Nourishing Passions

Not So Great Expectations

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory that beyond all comparison as we look not to the things that are seen, but the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Co 4:14-16

Great Expectations Nourishing Passions To live in reality is to live in a perpetual state of disappointment. And the more that truth is revealed, the greater the accompanying heartache (Ecc 1:18). That is unless one becomes highly skilled in the art of self deception, mental and emotional preoccupation, and/or disillusionment. Because everything this world has to offer is a scam. This world is horrendous to us—it promises happiness, fulfillment, and satisfaction but delivers emptiness, brokenness, and hardship. It gives us a glimpse of something wonderfully appealing, then instantly begins a gradual stripping of all it’s sustenance leaving us hopelessly discouraged until we recover enough to once again trust in another seductive facade of lies.

I purport that one of the most difficult elements of coping with life is the mismatched expectations of human beings. We assume that life should go the way we want it–that relationships will serve our emotional needs,that our employers will meet our financial needs, that the government will look out for our best interest, and that if we just make the right decisions our physical bodies will look and function optimally. We are bombarded with subtle messages insinuating these distortions through advertisements, film, and social media. From childhood, most of the stories we feed to our children imply a possibility for every boy to become a strong valiant warrior-hero and every girl a beautifully figured flawless woman who falls in love with the man of her dreams who would fulfill her every need. And every child who has ever dreamt of and longed for such wonders has known the crushing reality of a trampled heart, and accuracy of our ugliness, weakness, and infirmity.

And yet somehow, we continue to hold out hope for something better in life. We abandon the storybook idealism and strive for recognition, fame, and applause—if only we could write a great song, win a gold medal, hold a high position—then maybe we might be worth something and our lives might count for something. And those who don’t end up deluded or suicidal suppose that if we can at least settle for a decent job, good sex, and a nice home, the daunting gap between our desire for fulfillment will be lessened to bearable. And I suspect most people living with any happiness in this life simply modify their standards in such a way in the name of “maturity” as they put off childlike fantasies of a world absent of pain and sorrow and filled with infinite joy. It is one of the greatest deceptions of the prince of this world (John 14:30). He labors not to convince us that such a place doesn’t exist—for that would be impossible as it is rooted in our very souls (Ecc 3:11), not to show us how undeserving we are of it (Ro 3:12)—which would be simple truth that might point us toward a savior, nor to make it appear more extravagant than it truly is—for that just might generate an unstoppable enticement and hunger to seek truth (Acts 17:27). But rather he subtly belittles it, makes it appear silly and surreal. He minimizes it through one disappointment after another and in doing so shatters the sweet hope our maker has worked so diligently to cultivate in the human soul.

We live in a paradoxical state of perpetual disappointment and resolved contentment. It’s no wonder that anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications are among the top prescribed. It’s no wonder humans are the only creatures who consider self-mutilation and suicide. It’s no wonder we numb ourselves with business and mindlessness. We are fighting against our very nature and it is an ugly battle. Apart from a gospel paradigm, we are left in a helpless state of despair, expecting both too little and too much at the same time. We expect too much of this world and not enough of the one to come. We expect too much of the here and now and not enough of eternity. We expect too much of ourselves and not enough of Christ. We live in an inverted kingdom and only through the lens of Christ can we see the clarity of the beautiful mess we’ve sown and of which he is in the sovereign business of repairing.

