Nourishing Passions

Above

“If then, you have received Christ Jesus your Lord, seek the things that are above, where Christ is at the right hand of the throne of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things on the earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
–Col 3:1-3

Above Nourishing Passions

How much of our mental and physical energy is in the frustrating details of this world? We worry about what we will eat & drink, what we will wear, what people think of us, our jobs, our health, our status, our future…. Things that matter, but matter very little. This is the world in which we live, and to not think of the details is impossible, but to dwell continually in them alone is an exercise in futility at best and horribly depressing at worse. It is once said that the men and women who did the most in this world were those who thought most about the next. How wonderfully accurate that must be knowing that all our efforts to preserve, redeem, and heal what we most long for and love will always fall depressingly short. But there is a redeemer and healer who has never fallen short, who is infinite in perfection, and who has promised restoration of all things good.

He has given us a glimpse of perfection, each human made in the image of God has a longing for Eden and a longing for the New Jerusalem—the problem is we are stuck in between these two cities, in a place of beautiful torment known as (present) earth. The fact that there is such beauty makes the obvious tarnishing of it all the more loathsome. The fact that I see green leaves and beautiful flowers makes the inevitable fact that my plants will crumble, die, and be covered with icy sludge all the more woeful. The fact that there is vast grandeur in gazing and swimming in the oceans makes the tsunami’s killing all the more heart-wrenching. The fact that water and sun which sustain life can cause floods, drowning, sunburn and heatstroke creates a deeper ache than if they were simply enemies. Our world has turned on us. And yet it is we who are entirely responsible for the frustrating tension that drives each one of us who is alone with his thoughts for more than a few moments to cry, “Vanity, Vanity!”

And yet I am confident that a God who elicits such soul thirst is not only capable of satisfying it, but longs to fill us with what we think are unmet desires, but which I suspect are more accurately unfulfilled NEEDS which we try to fill with facades. We don’t want love, we need it—so we seek relationships, social media, or sex. We don’t want security, we NEED it—so we see prestigious jobs, wealth, or We don’t want approval, we NEED it—so we post our accomplishments, resumes, and How much time we waste when we could simply run and cling to the very source of love himself, the only eternal security possible, and the one who might look upon us in perfect approval of his son. If only we not only knew that, but remembered it and lived in light of it!

What type of lives ought we to live in light of the gospel??? How could we ever worry about a simple detail knowing that each and every deed done for self-preservation will be burned up and destroyed and yet each and every one of them done in sincere effort to glorify God will live on forever? If we truly believed that God is who he says he is, has done what he has said he’s done, and will do what he promises—and there is no reason to think otherwise considering his track record—we would be the happiest people in existence living in a beautiful tension, yet possessing an eternal joy that surpasses circumstances. This truly is joy unspeakable—to know that everything done for Jesus will be preserved for all eternity and there can be no loss, to know that all things beautiful will be restored to heights we’ve never imagined, to know that all that is ugly and warped will melt away in fire, and all that will be left is the purified thoughts, actions, and prayers of those who spent the whole of their lives looking to something beyond themselves. Oh that we could only stop thinking about ourselves—our desires, our worries, our needs, even our sin—for a moment! That we could instead intentionally fix our gaze on something greater than us….that we might turn our eyes unto Jesus, look full in His wonderful face. And watch the things of earth being to grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.

“If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next….Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth ‘thrown in:’ aim at earth and you will get neither.”

C.S. Lewis

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Longing for Eternity

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed to us.” –Romans 8:18

Longing for Eternity Nourishing Passions

It’s very curious to me how people respond to death in such varying ways. Generally there are seasons (Ecc 3:1)—of mourning, of fear, of despondence, of numbness, of acceptance, as people glimpse the reality that this life is temporary (2 Co 4:16) and begin to come face to face with the enemy of our souls (1 Co 15:26). My first memory of death involved a pumpkin. Pathetic as that sounds, I remember being absolutely devastated listening to my mom explain that some neighborhood kids came and smashed the pumpkins we had so much fun carving together as a family. While watching a pumpkin slowly rot on the front porch may have been equally upsetting, I remember tearfully observing the orange chunks all over the yard, not understanding why someone would want to destroy my work of art, and feeling naively, but also accurately that this was just wrong.

