Monday, June 29, 2015

Weeding Out Sin and Sinners

My gardens need weeded. Quite badly. But, with hours of training every week, working one day a week, weekly cleaning, daily cooking, and embracing my summer jive...ain't nobody got time for weeding!


Plus, it's going to mess up my nails, which are actually looking quite long and healthy right now. Weeding will break them, and make them dirty.


I will probably bite the bullet next week and get the beds all cleaned out and weed free. Because weeding really is important for plant productivity.

Weeds steal sunshine, soil nutrients, and precious rain from the real plants-the vegetables and the flowers.

We weed for productivity. We weed in order for our plants to grow unhindered, in the best possible circumstances, so they will bear a bumper crop.

Weeding reminds me of the Christian life. We often refer to confession and repentance as weeding out sin. It's a good term. Accurately descriptive of the process.

The purpose of confessing and forsaking sin in our lives is to produce more fruit. We get rid of the sin so it doesn't have a foothold to choke out the good seeds and plants and fruit in our lives.

He also that received seed among the thorns is he that hears the word; and the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. (Matthew 13:22)

Sometimes we forget why we are rooting out sin-in our lives and in other people's lives. We get a bit enthusiastic and occasionally vindictive. We lean towards punishment and revenge rather than repentance and restoration.

We get a little ruthless, pulling up the good plants, and not just the weeds. We wreck the person instead of focusing on dealing with the sin. We take it all down to the bare dirt, pulling out the good, the bad, and the ugly. In our thoroughness, we'd rather see the sinner withering, than restored and productive.

Sometimes we neglect the weeds, in our careless uprooting of the plants.

We hate the sin. We are hateful to the sinner.

We forget that God hates sin, but He loves sinners. We forget that God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 

We forget a basic farming principle.

Pull up the weeds so the plants will flourish and bear fruit.

The purpose of weeding is not to pull up the plants. It's to get out the junk, the hinderances, the sappers, the weeds, so the plants can flourish and reach their full potential.

Weeding is necessary, but it must be done properly. Care must be taken. The plants must be preserved, the weeds must be destroyed.

Is there any weeding that needs to happen in your life?

Friday, June 26, 2015

Grilled Chicken With Tomato Olive Relish

So, Meres wants me to buy her a pet. 

Let me tell you, she's barking up the wrong tree. A pet is not going to happen.

Can you buy me a pet dog? No.

Can you buy me a pet cat? No.

Can you buy me a pet snake? No. 

Just a baby one? No! Are you crazy?!

Does she not know me at all? I will never, EVER, knowingly have a snake living in my house. EVER!!!

I greatly dislike snakes. I even avoid the Herpetarium at the zoo. 

I think she through the snake option out there, so that I'd settle for something else. It was a bargaining chip. I almost offered a goldfish, but we didn't have much luck with those before. 

Pet-free. That's me.

It's a spiritual conviction...

Take a look at this gorgeous, healthy recipe! All those colors! Red, purple, green, white. 

This recipe is gluten-free and dairy-free, and it's delicious! It takes very little time to throw together. You can fill out your meal with grilled corn on the cob-like I did. Or with a lettuce or fruit salad.

Grilled Chicken Breasts with Tomato Olive Relish
Prep time: 20 minutes, Cook time:15 minutes, Total time: 25 minutes
3 ripe medium tomatoes
1/2 cup pitted and coarsely chopped Kalamata olives
3 Tbsp onion, finely chopped
3 Tbsp capers, drained
1-1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
4-1/2 tsp olive oil
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (2 pounds)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

-Chop tomatoes, olives and onion.
-In a small bowl, combine tomatoes, olives, onion, capers, vinegar and 1-1/2 tsp olive oil. Set aside.
-In a medium bowl, toss the chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and remaining olive oil, until evenly coated.
-Place chicken on grill over medium heat, and grill, turning once, until juices run clear. (6-7 minutes per side). Or…heat oven 450 degrees. Place a cooling rack on a foil covered, rimmed cookies sheet. Bake breasts for 20-25 minutes, or until cooked through and juices run clear.
-To serve, top chicken with relish.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

My Changing Relationship Over the Years with Elisabeth Elliot

Most of my readers are probably aware that Elisabeth Elliot passed away last week. She was such an inspiration to me on my spiritual journey, and this was rather bittersweet news. Sweet, because she is with her Lord and Savior that she served so well. Sweet, because of relief from the dementia she suffered for the past several years. Bitter, because our world has lost such a godly woman and example.

