Irrational Recipe

It’s pretty common knowledge, especially among chefs, that ingredients play a key role in making anything in the kitchen.  You probably just squished up your face and said to yourself something like, “Well, it doesn’t take a chef to know that – duh!”  You’d be right.  In fact, it’s also pretty common knowledge to know that baking soda, when used alone, will not make a cake, neither will an egg, or oil, or flour.  I actually hope you have never done or choose to ever do this, but  you’ll know exactly what I mean if you spoon up some baking soda in your mouth.  Don’t ask me how I know this.

My experience of expertise in this area comes at a critical time in my life where I was learning from my grandmother, the trade secrets in the kitchen.  Making homemade brownies was always a treat!  But I must add, curiosity really got the goose on this particular day.  All the ingredients on the table and ready to assemble, the one that drew my attention far more than any other was the can of Cocoa.  Taking on the ideal fragrance of chocolate and appearing in presentation identical to it’s cousin Nestle Quick, I couldn’t resist the temptation to grab the spoon at the first chance I had.  Grandma finally went around the corner, just out of site and I moved in for the kill.  It was going to be a mouthful of succulent chocolate yum — a concentrated chocolate milk on my tongue and I couldn’t wait for the thrill of this tasteful experience.  I grabbed the spoon in my unbelievable fortune, dug it deep within the tin of joy and lifted the spoon to my mouth while subtle waves of chocolate dance through my nose to my brain.  And then, like I had just unleashed a scoop of the moon into my mouth, the bitter buds on my palette ached and immediately withdrew what little moisture had gathered under my tongue.  Even at the attempt to discard it, it was like someone had just stepped on a powdery mushroom as spores of Cocoa were released into the air.  One might think it would depart your mouth as quick as it went in, but like QuickSet concrete, Cocoa turns to a paste that a simple and single glass of water does not dissolve.

I had learned a valuable lesson that day.  I am not coo-coo for Cocoa anymore for one, but I mostly learned that all things are not as they appear.  Ingredients can seem a bit irrational at times.  It just doesn’t make sense that something so nasty can taste so good in the end.  Sugar is a sweet, sweet thing — it changes everything!!!

Tonight I was reminded of this principle once again.  The more I read about it, the more I became amazed, encouraged and simply in awe of God.  In short, God tells us that He is making something very good in each of us.  He plans to use all things to conform me into the image of His Son.  And I found myself staring at the pages . . . quiet . . . still . . . contemplating this apparent journey.  And here is what I began to think:  “What?  All things?  He’s going to take them all?  Surely not all of them!!  Really??  This one?  This?  That? And THAT??”

Oh my . . . this feels like a recipe for disaster!  And satan would surely like for me to think that in every sense of the term.  But that’s not what God has said about me, nor is it how Christ lives through me.  Yeah, my sin is like a spoonful of Cocoa — smells good, tastes like powdered poop!  But my crappy life experiences mixed with a heart for Jesus baked in His redemptive love and grace is an original recipe indeed!

Thank you Jesus!

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.    Romans 8:28

by Mark Cruver

Talking Behind My Back

Have you ever been the subject of someone talking about you behind your back?  Worse, have you ever been the one talking about someone else behind their back?  I hardly think anyone is exempt from either of those questions.  In fact, the topics about another span the universe and unfortunately we only find out about the negative things.  Truth is, nobody really likes to find out they’ve been “talked about” behind their back.

I recently encountered a moment very similar.  But my reaction was very different than most I think.  I found out someone was talking about me behind my back and it literally took my breath away.  I never ever thought this person would say such things about me so when I found out I could do nothing but sit there in tears.  Why was I taken so off-guard, you may wonder?  Well, it wasn’t the first time.  This particular revelation was actually the sixth time it was brought to my attention.  It was getting a bit ridiculous . . . or was it?

What do you really say when you find out God is talking to others about you behind your back?  What do you really say?  I sat in awe and wept.

When, for the sixth time, some random person comes up to you and says, “God just told me to come over and introduce myself because you needed someone to pray with,” you open your ears to their words.  The prayers, the conversations, the revelation of God in those moments and the realization that God Himself was having a conversation with others about you will change your perspective!