Since that time, there have been more substantial losses—including animals and humans. The complexity of emotions and difficulty in coping with them is likely what most compels us to seek comfort somewhere or in something. Numbness, false assurance, and redirection are all great candidates to the effect of blinding us from the current pain and fear the Sovereign Creator quite often intentionally and graciously uses to compel us toward Himself (Isa 38:17). And if we stubbornly persist, he will allow us to be shallowly satisfied in one of those states, though in every heart of hearts, lies an awareness of discontent. Alternatively, we can run toward the one to whom we were designed to worship (Ex 7:16) and receive the full satisfaction (1 Ti 6:6) of a purposeful life and the comfort (2 Co 1:3) of his promises.

And his promises are not like the false promises the world which CS Lewis so brilliantly describes “create an ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing return.” Instead his promises are eternal (He 7:20), secure (He 6:13), trustworthy (He 6:18), and infinitely more majestic (He 9:10-12) than anything we could ever imagine (Eph 3:20). How often I wonder whether God has set eternity in our hearts (Ecc 3:11) in the midst of being surrounded by the temporal (2 Co 4:18) to elicit a hunger, a drive, and a pursuit of something so much greater! I find myself grateful for the hardships that come in to our lives (economic, financial, social)—not because it produces sorrow, but because of what the sorrow has potential to produce (2 Co 7:9). Tragedies in life have a wonderful effect of shaking up our mundane routines and forcing us to think. Psalm 77 brilliantly describes a heart-wrenching wrestling with God in contrasting truth with emotions. The author struggles deeply with a felt absence of God’s presence and emotional turmoil. His response is to consider the days of old, the years long ago—to remember his song in the day and meditate in his heart–then his soul makes a diligent search. It is active, it is intentional, and it is raw. He thinks. He remembers. He ponders. I wonder how many of us know how to ponder anymore. Search engines, Iphones, and social media have taken the place of thinking, reflecting, and community. We walk around as though in a trance going about our daily (often meaningless) tasks with no thought as to what we will say when we stand before Jesus and give an accounting for all our words and actions (Ro 12:14). Blaise Pascal describes the human draw to diversions:

“The only good thing for men therefore is to be diverted from thinking of what they are, either by some occupation which takes their mind off it, or by some novel and agreeable passion which keeps them busy, like gambling, hunting, some absorbing show….what people want is not the easy peaceful life that allows us to think of our unhappy condition, nor the dangers of war, nor the burdens of office, but the agitation that takes our minds off it and diverts us. This is why we prefer the hunt to the capture. This is why men are so fond of hustle and bustle; that is why prison is such a fearful punishment; that is why the pleasures of solitude are so incomprehensible.”

Truly, “there is scarcely a period of so much interest in the life of an individual, as that in which he is brought to an earnest inquiry respecting the salvation of his soul. It is the state of mind which comes between the utter neglect of religion and the actual possession of it. The dream of thoughtlessness is disturbed. Conscious wakes to its office as an accuser.”—William Sprague

So many people fear death, and I would submit that there is something far worse than death (Luke 12:4-5)—and that is a wasted life (Mt 16:25). Is it not the most fundamental need of the human heart to count, to last, to matter? I would rather die one thousand deaths than stand before Jesus ashamed and naked, head hung and eyes down, as I explain to him how I thought that watching an electronic box was more gratifying than reading his precious words, that I didn’t want to bother or offend those on the road to eternal damnation by bringing up a socially awkward topic, that his mission just wasn’t as important as my ego and that I preferred to enjoy the temporary deceptive warped pleasures of this broken world than hold out for the eternal rewards promised by an all-sustaining, all-powerful, holy pure Lord who is capable of fully satisfying my every need, my every desire and my every hidden hope. My life’s prayer is that I would think, speak and act intentionally in such a way so to stand before him with a imperfect yet confidence conscious (He 4:14-15), and sincerely confess that to the best of my ability I adhered to his words, listened to the voice of his Spirit, and cherished the person of Jesus all my days…and where I fall short, his long and mighty arm is sufficient to compensate (Psalm 19:12). Because it is what I plan to do for all eternity and I need all the practice I can get.

“We know that there is something perfect, only because we have an imperfect version of it. Paradise is a hope, but also—in some strange way—also a memory. We recognize paradise because we recognize we have been deprived of it.” GK Chesterton

 

Beet Pancakes

Beet Pancakes Nourishing PassionsI made these Beet Pancakes for an amazing friend on Whole30 who appreciates creativity & doesn’t shy away from weird concoctions! They are grain free, dairy free, paleo friendly for those with allergies or sensitivities-enjoy!

