Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thankful

Turkey. Pumpkin pie. Cranberry sauce. All the trappings of an American tradition, baked, stirred, and served up amidst a collection of family favorites. Is this Thanksgiving?

Don't get me wrong. I love the holiday. But amidst the ritual replay of traditions, it's all too easy to lose sight of the greater truth we are celebrating.

As I sprawled on my living room floor Thanksgiving morning, wrapped haphazardly in my bathrobe, hair a messy pile on my head, giving thanks was the last thing on my mind. I stared frustrated at the laptop screen, glancing repeatedly up at the flat screen TV mirroring my actions on the computer. I'd awakened early to help start breakfast and watch the parade. But now I didn't notice the smell of hot monkey bread beginning to drift through the house. The only thing I could think about was the stupidity of NBC's website. They said the parade would stream live. Well, where was the bloomin' link?

It's amazing how the little things in life can get to you. The traditions become weights, actions you must do or die. I was going to watch the parade. It was Thanksgiving. But the longer I scrambled from site to site, the clearer it was that I'd missed most of the parade. Finally stumbling onto a lame embedded video on NBC's New York affiliate, I magnified the small window for my dad and siblings sitting behind me. Disgusted, I picked myself up and headed for the shower.

I'd like to say at that point I straightened-up, repented of my sour mood and thanked God for all He'd done for me this year. After all, that's what happened. For a few hours.

But as the day wore on, my mind was pelted repeatedly with things I was not thankful for. Memories soured to bittersweet. Small splinters biting at the thought of them. Even the last two weeks had amounted to a string of days most of which I wanted to forget.

So I chopped veggies, smiled, laughed, and occasionally, smarted and stung. So much good from God. And so much bad from man.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 ESV)

But even the bad, with God, can be good. Each small scar reminded me of how God had brought me through, taught me something, and made me stronger. Each bad day had been a lesson, an opportunity to forgive, an opportunity to repent.

And so as I sat down with my family for Thanksgiving dinner, I was thankful. Thankful for the good times we've had this year, as well as for the bad. Thankful that God loved me enough to walk me through both. Thankful that compared to most people in the very big world, my troubles are very very small.

After dinner we watched a movie, and I skimmed my Google Reader. My eye's caught on an entry in the Boundless Line, provakatively titled "Thanks for Nothing." Author Lisa Anderson echoed my thoughts:

As Thanksgiving is upon us, I’ve naturally been thinking about thankfulness. Without a doubt, I have many things to be thankful for. But I started thinking about the things I don’t have. The things I’ve been denied. And I’m thankful for those, too... Failures, disappointments, losses – all things that seemed devastating at the time, but now go on my growing list of things to be thankful for.
Thanksgiving day had dawned stormy outside. The rain softened into snow and laced the trees and rooftops as the day grew older. As I snuggled on the living room futon in the evening, surrounded by family and reading words of encouragement, I was truly thankful. God is good all the time.

I was also getting hungry. How about some of that apple pie...


You can view the full Boundless Line article here.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Mexican Bean Salad: Had to share this one!

My mom found this recipe online, and it's already become a family favorite. It's easy and delicious, not to mention healthy!


Ingredients:

Salad:
1 (15 ounce) can black beans
1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans
1 (15 ounce) can cannellini beans
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 red onion
1 (10 ounce) package frozen corn kernels

Dressing:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons white sugar (I use Splenda)
1 tablespoon salt
1 clove crushed garlic
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 dash hot pepper sauce
1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Directions:
Chop bell peppers and onion. Add corn.



Drain and rinse beans.


Combine with veggies. Mix dressing ingredients and pour over salad. Chill.


Enjoy!

You can view the original recipe here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Autumn Reading: Paul E. Miller's 'A Praying Life'

God has always used books to bless me and mold me. The most recent is Paul E. Miller's A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World.

I read this section tonight, thoroughly enjoying Miller's summarizing of the Christian life. It's not exhaustive, but it's challenging. It's not comprehensive, but it's thought-provoking.