Then I read about the blind guy, Bartimaeus.  It was brief, but it was direct . . . Jesus spoke to others about Bartimaeus in much the same way as he has spoken to others about me.  Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”  Jesus said this to those with him (likely his disciples).  And with that charge, they called Bartimaeus from the roadside where he sat yelling for mercy — something Jesus could have surely done Himself.  Bartimaeus was on the mind of Jesus and Jesus spoke to others to get his attention. (Mark 10:46-52)

I’m wondering now how many times I’ve missed the call from Jesus as He is trying to talk to me about someone behind their back.

Lord Jesus, I simply am awestruck at your thoughts of me.  When your thoughts of me reach me, they overwhelm me.  Thank you for calling out to your disciples for Bartimaeus.  I’m so thankful for their obedience in hearing your voice. Thank you for calling out to others for me!  And, for what it is worth, I’m glad you talk about me behind my back!

by Mark Cruver

Is It Just Me?

I shouldn’t be feeling this way!  These things shouldn’t be happening to me!  Life stinks!  I want one thing, but do another!  I love, but am not loved!  I fight, but do not win!  I work hard, but get no where!  I look up, but it’s cloudy!  Is it just me?

The answer to this, and many of the pending questions in life is found as I live not as I want, but as Christ lives through me.  Even as I’ve written this I’m reminded of how much I’m still learning.  Trusting Christ as my life is an act of obedience with every step.

It’s trusting the Truth in Christ and recognizing the lies from satan that bring misery and bondage.  It’s making it all about me and my circumstances instead of Him and His control of my circumstances.  For when I live through His Truth, He receives the glory.

How many times have you opened a gift and tossed the packaging away only to learn there was more!  Well, there is MORE!  How often I forget that along with the gift of salvation came Christ as life!  It’s rarely noticed until something happens greater than we (I) can bear, but the measure of this extends throughout my very existence — second of every minute.

Cast all your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.  Psalm 55:22

You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me; your help has made me great.  You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way.  Psalm 18:35-36

When life gets heavy, so heavy in fact it feels all-consuming, the answer to the pending question is yes, it is just me!  God has commanded me to give it to Him to carry.  His shoulders are broad and strong and not just for the moment — instead He expects me to heave my burden onto Him.  Why?  Because He can handle it – will handle it – promises to handle it – with ease.  Remember, His yoke and burden are light (Matthew 11:30)!

So, why do I feel like it’s just me all the time?  Well, it’s likely because it’s the devil’s idea.  A bunch of lies! Because of who I am, to whom I belong and through whom I live, it is not normal for me to carry my own weight.  When I choose to carry my own burdens, I am choosing to live life outside of Christ — independence from the One who lives in me!  And this, my friend, is sin (Romans 14:23).

 

Frozen By Fear

Fear has power.  It’s ability to reinvent is comparable only to the force of nature.   Fear is able to change momentum, redirect confidence, sabotage faith, conceive doubt, hijack control and freeze freedom.

I’m reminded of a beautiful spring day at a Tennessee wilderness creek.  It was a supremely perfect day.  Just the right amount of sun through the trees to warm your back while following the rushing water upstream and pausing on occasion to witness it’s power cascading over boulders left behind from something far bigger than myself.  On this particular day I chose to get a bit closer than usual to nature.  With a number of good sized rocks scattered beyond the shoreline into the rushing water it only seemed right to hop from one to another.  The air smelled of adventure and then time seemed to freeze.  Oddly however, it all happened in a split second and yet, lasted what felt like a lifetime.  As I left the security of one rock to land on the next, my eyes caught glimpse of a water moccasin warming himself on the likes of the rock I had intended to land.  But I was already in motion, in the air with no way to “change my mind.”  Yet, in some odd unexplainable way, I changed my mind, changed my direction and needed to change my shorts!  I landed on a completely different rock out of harms way.  Fear changed my momentum, redirected my confidence, sabotaged my faith, gave birth to doubt, hijacked my control and froze my freedom in mid-air.