Beet Pancakes
 
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Healthy and fun pink pancakes!
Author:

Ingredients
  • 2 Large Beets
  • 5 Eggs
  • 3 T Coconut Flour
  • 2 T Walnut Butter (or other nut butter)
  • 1 t Vanilla
  • 1 t Cinnamon
  • 5 Drops Liquid Stevia Extract
  • Dash Sea Salt
  • Coconut oil (for cooking)

Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425. Wrap beets in foil and roast until tender. Set aside to cool slightly. (beets can be cooked in advance)
  2. Place all ingredients except coconut oil in blender or food processor and blend until smooth. (adjust liquid/flour if needed to achieve thick pancake batter consistency)
  3. Heat skillet to medium and coat lightly with coconut oil.
  4. Cook pancakes until bubbles form and bottom is just cooked.
  5. Flip and cook the other side.
  6. Serve with healthy fixin’s of choice!

Notes
Serve with bananas, blueberries, cacoa nibs, pecans, coconut.

Nutrition Information
Calories: 175 Fat: 10 Carbohydrates: 9 Sugar: 4 Sodium: 130 Fiber: 3 Protein: 10

Healthy Pancake Toppings Nourishing Passions

 

Dumb Sheep

“Seeing the people, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36

Sheep Over 200 times in scripture are God’s people referred to as “sheep” of which Christ is the Chief Shepherd (1 Pe 5:4) …..which is sweet. He sort of sees us as these cute little snuggle buddies he likes to hang out with out in his beautiful pastureland. Or not. As it turns out, sheep aren’t that bright. As it turns out, they have a poor sense of direction, wandering about aimlessly and purposely, and will even follow one another off cliffs to their death. How accurately does this describe most of our lives!…much more than cute & snuggly. How fickle we are, going about our daily tasks-work, errands, chores… only to indulge in hobbies, vacations, and relationships which will never bring true satisfaction. We wander from one supposed thrill to the next passively succumbing to anything and everything our culture tells us—embracing that which suits us (2 Ti 4:3) and ignoring that which we don’t like. And yet, the ignorance, passivity, and irrational wandering which would so easily annoy and frustrate any one of us, seems rather strangely to cultivate compassion in Jesus. I wonder how often I look upon the lost souls of this world as “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Mt 9:36).” I wonder how often it is that people are simply walking around in either pure oblivion to the reality of spiritual warfare waging against them (2 Co 4:4), oppressed or neglected by overbearing or careless authorities (Eze 34:2-5), or deceived by idols which cannot save (Jer 16:20). The Lord casts off goats (Mt 25:32) and warns of wolves (Mt 7:15 Acts 20:29) which will both stand condemned to eternal separation from him, but how does he treat his sheep? How does he approach those of little faith, of little understanding…..those dull in heart and prone to wander? Those confused and lost creatures, if left to their own devices would quickly perish?

“For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.” (Jer 34:11-16)

Jesus is both fierce and gentle (Luke 15:5) in his pursuit of his sheep. I wonder how many people we see throughout the day, simply going about life, clothed in discontent, confused and bewildered and discouragingly conclude–they just don’t get it…and implicitly, they never will. Such was never Jesus attitude! He proactively sought out his own at the expense of his comfort, his reputation, his safety knowing that his father’s arm was not too short to save (Isa 59:1). Who is beyond God’s power to rescue? Jesus clearly answers, “no one is able to snatch them out of the father’s hand.” (John 10:29) As we do not, and will not ever know just who belongs to him in this life, we are to be always hopeful, always prayerful, always pursuing everyone made in his image longing that they might share in our joy and peace which surpasses all understanding (Phil 4:7). Sheep may be dumb, but it turns out they are also relational in that they “possess a sharp sense of individuality and can recognize the faces of at least 10 people and 50 other sheep and like humans,” and “prefer a smile to a grimace.” And while it is baffling to think that the Lord of all Creation would want anything to do with ignorant, stubborn, and rebellious people who continually wander off into trouble, he does. He longs for us (Deut 5:29) and has put it into us to long for him (Ps 27:8). And not only so, but he rejoices and calls all of heaven and earth to do the same, each and every time a lost sheep has been redeemed (Luke 15:6-7). And this is the Good Shepherd (John 10:14) we get to follow.

