Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Seeing God in My Pain

One of the many lies that plague a suffering person is “I’m the only one.” Isolation and loneliness in the pain can be crushing and it can feel like you are the lone melancholy soul among a sea of happiness and fulfilled desires.

God is so kind to put stories of people in the Bible who faced tremendous suffering, isolation, and despair. In them we can trace the powerful, sovereign hand of God lovingly working the situations out for the good of those involved. But they didn’t see all of the fine details happening behind the scenes. We get the benefit of the end of the story. All they had were circumstances that seemed grim and hopeless.

I would have been 39.5 weeks by now. Our baby was due this coming Saturday. To say that this week has been difficult would be an understatement. There are so many hopes and expectations that were wrapped up in this one day that is coming—that I dread. I thought we were going to have a baby in a few days. I hoped we would be pregnant again by now. I thought the ache in my soul would get better not worse. All of these things, plus a hundred other emotions are swarming around in my head.

In the midst of all of this grieving and re-opening of the wound of a pregnancy loss I was able to go to chapel at the Seminary today. I don’t get to go often, but I had blocked it off on my calendar because I wanted to hear the speaker, Greg Gilbert. It’s been a rough week and I went in broken, emotionally drained, mad, confused, and on the verge of tears. For the first time in a long time I felt desperate to hear from God. I needed to know that God loved me and was still working good for me. I knew it in my head, but I was having trouble processing it all.

Greg preached on Genesis 37-50 (the life of Joseph). I knew when I saw the text that this sermon was God’s answer to my prayer for grace. And we need that in times of grief. We need little reminders that God is still for us, that he is still the source of all comfort in our time of need. We need to know that we are not alone. We need to see God’s faithfulness in the lives of those who have suffered before us. Greg said a lot of helpful things, but the two things that struck me most were:

  1. God’s providence is a long road. Sometimes God’s providence is a longer road than your life.

  2. You can’t read God’s providence forward, you can only read it backward.

God is the hero of Joseph’s story. He is the one who shows himself faithful through every seemingly insignificant detail. He is the one who provides a way of escape for Joseph, all so his greater purpose can be served—bringing about a people for himself and ultimately salvation through Jesus Christ.

And he is the hero of my story as well.

The God who worked all of Joseph’s pain and grief for good is the same God who is guiding all of the details of my loss and pain. He knows the end of the story and he promises good. I can’t always see that. And to be honest, I haven’t been able to see that this week. It doesn’t feel good. But I trust and I hope. This chapter is not finished yet in the book of my life. One day it will be. Maybe I won’t see the purpose for this sorrow in this life, but I will one day. And I hope I can say that it was worth the wait and worth the pain.

You can hear the entire message from today by going here. It's worth the listen regardless of where you are at in life right now.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday is for Food: 20 Minute Skillet Salmon

I should start by saying that I've never really liked fish. I only recently started eating salmon because I know it is good for me and my husband really likes it. So I've started experimenting with salmon recipes in order to boost our healthy eating and to get myself over the whole "I don't like fish" phobia.

All that to say, this is a really easy and non-fishy recipe for salmon. I loved it! I got the recipe from Kraft Foods, but I added a few things because I read reviews that said it was a little bland. I'm glad I did.

I don't have a picture because the one I took of it didn't turn out to well. And I made too much sauce so when I put it on the fish it didn't look so pretty. So you will just have to imagine what it looked like.

Here goes (my adapted version):

What you need:
  • 2 salmon fillets
  • 1/2 cup fat free milk (I used low fat plain yogurt instead and added a dash of milk)
  • 1/4 cup low fat cream cheese
  • 1 cup chopped cucumbers
  • 1 tablespoon of dill
  • 1 teaspoon of minced garlic
  • dash of garlic powder
  • dash of ground mustard
How to make it:
  • Heat large skillet, melt tablespoon of butter on medium-high heat. Add fish, cook 5 minutes on each side (I cooked 5 minutes and then baked for 10 minutes). Remove and keep warm.
  • Add milk, cream cheese, and yogurt to skillet, stir until cream cheese is melted and well-blended.
  • Stir in cucumbers, garlic, and spices.
  • Return fish to skillet. Cook until heated through.
  • Serve fish with sauce on top.
Add a baked sweet potato and some steamed broccoli and then you are in "super food" heaven!