It’s easy to talk about fear when it comes to snakes . . . who doesn’t freak out?  But when fear creeps into our lives through relationships, emotions, finances, careers and circumstances, it behaves in very similar ways.  And yet, Jesus tells us to fear not!

I’m reminded in scripture the account of Jesus asleep on the boat as the disciples begin to panic over the storm that threatens to bring disaster.  Jesus asks, “where is your faith?”

The sick woman who touched Jesus’ garment was called to reveal herself.  Full of fear and trembling she fell at Jesus’ feet.  Yet Jesus tells her, “. . . Go in peace and be freed . . . ”

David, a boy with only three stones faces a giant bully — but fear has no power!

Faith in knowing the Truth brings fear to it’s knees.  It thaws the grip fear has on the soul to do what is right and affirms the power of the Spirit who lives within to “go in peace and be freed!”  It is through the greater power of the Spirit of God that overcomes anxiety in messed up and broken relationships, that conquers unleashed emotions, that answers the questions of why and what if, that gives the solution to how.  It sees through the fog of soured circumstances to see that God is in control and that His promises stand true to the end . . . that He is glorified!

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.  And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”   Romans 8:5

 

Forfeit The Grace

Do I really believe the Word of God to be “a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path?”  Yes I do!  God’s word to me has been increasingly more meaningful and His voice, through His word, has been steady, firm and clear.  His promises and assurances fill me with more God-confidence and far less self-confidence.  More of Him, less of me.

Jonah’s life has always been an interesting read.  There’s nothing like the consequence of disobedience resulting in an unexpected journey in the belly of a whale.  It’s evident through his journey that God is serious.  And it is in this seriousness God reached out and demanded Jonah’s attention.  I know the feeling!

What is better is Jonah listened and pondered God’s direction.  He was in quite an awkward position of surrender and so he did.  And as he did, his heart too began to hear the steady, firm and clear voice of His savior.  As he listened, he learned of the greatest consequence of all.  To God, Jonah’s worship was silent.  It echoed throughout his life, but little belonged to His Lord — in fact, one might question what or who Jonah truly worshipped.  And without Jonah’s complete surrender in worship to His Lord God, the grace that could be, would be forfeited.

Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.  But I, with a  song of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you.  What I have vowed I will make good.  Salvation comes from the Lord.  Jonah 2:8-9

Lord Jesus, I know your grace is sufficient . . . for even me!  You have reminded me to trust in you even when the waters get deep and rough (Isaiah 43:1-2).  You have assured me that you hear my thoughts and words (Micah 7:7).  You have encouraged me to not allow my heart to be troubled or to be afraid — because you have given me Peace (John 14:27).  May I sing the same song as Jonah!

The Fingerprint of God

photoLast week I had the honor of helping a dear friend with some fallen trees on his land.  For you and me, we would take a chainsaw to a fallen tree and cut it into logs or split it into firewood — but not this guy.  He takes the trunk of the tree and runs it through his mill to make planks.  Recycling the fallen.

My dad made his living taking such pieces of wood, old and new, and transforming them into true works of art.  Since childhood, fresh cut wood causes me to reflect on many great moments of sanding, drilling, cutting, glueing and ultimately experiencing my dad’s handiwork.  His work was breathtaking.

And so, last week, while cutting these logs into planks . . . I noticed something I had never noticed before.  I’ve always admired the grain of wood.  The patterns that swirl around knots that number it’s years, it’s simply beautiful.  But this time I realized this looks like a fingerprint.

The truth of what I was looking at, what I was admiring, had actually been touched by the hand of God.  It was His fingerprint! With no two alike, God touched not just this tree, but every living thing . . . including me with His hand.

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  Ephesians 2:10

My God, may I never overlook your handiwork in me!  May I never discard the fact that your fingerprint is within me because you have fearfully and wonderfully created me.  I am your workmanship!!