“Sheep are notorious creatures of habit. If left to themselves, they will follow the same trails until they become ruts; graze the same hills until they turn to desert wastes; pollute their own ground until it is corrupt with disease and parasites.” –Phillip Keller

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The Grace of Suffering

Do not be surprised, dear friends, at the painful trials you are now enduring as though something strange were happening to you, but rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:12

The Grace of Suffering Nourishing Passions

It’s always seemed to me that there is something inherently wrong with pain, with suffering, with hardship. There is something deeply disturbing about looking into the hurting eyes of brokenness, betrayal, and distress. Seeing someone cry to this day elicits a deep uneasy feeling in my gut compelling me to do anything and everything in my power to just make it stop. Historically it has played out in the form of ice cream, empty assurances that “it will be ok” [whatever that means] and an attempt to practically resolve the matter. Unfortunately none of these were sustainable solutions: ice cream just masked the problems, verbal assurances (based on emotions, not truth) had no foundation, and practical solutions were temporary at best. I found myself incapable of doing what only God, himself can do. I tried harder and harder in so many ways to resolve the pain and suffering I experienced in my own live and saw in the lives of those I loved. And failed miserably.

It seems most people today, myself included, have a distorted view of suffering—that is that it is a thing to be prevented, avoided, and remedied at all costs. We seek pain killers, anti-depressants, and anti-anxiety medications which are readily prescribed at the smallest hint of emotional distress. We can lean on alcohol for depression, cigarettes for stress, tv and video games for boredom, pornography for self-consciousness or laziness, and social media for insecurity. We have a quick fix available for every negative feeling we encounter. And yet, it seems from scripture and other historical writings that the apostles, the early church, and Jesus himself didn’t adhere to this mindset. Nearly every generation since the fall seems to have accepted and expected suffering as a normal part of life.

I’ve noticed nearly every time someone learns I have a headache, the first response is to offer me asprin or ask me if I’ve taken some. While a very caring response not inherently wrong, it simply supports the reality that we have developed incredible means by which we can alleviate pain, are conditioned to do so, and it is stunting our abilities to cope with and grow in our experiences. It’s fascinating to read the accounts of scripture and to imagine what it would have been like to cope with the type of pain the early church endured without an alternate fallback option. Sometimes I intentionally wait a day or 2 of feeling horrible—to the point where I can no longer stand it—before I take medication or go to the doctor, then think—what if the medicine I need had not yet been invented? Or available? Or I couldn’t afford to go to a doctor? At that breaking point, how would I have responded? What would I have used to cope? Would my tolerance simply grow in endurance? Would the reality that life isn’t just puppies & rainbows truly set in and my perspective become more accurate? (Ecc 1:18) Would I have become bitter and angry at God, curse the world and wish for a quick death to escape it all? (Job 2:9) Would I draw closer to my community and friends, depending on them, relaying on them to support me and pray for me? (Gal 6:2) Would I cry out to God with more vigor and intensity than ever before, with deeper longing that he would answer my agonizing prayer? (Ps 77:1) Would his grace of health taste all the sweeter having known a whole new level of potential misery? (Ps 30:11-12) And would I have an enriched ability to relate to Jesus, the one who suffered more horrendous pain than anything I will ever be able to imagine? (Phil 3:10-11)

What if, by masking the pain and avoiding the suffering, we are, in a sense prohibiting one of God’s greatest graces-which is to teach us something about life, something about the world, or something about himself? Would it be worth it? I wonder how different our attitudes might be if we viewed suffering as a means to a potentially more glorious end rather than a simple inconvenience to ignore, avoid or escape. Many societies and cultures historically and today have a vastly different perspective when it comes to hardship and trials. More important than how to avoid it, was what was to be learned from it and gained by it. If suffering were without purpose, our current attempt to resolve it quickly, though sadly inadequate, would make sense. But what if there were mysterious reward on the other side of suffering that our current pain blinds us to? Would it be worth it?

“The human spirit will not even begin to try to surrender self-will as long as all seems to be well with it. Now error and sin both have this property, that the deeper they are the less their victim suspects their existence; they are masked evil. Pain is unmasked, unmistakable evil; every man knows that something is wrong when he is being hurt…God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscious, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” –CS Lewis

Chocolate Balsamic Fruit Kabobs with Coconut Lime Dipping Sauce

A few months ago, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics put out a request for healthy recipes for publication in Food and Nutrition’s quarterly magazine featuring a tailgating theme in May/June 2014. Combining my love for yogurt and creativity in the kitchen, I developed Chocolate Balsamic Fruit Kabobs with Coconut Lime Dipping Sauce. It was selected for publication pictured on the front cover of this month’s edition and on the Stone Soup blog.