“If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered you, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.” -C.S. Lewis

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Black Bean Brownies

Black Bean Brownies Nourishing Passions

Black Bean Brownies
 
Prep time

Cook time

Total time

 

Brownies made healthy, but no less chocolatey!
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 16

Ingredients
  • 1 can black beans
  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • 2 eggs, room temp
  • 1 overripe banana
  • ½ cup melted coconut oil
  • 2 T dark cocoa powder
  • ½ cup dates
  • 2 T honey (can substitute raw sugar, maple syrup, or other sweetener)
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 t baking powder
  • ¼ c mini chocolate chips

Instructions
  1. Drain and rinse beans very well. In food processor or blender, whirl the oats to flour consistency. Remove. Cut dates and pour boiling water over, just enough to cover. Let sit until soft. Place all ingredients except mini chips into food processor or blender and run until very smooth. Stir in chips. Spread batter into greased 9×9 pan and bake at 325 for 20-30 minutes or until just barely done. (avoid overbaking which will reduce the moist/dense consistency which makes these so yummy!)
  2. Cool and cut into squares

Nutrition Information
Calories: 184 Fat: 8 Carbohydrates: 23 Sugar: 5 Fiber: 4 Protein: 5

Suffering Well

“Hear this, O Job. Stop and consider the wondrous works of God.” –Job 37:14

Suffering Well Nourishing Passions

How often we hear and say the wrong words in times of suffering. How often we see and do the wrong things in moments of hardship. Well-intentioned attempts to bring comfort, reduce pain, or solve problems fall far short of what is true or helpful for a true sufferer. It’s so easy err excessively on the side of careless truth (speaking accurately, but without compassion) or empty comfort (making false promises or assurances with no substance). And this is not a new problem–possibly the earliest manuscript known to civilization centers on the human problem of suffering and from the beginning, both those suffering and their loved ones have struggled in their response. How difficult it is for us to simply maintain silence and grieve with one another (as Job’s friends initially did) and how tempting it is to respond to our cultural training to circumvent the discomfort by ignoring, belittling, excusing, explaining, or pacifying the source of pain rather than truly and deeply walking through the grieving process with them. It’s easier, but it’s not better.

While there is no universal algorithm for comfort in grief (as people respond in varying ways based on their nature, disposition, and stage in the process and what may feel comforting and compassionate to one person may feel abrupt or presumptuous to another and by God’s grace alone might we obtain the wisdom to comfort those suffering), a universal principle rings true. It seems Elihu encapsulates this in the best human response in all the book. His words ring of truth in content and love in demeanor and I suspect may in fact be prophetically speaking the very words on the creator and destroyer of the divinely treacherous whirlwind. After listening, and listening, and listening some more, he speaks respectful rebuke to the lies and gentle truth to Job culminating in what I believe is the best most concise and beautiful exhortation Job could possibly receive. “Hear this, O Job. Stop and Consider the Wondrous Works of God.”

Hear this –Oh Job—you’ve been hearing lies, condemnations, and distortions of truth. You’ve been accused by the great deceiver, betrayed by your own wife, shunned by your nearest friends. You’ve been conscience stricken and guilt-ridden. The assault of the enemy has been nothing short of brutal. He’s had a hay day not only with your physical body, but with your mind and emotions. You’ve been listening to voices whisper of your hidden sin, your worthless life, your certain destruction, your deserving suffering. You’ve wrestled with the notion that God is not who you thought he was—that he is ruthless, uncompassionate, merciless, and even cruel. And it all seems to line up with your emotions and your circumstances. You don’t have a paradigm for an infinitely holy, just, and merciful God who would allow the torment and pain you are enduring. Oh that we might insert our name and stop listening to ourselves, our thoughts, and even our friends and learn the discipline of preaching truth to our souls, critically evaluating everything which naturally makes its way into our thought pattern and willfully ordering it where it belongs.

O Job!—Each heart knows his own suffering, and no one can share in joy…. We can empathize, we can love on, we can weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. But no human friend can fully share in the entirety of a trial. We are uniquely and individually fitted for specific roles, domains, and services and as such we are given corresponding gifts, talents and experiences with the deliberate intention of producing the character and response to achieve that end. We are, in one sense, alone in our suffering, and yet there seems to be a one who has even greater wisdom than our wisest friends and deeper insight than our sincerest pursuit (He 2:18). We are gracefully being refined through trials, yet have a knowledge of one who has been fully perfected through them. There is one whose eyes are in every place keeping watch over the souls of all who not only knows more fully, but also has experienced more painfully every root of the wounds inflicted on mankind and he does not stand idly by, but pierces through the silence with the ferocity of a lion and a the compassion of a lamb beckoning a unique and secret name known only by him and his sheep.