Monday, March 21, 2011

Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath

In college interpreting the Sabbath was always a hot topic. Sure we all believed it was in the Bible and that rest was designed for us by God, but were we really supposed to rest from everything on Sunday? If you said that the Sabbath on Sunday was law for today, people cried “legalist!” If you believed the primary issue was taking rest, and the Sabbath was really a day of your choosing, you were labeled a libertine.

I’ve gone back and forth over the years. But one thing I know for certain is that God has designed us for rest, as I’ve already talked about. To not take a Sabbath rest implies a false understanding that we can do everything, even be God-like. A couple of weeks ago a good friend of ours preached for our pastor while he was out of town. Preaching on Luke 6:1-16, he showed how Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath. I have heard that said often throughout my years as a believer, but it really came to life for me when he preached on it that Sunday. If you haven’t read this passage in a while I encourage you to go and read it again. It is breathtaking. Along with declaring his lordship over the Sabbath, he is showing his tender mercy towards lost sinners by healing this man’s withered hand, and on the Sabbath!

Aaron said something that really stayed with me, and helped put the Sabbath in perspective. He said, “the Sabbath is something that God ordained in creation—it’s found in his nature and in the Ten Commandments.” When God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh he was saying something very profound about his nature and how he wants us to live, and then again in establishing the Ten Commandments. We don’t get to pick which commandments to obey. They were all given to us for our good.

When I fail to take a Sabbath rest, and more importantly rest in Christ (who is himself Lord of the Sabbath), I am saying far more about my view of God than I realize. When I spend all Sunday being busy with everything but focusing my heart on Christ, reflecting on the finished week, and enjoying the life he has given me, I am neglecting a very important aspect of what it means to be created in the image of God.

Aaron said that not observing the Sabbath shows us that other things have authority in our lives. It’s not that Christ is laying a heavy hand on us, forcing us to rest in him. Rather the fact that I don’t feel the pull to rest in him more strongly is a sad commentary on my own spiritual condition.

So regardless of where you stand on the Sabbath being strictly on Sunday or another day of the week, the truth remains—we need a Sabbath rest. But more importantly, we need the ultimate rest found only in Jesus Christ who is Lord of the Sabbath and Lord of all.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday is for Fotos!

It's that time of year...March Madness! I honestly don't remember knowing about March Madness until a few years ago. I know that sounds crazy, but I must have just not been paying attention all this time. Daniel and I filled out our brackets on Sunday and have been anxiously watching the results pour in. I won the whole thing a couple of years ago and so now I feel like every year I have to continue the trend. This is a lot of pressure. Last year was not so good, but I have high hopes for this year.

All that to say, I have no real strategy for how I pick my teams. This drives my husband crazy because I sometimes do better than him, and I'm a novice! I did pick Kansas to win it all this year, much to his dismay. We are Ohio State fans, but I just felt like picking someone else. I told him it was just business, not personal.

So between homework, church, and work, this is occupying our time over the next few weeks!

As a side note, my brothers did brackets too and they both picked San Diego State to win it all. I have one word for that. Lame.

Happy Friday!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Luke 6 and a Coming Blessing

Our pastor has been preaching through the Gospel of Luke for the past few months. I haven’t spent time in a Gospel in a while and as we’ve been going through it I have been freshly amazed at the authority and tender care of Jesus.

Yesterday, he preached from Luke 6:17-26. The passage commonly known as “the Beatitudes” falls in the middle of this text of Scripture. An at-a-glance reading would cause anyone to question what is going on here. Jesus goes from proclaiming blessing on the hungry, mourning, and reviled to proclaiming woes to the ones who seem to have it all together. Why does he do that? Surely he has a purpose? I think what Jesus is saying in these few short verses has tremendous implications for our souls in the middle of tremendous difficulty and heartache.

Jesus is speaking to desperate people. In verses 17-19 we see crowds of people coming to hear him speak and be healed by him. Many traveled from far away, and in those days that took determination. These were people who knew what it meant to be sorrowful and destitute. More than that, Jesus knew they were destitute in the deepest core of their being—their soul.
Maybe they heard him saying: “Blessed are you are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil on account of the Son of Man,” and thought to themselves, “I don’t feel blessed right now. My child is dead. My husband is sick and will not recover. I have no food to feed my family. My family thinks I’m crazy for traveling all this way to see you, Jesus. Where is the blessing in that?”

Maybe you feel that way too. I know I have.

But then we get to verse 23: “Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.” Now Jesus is not saying that suffering and hurting people are to walk around with plastered smiles on their faces because they know they have a better reward someday. He is saying something far more profound about our mindset on this earth and about a kingdom that is coming.