Chocolate Balsamic Fruit Kabobs Nourising Passions Pic

 

Chocolate Balsamic Fruit Kabobs with Coconut Lime Dipping Sauce
 
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Great healthy option for tailgaiting or grilling out at home!
Author:
Serves: 15

Ingredients
  • Kabobs:
  • ¼ cup dried unsweetened coconut, toasted (optional)
  • 1 pt strawberries, pitted
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 pineapple
  • 1 mango
  • 4 ripe bananas
  • 4 kiwifruit
  • 1 T butter
  • Marinade:
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinaigrette
  • 2 t dark cocoa powder
  • 2 t honey
  • pinch cayenne pepper (optional-gives a kick!)
  • Dipping Sauce:
  • 1 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 2 T honey
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 2 t lime juice
  • ½ t coconut extract
  • ½ t cinnamon

Instructions
  1. Soak wooden skewers in water for at least 15 minutes to prevent burning. Wash, peel and cut all fruit into 1-inch chunks and skewer varying fruit. Whisk all marinade ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside. Combine dipping sauce ingredients along with 2 T of the toasted coconut in another small bowl and set aside.
  2. Adjust grill to medium high heat and brush lightly with butter. Layer skewers onto the grill, brushing all sides with the marinade. Turn gently after fruit is seared and lightly cooked, approximately 2-3 minutes per side. Sprinkle kabobs with remaining toasted coconut and serve with dipping sauce.

Silence

Psalm 77 2 NourishingPassions

Why this Darkness? Why this haze?
About which I’m to live my days?
It seems to me a troubling lot
That you have placed me in this spot.
Of such despair and loneliness
Confusion, grief and emptiness
When all I’d wanted I confess
Was you alone, my God to bless.

I remember early on
you’d whisper to me all day long.
The hearing of your voice so sweet
The knowledge of your love so deep
There’s nothing that I wouldn’t give
That all my days, to you, to live
For all my heart and souls desire’s
To be made new, refined by fire.

I once had prayed you’d take me through
Whatever’d lead me close to you
You heard, I thought, then questioned why
All trace of you seemed gone awry.
You lifted up your hand of grace
And of your love, I felt no trace.
It seemed you had abandoned me,
And to your word I sought to flee.
The truth that once had pierced my soul,
Confusion blocked, distraction’s toll.
And now it seems you’ve lifted up
Your hand of grace and its sweet cup.

Nightmares, pain and scorching lies
That plague my thoughts amidst my cries.
Answered not my anyone,
But silence even from the Son.
The Jesus I had thought I knew,
Spared not all these as I grew
In weakness and humility
And of the sin stored up in me.

I prayed, I longed, I asked him why
Must I go on with no reply ”
He answers not, yet still I try
To figure out why I’m so dry
Dead and lifeless though I feel,
A part of me knows He’s still real.
Glimpses of amazing grace
Upon my friends, upon their face.

Now I have lain down all my need
To know the mysteries you decreed
To bring about some fruitfulness
Within my life, that I might bless.
The soul of Him to whom I live
And to his glory hope to give.

My prayer is not, O Lord, why this?
And tell me please what did I miss?
Instead it is, O Lord, your face
Which I will seek but by your grace
With every moment of my life
Regardless of my daily strife.

My feelings are but fickle things
To which my soul so naturally clings.
The horrid silence I perceive
May well be devils who deceive
Me into thinking that I’ve failed
Discipleship and not prevailed.

Regardless of distorted thought,
I hope to say, my life I’ve fought
For Jesus who is worth it call
And at who’s feet I’ll daily fall.
I know not when, I know not how,
But someday every knee will bow
To You upon Your glorious throne
By truth and justice which you own.

It matters not what I would feel,
But just to know that you are real
Would satisfy my heart’s delight
And make it all so worth the fight.