Stop—To be placed in the midst of a trial is to be thrown upstream into a river of despair–to even stop from flowing further downward requires swimming. And swimming is the last thought that comes to mind in a trial. How quickly and easily we spiral out of control when life gets messy. It starts out bearable, but as we strain to analyze, to problem solve, to trouble shoot, to figure out what to do and how to resolve it, the human mind is weakened and becomes increasingly vulnerable to whatever may be spoken to it. It inevitably becomes introspective and self-centered—because that is where the turmoil is most fervently bubbling up. We begin to prioritize fixing the situation and ending pain over and above the valuable process of walking through it and learning from it. We would rather be done with it than grow from it. We’d prefer an easy out…a ‘luxury’ which the saints of God are never privy to. Oh that we’d learn the discipline of learning to simply stop! To be still and know, to dare to be silent in the midst of a storm and be willing to hear truth regardless of how painful it sounds and willing to risk the potential for breeding further disappointment if nothing is heard immediately.

and Consider—distinguished from learning new information or seeking mysterious revelation, both of which a true sufferer has little emotional energy to pursue, considering is a simple but active recollection of things already known. Considering is similar to meditating, remembering, pondering. It’s so basic we overlook it and instead strain forward in exhaustion. Elihu simply calls him and God would often call us to stop running from the pain and begin considering truth and reality, to stop ignoring the difficulty and start seeing it in light of something far greater, to stop gazing inwardly and turn his eyes upward.

the Wondrous Works–Never are we exhorted to follow a nice idea nor do we cling to an empty hope rooted in wishful thinking. No, we have a knowledge of certain promises made by an Almighty King who has proven himself faithful in more ways than we can count and in greater degree than we will ever know. He has given us all brains with the intellectual capacity to recall events and a heart to be deeply and profoundly moved by such happenings. Some have happened to us personally, some to those we know well, and others to those weave never met. Some we recall with a beaming smile, others with great somberness. But no one with any level of sanity whatsoever can say with a clear conscious that they’ve not witnessed His wondrous works. In fact, pure spiritual eyes could see nothing else. Even moments and times of great distress contain firstfruits of his wonder which will one day be potential zed if we can only persevere in hope, not wishing for what we want, but banking on what we’ve been promised by the one whose track record speaks for itself.

of God. God—the Father of Compassion and the God of all comfort, the Alpha and the Omega the one who was in the beginning, is in the middle and will always be. The one who condescended from glory to futility, who traded Eden for a cross, the one who tore the curtain of separation, and the one who walked out of his grave victoriously. How futile, how depressing, and how fruitless to gaze inwardly at the brokenness, ugliness and insufficiency that is so terrifyingly revealed during suffering when infinite beauty is only a humble yet bold glance upward. See the sin in a moment, take note of its source with carefulness, rebuke it immediately with all authority, and gaze eternally with all gratitude at the grace which destroyed it.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace. –Helen H. Lemmel, 1922

Dark Chocolate Almond Macaroons

Recently published at Food and Nutrition’s Stone Soup blog, I’ve made multiple variations of these as a healthy, yet alternative to packaged/processed sweets & snacks!

Dark Chocolate Almond Macaroons Nourishing Passions

 

Dark Chocolate Almond Macaroons
 
Prep time

Total time

 

Author:
Serves: 30

Ingredients
  • 1½ cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1 overripe banana
  • 3 tablespoon honey
  • ¼ cup dark cocoa powder, divided (3 tablespoons for macaroons, 1 tablespoon for rolling)
  • 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions
  1. Whirl oats in food processor until consistency of flour. Set aside.
  2. Place almonds to food processor and blend until finely ground.
  3. Add remaining ingredients (reserving 1 tablespoon cocoa powder for rolling) including oats and blend until mixture is combined and holds together.
  4. Place in bowl and set in refrigerator several hours to allow mixture to firm up.
  5. Shape into 1-inch balls (mixture will be sticky) and roll in remaining dark cocoa powder.
  6. At this point macaroons can either be dehydrated, stored for a few days in the refrigerator, or a few weeks in the freezer.