I enjoyed reading various eulogies and articles that were posted last week. I can't remember the exact post, but one of my favorites was an interview between Elisabeth Elliot and two Harolds in the 1970s. It was very interesting to read her views on the current events of that time period.

But, then, on Saturday night, another article came up in my FB newsfeed. It was was titled something like A Complicated Eulogy for Elisabeth Elliot.

It was rather fascinating to read. Like myself, the author had been greatly influenced by the writings of Elisabeth Elliot in her teens. But, somewhere along the author's journey, she has reached a point where she no longer agrees with most of what Elisabeth Elliot wrote on relationships, purity and gender roles. She likes her gap-toothed smile, but...

Thus, it's complicated.

Which I can understand, though I have not reached the same conclusions as that author. I still agree with Elisabeth Elliot's views on relationships, purity and gender roles. But, I've had my own journey with Elisabeth Elliot.

I have never heard Elisabeth Elliot speak, not even her radio broadcast. I've never met her. I've only read a few of her books. But, they impacted my life.

I remember being loaned a copy of Passion and Purity when I was 19. I read it, and then I read it again. I took notes the second time. It wasn't my book, so I couldn't highlight and underline. But, I still wanted to remember the wisdom of the book.

I bought my own copy soon afterwards.

I've talked about being challenged by her example of reading through the Bible each year from high school on. I figured if she could do it, so could I. And I have.

But, more to the subject of the book...what I read was a love story. A love story between two flesh and blood people. Who had a happy ending-at least until death do us part. IMHO, one of the most memorable lines (and often quoted) from the book is actually towards the end. "Four bare legs in a bed." (actually a C.S. Lewis quote) So scandalous for a Christian book! When Elisabeth was writing about passion, she was writing about Song of Solomon passion.

I read about waiting for the right man, but not listlessly waiting. I read about waiting, seeking and serving God. Growing as a Christian, building life skills, taking each next step as it presented itself. Waiting in purity of body, soul and spirit.

I didn't read that a woman is only completed with a man. I didn't read that women aren't spiritual beings. I didn't read that women can't serve in church. I read quite the opposite.

My copy of the book is rather dog-eared. I lived and breathed those words. It was rather puppy dog-like. Elisabeth and Jim Elliot really could not do much wrong. I bordered on hagiography. She was my hero. My idol. Shiny, perfect.

I also remember the first time I read Olive Fleming's biography of Pete Fleming, one of the other 5 martyrs. I thought, "you poor, bitter woman. You just don't even understand the greatness you rubbed shoulders with." Yeah. Snort...

I should have been kicked in my 15 year old bootie.

Last summer I brushed up on some of my 5 Martyr stories to share at our VBS.

Let me tell you, the stories read a whole lot differently from the perspective of a 35 year old, than from a dewy-eyed 19 year old!

I still admire each and every one of those men. I'm challenged by their lives.

But, this is what stuck out to me...

They were normal guys. They weren't "super" spiritual fanatics. They were guys-like most any 20-30 something guys you'd run into. They liked to laugh and have fun. They played football and basketball and wrestled. They had kids. They were having a typical "guys" time on that beach where they died, albeit, with a bit higher purpose.

They faced the same struggles we do. They didn't have an edge on Christian life victory that we know nothing about or can't possibly experience. They had fears, and challenges, physical issues, relationships, personalities, passions, faults and failures. They were human. They were sinners. They were not perfect.