Chasing Wind

“Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity, a striving after the wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.” Ecc 2:11

Chasing Wind Nourishing Passions C I sometimes think Solomon must have been one of the most miserable and depressed men to have ever lived on this earth. Because he had the means to pursue everything I’m naturally prone and drawn to—every passion, every pleasure, every allure that sets itself up as a source of fulfillment but ultimately brings utter disappointment–and lives the entirety of his life unsatisfied. He sought every conceivable source of happiness available in his lifetime (Ecc 2:1), indulging himself in everything imaginable. He sought out entertainment in various forms, pleasure from rich food and drink (Ecc 2:3), comfort in a luxurious home (Ecc 2:4-6), companionship with friends, extravagant possessions and entertainment (Ecc 2:7-8), sexual relations with women (1 Ki 11:3), and fame throughout the known world (Ecc 2:9).

The heartbreaking irony of Solomon’s life is that in keeping himself from no pleasure (Ecc 2:10), he inhibited himself from experiencing true contentment and joy. The more worldly, temporary happiness he sought, the more grief and disappointment he wrought. He wanted it all—he wanted God and things. Scripture says, “He loved the Lord, [a dangerous place for a comma] ONLY…he sacrificed and made burnt offerings at the high places (1 Ki 3:4).” I am convinced that “loving God, but” has not worked out well for anyone. It didn’t work for Solomon, it didn’t work for Samson (1 Ki 11:9), it didn’t work for the rich young ruler (Mt 19:22), and it most certainly doesn’t work for me. We are designed to worship the Lord and serve him only (Deut 6:13)—why? Not because He wants to withhold, but because he wants to give. He longs for us to enjoy creation, but not more than the Creator of them (Ro 1:25). He wants us to worship the one to whom all created things, concepts, and ideals point to. Anything less than that would be to short us on the abundance of this life (John 10:10) which he so adamantly sacrificed to give us.

Solomon had riches incomparable to what I will ever experience…. Or did he? Wealth is relative to one’s circumstance and values. A camel which would be of very little value to me* was worth much in the ancient world whereas an Iphone would hold no meaning for Solomon—there is no one he could contact and being the wisest human (1 Ki 3:12) who’s ever lived second only to Jesus, he would have no need for Google or Wikipedia. I might not have the monetary equivalent of millions of dollars, but I do live in the wealthiest nation on the planet with luxuries people in other countries have never heard of. I may not have a palace with manicured grounds, but I do have a home with a yard, irrigation, trash pick up, electric and gas hook up. I may not have a harem of superficial relationships, but I have facebook, pinterest, twitter, and Instagram.

I sometimes wonder whether the excessive grace God pours out in response to our prayers can actually be a hindrance if not received with humility, wisdom, stewardship, and maturity. Solomon seemed to have a right heart in his initial request, responding in gratitude (1 Ki 3:8) and humility (1 Ki 3:7)—he took his role of stewardship over God’s people so seriously that he wanted most of all the wisdom to do a good job with what the Lord had entrusted him. In his lavish delight (1 Ki 3:10-11), God poured out upon him, not only heavenly wisdom (1 Ki 3:12), but also the ability to pursue worldly things (1 Ki 3:13). This ability in and of itself is not bad, but it is dangerous—because it paves a way for competition with God, something which has potential to lead the purest of human hearts astray. Solomon later said, “Give me neither poverty, nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or I may become poor and steal and so dishonor the name of my God (Pro 30:8-9).” Might it be that God often graciously withholds our earthly desires and even inflict suffering such that our eyes would be fixed on Him alone—the only source of true and lasting joy—for rescue, relief, satisfaction and peace? (Isa 38:17) It took a lifetime of frustration for Solomon to realize that the one he originally sought after to give him all he needed to be successful was not a means to an end, but the end itself. He concludes after a depressing discourse on the meaninglessness of life while pursuing all earthly gain, “Fear God and keep his commands, for this is the whole duty of man (Ecc 12:13),” and I believe we could save ourselves a lifetime of frustration by heeding his wisdom, learning from his example, and pursuing God and Him alone.

An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula.—(Screwtape) CS Lewis

*That being said, if given a camel I have several ideas were the opportunity to arise ;-)

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Homemade Vanilla Extract Nourishing Passions

Second only to my beloved cinnamon, vanila extract is possibly the most frequently used flavoring agent in my kitchen. Compared with store-bought versions, making vanilla extract at home costs less per serving (approximately 5 times cheaper), evades the chemicals and questionable manufacturing processes, and only takes a few minutes to make.