Nutrition Information
Calories: 45 Fat: 2.5 Carbohydrates: 1 Sugar: 1 Fiber: 5 Protein: 1.5

 

Searching for Truth

What is truth? John 18:38
-Pilate

Searching for Truth Nourishing Passions

I’ve recently stumbled upon a quite enlightening podcast called “Unbelieveable.” It is Christian-hosted, but intentional in embracing and courteous toward atheists, agnostics and those of other faiths and, as such, cultivates a comfortable environment for interaction between guests of all kinds. It is fascinating listening to various perspectives and bases for beliefs. Overwhelmingly, it seems that, for most, faith and morals are ultimately rooted in one’s feelings—or inner inclinations. Additional reasons seem to include experiences, preferences, facts, science, reason & logic. As amazed as I am that people would be willing to stake the entirety of their lives, indeed their very souls on such uncertainties, such assumptive inclinations subject to change in a given moment, it occurs to me that that is exactly where I lived for 23 years. Though I believed in God generally, I never thought about the possibility that a REAL God might have his own agenda—his own standards for how things might work best. I simply believed what I liked, and passively dismissed what I didn’t. I was a relativist because I didn’t want any feelings hurt and succumbed to the have-it-your-way message of our culture. And I was miserable. I often felt so near happiness and yet so far at the same time. I constantly felt that true satisfaction was just at arm’s reach, but somehow the closer I got to it, the farther it suddenly seemed. Facts, logic, reason are wonderful faculties-however, they certainly fail us and while great tools for living practically, are not a plausible anchor for our souls. But when I consider the Creator of those faculties whose only failure is His ability TO fail, I begin to tremble in awe.

An absolute is the most terrifying and wonderful security we can hope for—wonderful because it provides certain boundaries, terrifying because we cannot determine those boundaries, nor can we change them. When revealed we must either fall on our faces and submit to it entirely, or live in the blissful ignorance of our self-created fantasy world which will inevitable come to an end. I contest that it is impossible to live without anxiety in a world absent of absolutes; relativism inevitably produces the exact opposite result of the very thing seeks to do—provide freedom. Freedom to choose one’s own standard for morality can never provide any real confidence—because not only could we be wrong, but every one of us has been at one point—and we’re constantly changing creatures. What I believed when I was 6 was quite different from what I believed when I was 12 and I suspect will differ still from what I will believe when I’m 40. My experiences shape my views, but to base the whole of life on the frailty of human understanding is to either live in a continual state of low level fear (which is horribly enslaving), to live in denial of that fear, or worst of all—to become numb and hardened (Eph 4:18-19) to the fear…the fear which I’d argue is a healthy and good motivation to seek one who might alleviate it (Mt 11:28)!