They had faults. They were broken. They were tarnished. They made mistakes.

(that would include Pete Fleming's mistakes in regards to his relationship with Olive. I groaned when I read that story again. How could he be such a dork???)

They were obedient. They were faithful. They were vessels used by God.

And, this is where I have a choice. Is my view of these believers going to be all or nothing?

Practically perfect in every way!

A hypocrite! A deceiver! A despicable sinner!

Or a sinner saved by grace?

Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain...

They need grace and forgiveness in their day to day life, just like me.

Like passions...And...

The passions lived alongside the and.

What did they do with the passions? What did they do despite them? Their legacy is not that they were perfect. Their legacy is in their choices.

Their legacy is in the ands. The buts. The yets.

I have the choice to respect these people as human beings loving and serving their Master or to write them off completely.

I have the choice to acknowledge that the honeymoon is over, but that there are still really amazing qualities about the person.

I have the choice to be disenchanted with the whole or to learn from their wisdom and examples.

I have the choice to sift.

God doesn't remember people the way we do. God created Abraham, Lot, David. All were men who sinned greatly. It's all recorded in the Old Testament.

But, in the setting of the New Testament, through the lens of Jesus Christ's blood, Abraham is called the friend of God. David is a man after God's own heart. Lot is a just man.

There is a lesson to be learned in that. We can learn from people's faults. Learn to not make the same mistakes. It's not our place to hold someone's failings against them. God doesn't. He sees them through the blood.

We can learn from their strengths.

More than that, we can follow their God. We can seek Him through studying the Bible and prayer, like they did. We can follow their examples of godly living and principles, without following each step on their path.

What choice are you making when it comes to Christians in your life? All? Nothing? Sifting?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Our Week in Cherries Plus Grilled Salmon

It's that week...

Cherry week!

We have a sweet cherry tree in our backyard. Which has been an awesome thing. Some years we get a bumper crop. Some years are for the birds and the worms.

This year is a bumper crop year. There are plenty for us, and plenty for the birds too. Everyone is happy.

Momentos of their diligent efforts... 
The kids have been gunning to pick the cherries since they first started turning reddish yellow last week. They picked their first bowls on Monday, and picked a huge colander on Tuesday. They are having a blast spitting pits randomly. Around the house. Around the yard.
We have put a moratorium on the house pit spitting. We do not live in a barn...

Well, since sweet cherries aren't really for baking, I'll have to share another try of recipe with you.

How about Grilled Salmon?

Summery. Grilled. Delicious. Simple.

Fits all those descriptions!

This recipe is from the famous BFF. She is much more adventurous than I am when it comes to trying fish. I think all my good fish recipes were first vetted by her.

So, there is an oil, brown sugar, soy sauce marinade that the fish soaks in for a couple hours. It makes the salmon pleasantly sweet, but not like caramelized or anything. My kids LOVED it. Meres keeps asking when we can have it again.

Grilled Salmon
Prep time: 5 minutes, Marinate time: 2 hours, Cook time: 15 minutes, Total time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
4 to 6 (6 oz) salmon fillets
pepper or lemon pepper
garlic powder
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup oil

-Season salmon fillets with pepper or lemon pepper, garlic powder and salt.
-In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, brown sugar, water and oil. Place fish in a resealable bag, and pour the marinade on top. Seal bag, turn to coat fish, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
-Preheat grill for medium heat.
-Lightly brush grill grates with oil.
-Discard marinade and grill fillets, 6 to 8 minutes per side, or until flakes easily with a fork.

 Maybe enjoy it for Summer Solstice?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Adjusting Expectations

It's Sunday morning, and I am home from church. It is pretty quiet here. There is a light rain falling, and I can hear the birds chirping away.

Meres is in bed sleeping. She woke up early this morning in a coughing fit. Not sure if it is a summer cold, or summer allergies. There is enough germs and pollen and junk floating around, that it could be either or. So, I gave her medicine, put Vicks on her chest, steamed her up good in the shower, and put her back to bed. And she is still sleeping away.

