we struggle with our weight and our health. It is easy to see ourselves AS those struggles (and failures!)  It is tempting to hide, hide from public, or at least hide from the camera, until we lose that weight or fix that problem.

But our children and those who love us-- they care far less than we do about all that.
They want to be with us now-- to make memories with us, now.
They love us now, extra weight and pimples and all.

They love us, now. Today.

Remember this, friends, as you work to get healthier.

You are lovely, loved.

So, please, just get in the picture.

Your challenge this week

Read this article:

Get in the picture!!!

My big boy forgot to be a big boy on the bus,
and he fell asleep in my arms like a little baby.
So glad I was there to hold him

I'd love to see some of your pictures this week!
  Email me or post them to my facebook page!

Do you hide from the camera?

Remember, you can read the rest of the series here,
and join the facebook group for extra support!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Weekly Challenge: Rest

Sometimes I reheat my coffee 4 times before I finally drink it. The same cup.
Because the urgent needs never stop.

The onslaught of urgent needs faced by a mother is tremendous.
They pester us, nag us, guilt us, and we respond by moving, working, running through our days trying to get stuff done.

One day, a child was sick.  He was so sick, he needed his mother. He begged me, he forced me to nap with him.

He forced me to rest. And that's what it felt like, truly, because my list was long.

And yet, God forced me to lay down in the afternoon.

And I wiggled and sighed in the grip of my vocation, next to my son on the bed.  The needs of my sick child trumped the urgent mess in the kitchen, so I did what I had to do, grudgingly.  Until his tiny snores caused me to look at his sleepy face. My eyes saw my son, comforted, and my body melted under the blankets.

And I rested.

How often I forget, that God is kind and good, making us rest, and promising our rest.
And rest is good for both body and soul.

Your challenge this week:


Take a nap.

Remember, we are weak and lovely. Wonderfully Made.

Our goal is not merely pounds lost, but health.  And healthy bodies need rest.

Need some inspiration to rest?
Are you like me, and you find it difficult to just stop, even when the work is not done?

Please, read this post:
The trouble with rest

Do you find it hard to rest?
Leave your thoughts in the comments!

Remember, you can read the rest of the series here,
and join the facebook group for extra support!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Giving up or slowing down

Because it’s Lent, the topic of fasting has come up again.

We look skeptically at those who are giving up meat, we laugh at those who are trying to give up cursing, and we feel uncomfortable around those who are giving up something we love, like sugar or internet.

Why give something up? Is that really necessary? Is it even good or will it just turn you into a skinny, judgmental hypocrite?

Scripture seems to assume that Christians will fast, but how, why, and what for?

Below are my notes after our Bible study discussion on this topic.

First, and most importantly
We are already loved, forgiven, restored in Christ.
We already have Jesus' A+ in all good works, including fasting.

We thank God that He has provided ALL that we need for salvation- our account is 100% paid for. 

We do not fast to earn anything from God.

Don't fast for these reasons

- to earn points with God
- to impress your friends
- to obey someone else's rules or expectations
- to prove to yourself and others that you are a good Christian
- to twist God's arm
- to find out how awesome you really are if you just put your mind to it

Though we are fully forgiven and restored, we are aware that our old man draws us downward like gravity, and that our vision is so easily clouded by the cares of this life. Fasting can help us refocus and fix our eyes on Jesus.

If a Christian fasts, he may choose to do so for one or more of the following reasons

- to train the body (exercise the "no" muscle")
- to simplify life and focus on God and His Word
- to remind oneself that Jesus is what truly satisfies, not one thing in the world, but Christ
- to interrupt "normal" and refocus on what is True and Eternal
- to remind oneself that sin is serious
- to remind oneself that he is mortal, dependent, and utterly reliant on God.
- to free up money for giving and time for praying or reading God's Word

“Instead of a fast, we should call it a slow.” Said Greg Kokul of Stand to Reason.


Yes, a slow. Lent is a time to slow down and refocus on the most important things.
This is incredibly difficult for me, but worth doing, I think.

Scripture on fasting
 Matthew 6: 16-17
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,  that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

1 Corinthians 9: 24-27
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.  But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

I also liked this article:

Have you ever done a fast, or a “slow?”
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic!

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