I am confident that God has done the most in my life when I’ve felt him the least. There is a beautiful paradox only he can produce and which defies explanation. One of the most interesting observations I’ve made in listening to the podcast is the varying responses from atheists and agnostics in terms of their expectations of God’s revelation. It’s always on their terms….which often seem to continually change. Some have stated that if they saw a miracle, they would believe going on to define what would have to constitute a sufficient miracle (sounds familiar Mt 16:1). Others have stated that if there were a documented supernatural healing, that would provide sufficient evidence. They then go on to define what constitutes “supernatural” and “documentation” claiming that videos and photos can be altered. Others have stated they didn’t know what it would take, but that if God revealed himself, they would ‘just know.’ One even stated that if God sent a certain type of bird at a certain time to a window of the hospital while a relative was healed of a disease, that would seal the deal for him, but not any other type of bird. It is both disheartening, listening to the logistical fallacy of their arguments, and encouraging as I hear the promises of scripture confirmed again and again. Jesus words ring true in every one of the said claims—that if they did not believe Moses or the prophets, they would not believe Moses and the prophets, neither will be they be convinced if someone rises from the dead (Luke 16:31). He very specifically, and with good reason commands against putting the Lord to the test (Deut 6:16) which I’m convinced has much more to do with attitude in inquiry whether he is sincerely being sought after (Deut 4:29) or whether people were simply using the intellect he graciously endowed them with to accuse him (Mt 22:15). If the Christian God is who the Christian God claims to be (including the creator of ourselves), would we not expect himself to prove himself by his own terms and we would not be most wise to submit to those terms if we seek him with any level of respect and sincerity?

What is faith without mystery and how can certainty produce hope? How and why God’s sovereignty co-exists with the free will which essential to humanity is beyond comprehension, but does in no way imply conflict in his nature or design. To the contrary, evidence and experience have proven in that every instance in which God saw it fit to harden human hearts, humans saw it fit to harden their hearts. Another perspective would be that every human who does not desire to worship the God he was built to worship has been given over to the reprobation he simply seeks all his life. Asking the question of which comes first is essentially asking to pry into the mysterious interworkings of a machine who’s functioning is so perfect and wonderful but which complexity is so far beyond understanding that an accusation against it will at best diminish any appreciation for its wonder and at worst, turn it against you. Asking God to meet us on our own terms is utter folly—it is not only folly in its lack of humility before a Holy being, but it diminishes, taints and warps our image of the sovereign character he claims to be and wants us to know! Were the secret workings of God granted to us, they would destroy the very nature of the life we were designed for; we could never have the experience of wonder or the joy of discovery. It’s his game and must be played on his terms, not only because he makes the rules, but because if you don’t, you’re playing a different game.

Truth is here! He came, he’s come, and he’s coming again (Rev 1:8)! The truth is revealed sufficiently to all (Ro 1:25) so that none is without excuse. It is not only available, but it is hanging right in front of us. More than that! It is in our hearts and in our mouths (Deut 30:14), such that it would take greater effort to spit Christ out than to ingest what he has perfectly planted in us—a heart that knows eternity, albeit a cloudy version of it. He gives sight to the blind who seek him, strength to the weak who want him, and rest for the weary to trust him. Seek him while he may be found, draw near to him for he will abundantly pardon (Isa 55:6-7), but ignore him and he will hide his face (Zech 7:13), give him lip service alone (Isa 29:13) and he who pierces all hearts (He 4:12-13) will judge all hypocrisy, insult him and he will call to account (Ro 12:14). God cannot and will not be mocked (Gal 6:7), let us guard our hearts and our motives (Ecc 5:1) while confidently approaching the throne of him who knows our each and every suffering, brokenness, and longing (He 4:15-16). The truth will bring freedom (John 8:32) to those who earnestly, humbly, and longingly seek it, but it submits to no stipulations or it would cease to be truth. It is found in a person-who is more than worthy of our every seeking with all our might until the perfect timing (Ro 5:6) in which he chooses to graciously impart the most wonderful knowledge of his character in light of which all questioning, confusion, and struggles melt into insignificance in light of his wonder.

“An ‘impersonal God’–well and good. A subjective God of beauty, truth, and goodness, inside our own heads–better still. A formless life-force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap—best of all. But God himself, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps approaching at an infinite speed, the hunter, king, husband—that is quite another matter. There comes a moment when children who have been playing burglars hush suddenly: was that a real footstep in the hall? There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion suddenly draw back. Supposing we really found him? We never meant it to come to that! Worse still, supposing He had found us?” –CS Lewis

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

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
 
Prep time

Cook time

Total time

 

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

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