This girl never stops. Ever. Except when she is sleeping. Which means that I rarely wake her up, unless it can't be avoided. Or unless, like last winter, she is getting her 11-12 hours from midnight to noon. Then we start ooching and scooching those hours around. Waking her at 8:30, so she will go to sleep before 11:00. (well, actually 9:30 or 10)

Anyway, this all has nothing to do with what I am writing about-only why I am writing right now...

Way back around April 1, (right after I made it through an entire month without chocolate!) I decided that I was going to up my water intake.

Like-way up.

For many years I have aimed to drink 3 of my water bottles per day-which is about 60 ounces. During the winter, when I am cold, and not generally as thirsty, that is quite the goal.

But, during training season, drinking 60 ounces is not anywhere near enough to counter all the water lost through sweating.

I decided to up my water drinking to at least 5 bottles per day (100 ounces). And, I don't think I have hit lower than that since April1. I usually drink at least the 5, with sometimes a 6th thrown in for good measure.

It has been good.

I will put it right out there-drinking water has not led to weight loss. Which is what people always claim. I'm not carrying water weight (what is going in, is going out), but neither has the scale budged at all.

I think if my goal was to lose weight by drinking more water, I'd be sorely disappointed. But, I do feel better. I feel toned, strong and healthy. Which has a lot to do with the training and the water drinking.

My skin isn't clear and pure as the driven snow. I still have days when I wonder why my face looks like a teenager's, but all around, it is more clear. The water is flushing out toxins and plumping up the skin cells. Despite all my time outside, my skin is not as typically dry as it is in the summer.

I'm not getting dehydrated on my runs. Which is an amazing thing. I sweat a ton (read: drip and pour) when I exercise. It is very easy to get dehydrated. But, because of all my water intake, my body is drawing from a storehouse-practically it's very own well. No dehydration. Which means that my muscles hurt a whole lot less, and recover a whole lot sooner.

I have more energy. I don't know why, but fatigue is one of the first signs of dehydration. Conversely, being hydrated allows more energy for living life.

I think we often have ideas about what certain actions should produce in our lives. We are told that exercise and drinking water lead to weight loss. But, when we don't see those exact results, we can get a bit discouraged.

But, it doesn't mean there are positive results happening from these practices. We just need to open our eyes to more than a number on the scale. Which is a challenge-isn't it?!

When we got home from Spain in February, I weighed 2 more pounds than I do right now. I was nice and rounded from eating their amazing bread and ham. I was determined to get that scale number down at least 10 pounds, to my more favorite weight.

And no one can say that I haven't worked at that goal. I've run hours and miles a week since the end of February. I've drank my water. I've eaten pretty healthy.

And, like I just said-I'm down two pounds. TWO POUNDS!

If all I was looking at was the scale, I'd be drowning in a puddle of disappointment.

This is the dialogue I struggle with on my journey. The scale versus other results. Maybe your dialogue sounds a bit different, but often the bottom line is the same. Contentment with our bodies. Working hard or settling.

The running, swimming and biking are all paying off. Just not in the way we are told to expect.

Maybe it is time to adjust my expectations. Not give up and settle for the mom body. Still set and meet goals. But, also embrace the whole picture of fitness in the body I have. Celebrate the progress.

Focus on the whole picture. The defined thigh and calve muscles from running and biking. The shoulder muscles from swimming and biking. The slimmer core from running, swimming and biking. (and drinking buckets of water.) The faster runs and bikes. The built up endurance. The hydration and the tan lines. The cathartic properties for all things mental.

It's all contributing to a more healthy (I was going to say well rounded, but I decided that was a poor choice of words...) person in all the realms-physical, mental, spiritual.

How do you need to celebrate, focus, adjust and embrace today?