The Jewish people listening were hoping for a Messiah that would come and right all wrongs, heal all diseases, and set up his earthly kingdom. And that is not what Jesus is doing, at least in the way they wanted him to. He is ushering in his kingdom through his life, death, and resurrection. But it won’t be consummated until he comes again.

What Jesus is doing in the Beatitudes is giving us a hope. He is telling us that there is something greater coming that will make sense of all that we are going through, even if we never see that explanation on this earth. He’s not promising that it will be easy or that we will always understand. Rather he is giving us something far grander—an eternal perspective. Jesus was preparing the disciples, and us, for a coming eternal kingdom when all of these things will be restored by his glorious power. That is our only foundation when we face the trials of this earthly life. Until then we wait and hope.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday is For Food: Easy Beef Enchiladas

To say that I love Mexican food is an understatement. If I could eat it every day I would. I. Love. It! So I am always looking for new Mexican food recipes. Kraft has a really easy and yummy beef enchilada recipe that I tried out last year and plan on trying out again this month.

Beef Enchiladas

What you need:
  • 1/2 pound extra-lean ground beef (I don't use extra lean unless it's on sale)
  • 1/2 cup chopped green peppers
  • 1/2 cup chopped red peppers
  • 2 cups of salsa divided (to make it extra yummy, use The Pioneer Woman's salsa)
  • 1 cup Kraft 2% Milk Shredded Cheddar Cheese, divided (store brand is fine)
  • 2 tablespoons Italian dressing
  • 8 six inch corn tortillas (I think flour would be easier, but I haven't tried them yet)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

How to make it:

  • Heat oven to 400 degrees
  • Brown meat with peppers in large nonstick skillet. Stir in 1 cup of salsa; simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in 1/2 cup of cheese.
  • Spread 1/4 cup of remaining salsa onto bottom of 13x9 inch baking dish. Brush dressing lightly over both sides of tortillas.
  • Stack 4 tortillas; wrapped in wax paper. Microwave on high for 20 seconds, or until warmed.
  • Spoon 1/3 cup of meat mixture down center of each tortilla; roll up
  • Place, seam sides down, over salsa in dish. Repeat.
  • Top with remaining salsa. Cover.
  • Bake 20 minutes or until heated through. Top with remaining cheese. Bake, uncovered, 2 to 3 minutes or until melted. Top with cilantro.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Missions Wednesday: Libya

It’s hard to turn on the television anymore without seeing a plethora of news reports coming out of Libya. Libya is one country in a string of countries in the Middle East/North Africa that have recently faced great turmoil and unrest. For us here in “stable” America it might seem like one more news story that plays on repeat on the Today Show every morning. But for Libyans, it’s their life. Living under a dictatorship for years and the hope of freedom is of great concern to them. And as people created in the image of God, what happens to Libyans should matter to Christians.

Libya is located on the northern point of Africa, along the Mediterranean Sea. Like most North African nations, Libya is predominantly Muslim. Libya has long been in isolation, due to the dictatorial reign of Muammar Gaddafi. This has made the spread of the gospel difficult at times. According to Operation World, there has been a growing interest about Christ among Libyan people. But the sad reality is there are not enough Bibles to go around. The need is great.

Ways to pray:
  1. Pray that God’s word would thrive in this nation and that he would make a way to provide Bibles to the Libyan people.
  2. Pray that the unrest in Libya would lead to Libyans ultimately resting in Christ. After turmoil like this people will be looking for answers and hope. Pray that Christ would be exalted and Libyans would turn from their sins and turn to faith in Jesus.
  3. Pray that no more people would die in the fighting currently happening in Libya and that rest would come soon. Pray that through this Jesus Christ would be made much of.
  4. Pray for Christians in Libya that they would be bold in proclaiming Christ and would be kept safe as they live for their Savior.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Does Modesty Put a Price on Sex?

You don’t have to look very far to notice that morality isn’t high on our culture’s acceptable behaviors list. In fact, anymore it is assumed that if a guy and girl like each other they will soon bed each other. They don’t even have to always like each other. Modesty and chastity are not sought after qualities in our society.

According to Wendy Shalit, author of the book A Return to Modesty: Rediscovering the Lost Virtue, the loss of modesty in our society has created men who feel no need to work hard for women. It used to be that men felt obligated to respect and honor women personally and sexually.