I thought I would share.
Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, 6, and 7 is a blueprint for getting in touch with your self-will and letting God take control. Jesus introduces us to what it means to be a child of our heavenly Father. To understand the sermon, think of your life as a room filled with open doors called money, sex, power, and fame.
Jesus begins the sermon by telling you he is going to go through your life and close all the doors to human power and glory. In the Beatitudes he says, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5). In other words, he is saying, "Give up power in relationships, and I will show you an entirely different way to do life. Don't be afraid of being a codependent, of disappearing. I will take care of you."
In the rest of chapter 5 Jesus closes one door after the other. He tells you to empower your enemies, those who abuse you, to think of their needs (5:43-47). If you suspect that someone is irritated with you, don't wait for that person to come to you; go to him or her even if it isn't your fault (5:23-24). Jesus closes the door to revenge, even emotional revenge through distance (5:38-43). And when you are selling something, don't try to get power over people by using oaths or by promising more than you can deliver (5:33-37). He closes the door to a secret life of sexual pleasure by telling you to remove your eye if it is looking at women to use them (5:27-30). If you do what Jesus says in chapter 5, you start to feel spiritual.
In chapter 6, Jesus deals with wanting to look spiritual. He tells you to keep your prayer life hidden so you don't use it to make yourself look good. If you pray, do it in private (6:5-8). If you fast, pretend you don't (6:16-8). If you give, don't tell anyone (6:1-4). Don't use spirituality as a means for getting power and glory. Jesus closes the door to getting our identity from your own righteousness.
Then Jesus closes the door to getting your security from money. Instead, he says, give your money away (6:19-24). Now that you've lost the security of money, you begin to panic an say, "Who's going to take care of me?" Jesus says, "Your Father will. Look at the lilies of the field. Seek my Father's kingdom first." So not only do you have to give up money, but you have to give up worrying about money (6:25-34). Two more doors close to human power and glory.
As you begin chapter 7, you have a new view of the world. You've learned how to put God at the center. Everywhere you look, people are so caught up with stuff. Now Jesus taps you on the shoulder and says, "Stop judging. When you see someone else's sin, instead of using that information to correct them, use that information to humble yourself by first finding the beam in your own eye." Instead of using your insights into other people's issues as a spiritual hammer, Jesus wants you to take these insights and deepen your own repentance (7:1-5). Argh! How do I do life?
Having closed all your doors, Jesus opens  the door to prayer and tells you how he gets things done (7:7). He asks for help from his Father. He talks to his Father and tells him what he wants. Prayer is the positive side of the surrendered will. As you stop doing your own will and wait for God, you enter into his mind. You begin to remain in him ... to abide. This is the praying life. (Miller 158-160)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Kitchen trip to the Keys: Too easy lime pie

Last week, we took a trip to the Keys. At least, that's what it tasted like.

My mom found an incredibly easy and delicious recipe for Key lime pie. We tried it once ourselves, then made it again to share! The second time, I doubled the recipe, and it still turned out.

Ingredients:
1 (9 inch) prepared graham cracker crust
2 cans sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup Key lime juice (about 10-15 Key limes)
1 tablespoon grated lime zest

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grate lime peel to make zest. Squeeze limes to make juice. 


Combine condensed milk and sour cream.


Mix well. Then mix in lime juice and zest.


Pour into prepared crust. Bake for 8 minutes, "until tiny pinhole bubbles burst on the surface of pie." Do not brown.



Serve chilled. Top with whipped cream if desired.


Enjoy! I know we did. 

You can view the original recipe here.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My new piano

When I was about 9 years old, my family bought our first piano. It was an old player model, having belonged to a family friend. Two years later, we sold the instrument to move to north Idaho.

It wasn't a bad trade -- a piano for farm life on 10 acres. But I missed playing music, and after I sold my second 4H market hog, I bought a piano. Like my first one, it was about a hundred years old. Heavy, clunky, and full of character.

But, like all good things, farm life in Idaho came to an end. I sold my piano back to it's original family and headed east with the rest of my clan, back to the land of our heritage: the Ozarks.

That was in 2003. Since then, I have often thought of buying another piano. But with life as unsettled as it has been, first with finding the right town and then finishing college, I didn't put any real effort into the task. But for the last year or so, I've missed having a piano in the living room. I started praying about it. Being a poor college student, it wasn't something I could afford.

And God seemed to provide, through the willing vessels of my grandparents, who gave me a hefty financial present upon graduation in May. Finally, I thought, I would buy a piano. But it wasn't until the last month that I started reading Craigslist seriously, inquiring about many instruments. And I kept praying, all the while, that God would show me the right instrument -- the one He wanted me to have.

This morning was like many others. As I sipped coffee and flipped through social networking feeds and email accounts, I opened a tab for Craigslist. As usual -- I prayed God would show me the right piano.

He did.

A man named David was selling his mother's Kimball. 35 years old. Good condition. $1. He gave a phone number, but I replied with an email. I figured it was either junk or gone already.

It wasn't gone. It was just a couple miles down the road.

Now, it is in my house.







God answered my prayer in an unexpectedly tangible way. But knowing Him, why should I be surprised?


If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:11 ESV)