Friday, June 12, 2015

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cake

These two...born almost exactly 2 days apart. Both will be 4 next week! Crazy!
It has been another wonderful week.

Do I say that every week?

Our summer has fallen into a nice rhythm.

On Mondays I try to do some cleaning, and I do my grocery shopping every other week. They are also my regular 3 Discipline day.

On Tuesdays I work. I run 6 miles, shower, pick up my sitter, and head off to work for 6+ hours. Our evenings are split between the summer Blues concerts and baseball practice.

Wednesdays are my day to whip this house into shape. After I go on a long bike ride. Clear the mind first, and then scrub the tub. We've also been getting together with a group 20-30 miles north of us, to pray, read the Bible, and fellowship. It has been amazing.

Thursdays are most like summer days. I try to keep the schedule and to-do list at a minimum. So I run 7 miles, and try to bike 22 (this week I got a flat tire at mile 10), and then I spend the rest of the day reading, writing, doing some paperwork, and generally relaxing. We also get to add baseball to our summer Thursday evenings.

Fridays are starting off a bit slower. I am trying to get another mile swim in. But, then not as much training. I do breakfast with the BFF every other week, and I've been doing some baking on Fridays too. But it is all rather low key. Our Friday evenings are going to be a flip-flop between tri-training and just biking with Meres. (I ordered her a tag-a-long this week. One that she has to pedal also.)

I hope they grow up to be really good friends.

To nutshell those past few paragraphs...I train, work on Tuesdays, and make sure my house resembles some level of clean, and my family stays mostly fed. Much beyond that...I'm not making a commitment.

And, thus the weeks clip by.

We did our first (of 3 this month) 5k's last Saturday. I did a 25:16. It was one of my fastest 5k times. I have a couple in the 24 and some odd range, but I think it maybe was my PB on that course. I was 89th out of 602 women, 379th out of a field of over 1200, and 12th out of 103 in my age group. All this to say that my hours of training every week are paying off.

Traditionally everyone pulls better times at the 5k that we are running this Saturday. The course is flat-flat and fast. I am interested to see how I do. My time on this race last year was 25:15. We'll see. Maybe I'll dip into the 24s. Maybe not...

So, I have a dessert recipe for you this week. I know. It's been a while. I've been sharing all these uber healthy recipes. Gluten-free. Dairy-free. Vegetarian.

Yeah-this recipe would not qualify for anything but Vegetarian. And it certainly isn't healthy vegetarian...

This Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cake, is very similar to a couple other recipes I've made. The cake mix crust. The layer of cream cheese, eggs, and powdered sugar. What makes this one different is a chocolate cake mix, and a layer of peanut butter cups, and Butter Fingers, right betwixt the cream cheese and cake mix layers.

They are tooth-tinglingly rich. So good! Such quality runner/triathlete food!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cake
1 German Chocolate Cake mix
1 stick butter, melted
1 egg
8 (large) Peanut Butter Cups
3 small Butterfinger Candy Bars
1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
1 cup peanut butter
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 stick butter, melted
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 Tbsp oil

-Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
-Combine the cake mix, 1 egg, and 1 stick melted butter, beating until well mixed. Spray a 9x13” pan with nonstick spray, and pat the cake mix into the bottom of the pan.
-Cut the peanut butter cups into 4 pieces each. Roughly chop the butterfingers. Spread evenly over the cake mix layer.
-In a bowl, beat the peanut butter, cream cheese and vanilla until combined. Add the eggs one at a time, and mix well after each. Add the second stick of melted butter, and beat until smooth. Add the powdered sugar, beating well. Spread carefully over the candy layer.
-Bake for 50 minutes at 375 degrees. The mixture will be puffy and jiggle slightly in the center when done.
-Melt the chocolate chips with the oil. Stir until combined. Spread over top the cream cheese layer.

Enjoy one with some milk. Or one with coffee. Or one with milk and then one with coffee...