Shalit says, “How can we expect men to be honorable when a large number of women consistently send them the message that they don’t have to be?” She goes on to ask “What if all women expected a lot from men? What if all women were faithful and expected men to be faithful ? Then treating a woman well wouldn’t be some ensnaring ‘net,’ it would be the state of affairs. If you didn’t act honorably, you simply couldn’t get any women. Sorry, no women for you.”

But that is not the case anymore. Slate Magazine reported last week that while women seem to still hold the “sexual purse strings” they don’t charge that much for it anymore. The price for sex in today’s economy is very low.

According to Slate, that maybe shouldn’t be the case. Women now hold the majority on most college campuses, while the men their age are back at their parents’ homes playing video games. Young women are more likely to be successful in the job market then young men. There is now a great gender disparity in all of the venues where women would typically meet that special someone. And Slate says that where women outnumber men, men now have the upper hand. A man can fail in class, fail at work, and even fail in relationships, and yet can be assured that he will most likely still find sex from willing women. Women have lowered their expectations and men consistently meet the minimum requirements. So women are now left with two choices: stay single and chaste, or take your chances on a guy who won’t work for your affection.

For today’s modern woman, the choice to them seems fairly obvious.

The feminist movement has birthed a generation of women ready and willing to take up the task of earning a college degree and working in the business world. What it has also done is made some men less ambitious and thus less likely to go to school or work to provide for a family or future family. But what it hasn’t done is change the rules regarding sexual behavior. If anything, according to Slate, it has made sex more easily attainable for lustful men. Women now are acting like “men” throwing off sexual restraints. But they aren’t acting too picky about who they choose as a partner. Men don’t have to work for women anymore because the women are just offering it to them—at no cost.

Shalit would conclude that the answer is more modesty. If women simply chose a chaste life men would work harder for them and women would be happier. But is that really the final answer?
There is more to this story than simply encouraging chaste behavior among young women. God created us for pleasure, most certainly. But he created us for pleasure with one person only, in marriage. And more than that, he created men with an innate desire to pursue a woman and work for her affection, and as much as women fight it, deep down they know he created them to receive it. Why else would there be so many romantic movies depicting this very thing (albeit skewed)? Hollywood has picked up on something that draws women—the pursuit. The gender disparity reveals something more troubling in our culture.

The Slate article highlights a deep void in our society. Men and women are living outside of the way God created them to be. This manifests itself in numerous ways, but the conclusion remains. No amount of ambition on the part of men or chasteness on the part of women will change the deep need in their souls—the need for Christ.

Sure our culture needs more modesty and restraint. But modesty and restraint without Jesus is mere willpower that will not save in the end. When Jesus approached the woman at the well he didn’t just tell her to go and live a chaste life and stop sinning sexually. He knew that wouldn’t save her ultimately. Rather he told her to go and sin no more because her sins had been forgiven (John 4:1-26).

Articles like this are helpful in understanding our culture. These are the people we rub shoulders with every day. Hurting, confused, and lost people, desperate for the living water that will quench the deep thirst in their souls.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Your Pain is My Pain

Even after all this time the sadness over losing our baby has come in waves. Sometimes I go weeks, and even a month or two, without crying over our loss. Other times the tears won’t stop. Grief and longing have a way of creeping up on you when you least expect them. There are different triggers to my sadness, and sometimes the greatest one is seeing a father with his children.

As long as I’ve known Daniel he has loved children. It was one of the qualities that made me realize I wanted to be with him forever. He loves kids at all ages. We named our children before we even got married. Children are a priority in our lives and marriage.

From the moment I found out I was pregnant last July, Daniel began planning how he would provide for our little growing family. He signed up for extra classes in the fall semester, knowing that the spring would bring an added blessing and the subsequent loss of income when I came home with our baby. That’s just how he is. He does what it takes to lead our family.

And that is why this picture kills me.

I have felt the loss of our first baby, and subsequent waiting for another, acutely. I felt the physical effects of pregnancy and the loss. It’s my body that seemingly isn’t working like it’s supposed to in order to create another life. But that doesn’t mean this doesn’t hurt him too. I want him to be a dad to a living child as much as I want to be a mom. I want his desires for parenthood realized in a little life in my womb.

I think love is feeling the pain of another as much as you feel your own—perhaps even more than your own. Our grief over the baby we lost, and our hopes for another, is a joint longing. It brings us closer because in some ways we are the only ones who truly understand how the other feels. It brings us closer because we are together in the quiet places crying over what was lost. And it brings us closer because it is in this longing that we come to God asking him to work in our lives.

There’s no one else I would want to walk through this valley with—in sickness and in health, in sorrow and joy, as long as we both shall live.