All that is needed is:

  • Vanilla beans (purchase locally or online–different beans produce slightly different flavors)
  • Alcohol (I’ve used vodka but brandy or rum can be substituted), and
  • Patience (it takes about 3 months for the flavors to fully infuse)

Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe:

Homemade Vanilla Extract
 
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DYI Vanilla Extract
Author:
Recipe type: DIY
Cuisine: Vanilla Flavoring

Ingredients
  • 15 Vanilla Beans
  • 1 Bottle Vodka (can substitute other alcohol such as brandy, rum or bourbon)
  • Glass jars

Instructions
  1. Slice vanilla beans lengthwise and place in glass jars. Top with vodka and shake up. Store in cool dark place for 2-3 months to infuse. Shaking periodically will help speed the infusion process.

 

 

How Do I Love Thee?

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength Mark. 12:30

Adoration Noursing Passions

I used to think I knew what love was. When I was a child, I was shown unconditional love and affection by my parents. They were always there for me-I could talk to them about anything and everything and though I’ve always feared failure and disappointing others, I knew there was nothing I could do to warrant the cessation of their affection. Our family was one of deep loyalty and I would do anything for anyone of them. My parents we respectable and lovely people and thus easy to respect and love. To this day, they are among those I feel most strongly drawn to and enjoy being with. We have had some trails and challenges over the years as all families do, but they have been few and far between. I learned that love was a feeling…a deep emotional commitment to those I was most drawn to and felt incredible affection toward and which was reciprocated. There was a childlike trust with which I adored and cherished the people around me.

My relationships outside of my family functioned quite differently. Friends came and went. They were often based on common interests or locality, but without deep or lasting roots. Expectations were different and often the solution to problems was an unspoken cessation of friendship initiated by gossip or slander. My friends in Jr High and High School were fun, but they were often not easy to love—they said hurtful things and did hurtful things and were often difficult to love. I learned that more than simply a feeling, sometimes love was a choice….a decision to forgive and an attempt to reconcile, which sadly didn’t often happen.

Then I met Jesus. And my definition of love expanded exponentially and was taken to a superhuman level. There was an exhilaration of knowing the truth of his nature and experiencing the power of his Spirit. I was captivated by the sheer joy which accompanies knowing the Creator of the Universe and purposely doing what I was created to do. I learned that love was supernatural bigger than anything I could ever experience on this earth. I found myself increasingly patient with those I’d previously been frustrated with, more prayerful toward those whom I’d formerly hated, more hopeful for those whom I’d at one time given up on. It was wonderful, but not nearly so wonderful as the giver of it all. It is only natural for me to love more fully having known the very source of it. God is love personified (1 John 4:8) and we can only love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). It’s no wonder my heart had previously been so deficient in love-and no wonder we struggle so deeply to love one another.

And then Jesus withdrew. Not in a literal sense, which would contradict his character. Not in a providential sense in that he broke one of his promises. But in a felt sense, in that I no longer knew the confidence and assurance which once defined my faith. My effectiveness at reaching out to others, the fruit of ministry I strove for, and impact on his kingdom seemed diminished at best. I ached for a felt sense of his presence and strove to attain it at any cost. And I’ve yet to receive the answer I’ve so desperately prayed for. It’s been over 3 years and I’ve learned that love is perseverance. It is not something that may be fallen into or fallen out of. It is a commitment and a sacrifice in which the beloved is worth all costs.

There are weaknesses exposed in me that have alluded to the horrors of how easy it would be to just give up and walk away, the lies that Jesus isn’t real and my spiritual life had been nothing more than an emotional experience, and that there was nothing in my hopeless life worth loving or saving—which contradicted the ultimate source of authority which states that Jesus never loses his sheep (John 10:27), that it is impossible to truly know Jesus and walk away from him (He 4:4-6) and that I was counted worthy by the judge of the universe, not according to my own standards, but according to the justifier (Ro 5:7-9). And I learned that love is truth. And truth depends not on a feeling I have or a decision I make-it is rooted in the God who radiates it by his very nature and who exemplified it on the cross. The feeling, the decision, the struggling, they are only the natural result of being known by the King Himself and what less can I give him than everything? He demands heart, soul, strength, and mind, but deserves so much more. The least I can do is love him with everything I have and all that I am. Love is no less the childlike adoration I’d once had for my family, but is so much more—it is that same adoration rooted in and given by Jesus and poured out back to him and onto others from the overflow of his abundant grace and mercy.

“Man was made to know good with his mind, to desire it with his affections once he knows it, and to cleave to it with his will once he has felt its attraction.” –John Owen

 

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