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Essential Oil 101

If you've clicked over to this post to get some information on Essential Oils, I fear you are going to be sorely disappointed. We are talking about one oil today, and it isn't Valor, or Lavender, Thieves or Calming. Because I am holding resolutely to my resolution to not hop on the Essential Oils' bandwagon.

No, I'm going to talk about a different essential oil....

On Sunday, our speaker at church was talking about church life. And how when you have a lot of believers together, there's bound to be friction. Because there is movement. He then launched into a very short something about oils and engines. Engines create movement, which creates friction and heat. Oil is essential to keep this process working correctly.

Which I understand-in very layman, non-mechanical terms. Seriously, last winter, when our van needed an oil change, it wouldn't even pick up speed. It was practically dying. It eventually wouldn't start. (in my defense, the oil indicator said it was still at 40%. Yeah, I don't trust that anymore.)

Oil is essential to a car.

It is also essential to baking. Sure, you can bake bread without oiling the bread pans. But, the end result is not too kosher. The lack of oil causes the bread to stick to the pan, and often chunks of bread are left in the pan when the loaf is finally wiggled loose.

Permanent damage is done to the loaf, when the oiling is neglected. Now, I know it's just a loaf of bread, but the idea holds true nonetheless.

I do find it interesting that a lot of cookies don't require greasing of the pan before baking. Why? The grease/oil oozes it's way out of the dough, thus providing it's own layer of oil. Which is a really good point for this post too.

So, the moral of the story is-oil is necessary. For vehicles. For baking. For Christian relationships. It provides lubricant so things run smoothly and don't grind to a halt. So that things don't stick together and rip apart and cause permanent damage.

Obviously, our relationships aren't needing a good squirt of Pam, or a quart of 15W-40. (No, I didn't know that. I looked it up...Google is awesome.) What is our spiritual oil?

It's the Holy Spirit.

Traditionally, oil in the Bible has been considered to be a picture of the Holy Spirit. Whether in it's use in the lamps of the temple, or as an anointing fluid for the prophets, priests, and kings. Oil, and it's usesm are a good illustration of the work of the Holy Spirit.

Yes, there is friction and tension in the body of Christ, but the Holy Spirit is the necessary ingredient for keeping believers unified and at peace. He is the essential oil that keeps all the parts working together properly.

...Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:3)

The oil of the Holy Spirit is dispensed as gifts given to each believer to benefit the body of Christ. To encourage each other and to build each other up and to work in ministry.

The oil of the Holy Spirit is evidenced as fruit in the believers' lives. Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

The only fruit in that list that doesn't have a very obvious relational application would be joy. Though, a joyful person is not one that we generally have a hard time getting along with either.

Loving our neighbor as ourselves. The world knowing we are Christ's disciples by our love for one another.

Peace. Reconciled to God, reconciled to each other. Inner peace, peace in the one body. No enemies. On earth peace, goodwill towards men.

Long-suffering. Putting up with foibles. Putting up with offenses. Not getting our underwear in a bunch over little things.

Gentleness. Being sympathetic, understanding, compassionate. Really feeling what the other is going through.

Goodness. Treating others the way we really would like them to treat us.

Faith. Bearing all things. Believing all things. Hoping all things. Enduring all things. Giving the benefit of the doubt. Leaving grace and room for change.

Meekness. Not standing on our own rights. What we deserve or don't deserve.

Self-control. Keeping anger, bitterness, hurts all under the reign of Christ. Not provoking others. Not envying others.

As we yield to the Holy Spirit, as we allow the Holy Spirit to fill us, the oil of the Holy Spirit will ooze out of us. It will grease our relationships. It will defuse tension. It will produce unity. The heat and friction will be used productively, for the glory of God and the furtherance of His kingdom.

Conversely, when we don't allow the Holy Spirit to fill us, control our actions, and do His lubricating work, we can do permanent damage to our relationships, and even to the kingdom of God.

How is your essential oil supply holding up? It is rather low? Or is it full and oozing out in blessing and peace with other believers?