Wife With No Name

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.  Psalm 34:8

Today I had the most excellent conversation with some new friends at my local Starbucks.  It was one of those conversations that begin knowing full well God orchestrated.  Those are indeed, the best kind!  During the course of the conversation, my new friend asked me a question.  She said, “Who is your favorite woman in the Bible?”  What an interesting question.  I sat and pondered as she explained, “I’m going to be speaking at my church on a woman of my choice from the Bible and I just don’t know who.”  I replied, “My favorite woman in the Bible is the wife with no name.”  Confused and a bit bewildered, my new friend sought to learn more.  “It’s Noah’s wife,” I said.

You see, there’s not much written — in fact hardly a word — on Noah’s wife.  She’s a quiet character in the story of Noah, but plays the leading supporting role.  The mere story itself suggests many things I believe to be true about Noah’s wife that serves to be a lesson for all of us.

The story of Noah begins, if a story can actually begin when one is 500 years old, with God finding favor with him and his family because he was found righteous.  God found favor in the hearts of Noah’s family, destroyed everyone else upon the earth.  Not once do we read of Noah’s wife complaining, belittling or questioning Noah.

Instead, we find the wife with no name in complete obedience to her Father in heaven as she follows with honor her entrusted husband.

May we learn from Noah’s wife the power in obedience to our God . . . even in the midst of unbelievable circumstances, unfathomable storms and undeniable messes . . . only to find, in His great plan, the promise of all things new!

 

When God Appears

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.  When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified.  “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.  But Jesus immediately said to them; “Take courage!  It is I.  Don’t be afraid.”  “Lord, if it’s you,” Petter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”  “Come,” he said.    Matthew 14:25-29

I’ve thought about this passage for quite some time.  I was enamored by the acts of Christ in separating himself from the distractions of life to find a quiet place to pray — and not just for a minute, but for hours!  Knowing Christ approached the throne for those He loved along with fellowship with His Father was for me a cause for pause.  But the next course of events were absolutely stunning.

From a distance, Christ’s vantage point, the boat and disciples could barely be seen.  Matthew tells us they were “already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves . . .”  Then, the impossible unfolded.

Knowing full well they were no longer near the shore, Christ appeared to the disciples.  As unexpected as this must have been, it was not unlike the Lord to teach through His actions and less so through His words.

When God appears in the midst of life events difficult to explain because it simply does not make sense, it is undoubtedly exactly when God finds a teachable heart.  I’ve often heard that if you can’t explain it, God’s in it!  This was so true of the moment Christ stood before them on the water in the middle of the lake.

It’s reassuring knowing God shows up to my events and teaches me simply by His presence of the Truth of His promises, the abundance of His love and the depth of His hope.

Thank you Lord Jesus for your willingness to seek the Father on my behalf and then pursue me, find me and call to me — right where I am.  Good, bad or indifferent, it doesn’t matter the circumstance, what you think of me never changes, your call to me never ceases, your love for me runs deeper than my mind can imagine.  I just cannot explain what it’s like when you appear!

For the grace of God ha appeared that offers salvation to all people.  It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the is present age, while we wait for the blessed hope–the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.     Titus 2:11-14

Getting Used To It

“But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written:  ‘Be holy, because I am holy.”  I Peter 1:15-16

One of the biggest things I’ve learned over the last couple of years more than anything is that with grief, with loss — comes change.  And in the face of such change there is the temptation to force myself through the briar patch despite the snags and pain with all of its’ lasting wounds and scars.  At times, it feels like it would be more comfortable if I simply stopped and settled in place.  However, the problem with sitting in the briar patch are those pesky thorns starring me in the face and their scratch at every move I make.  Those painful briars tell me it’s safer and hurts less if I just sit still.  And when I do, everyone hears me say things like — “I’m over here . . . do you mind if I just talk from here?  It hurts too much to come to you!”  “That’s ok, it’s just where I am . . . just getting used to it, I hope you don’t mind.”  “I’m doing well, no I’m great, really.  I’m just going to . . . ouch! That hurt!”

But, God didn’t call me to live my life in the briar patch.  Briar patches are places to hide and sulk.  God called me to live life in the abundance of Him without exception.  He calls me to live in His holiness and run into His arms instead places that lie about their safety and comfort.  The hurtful den of that patch is a place where the healing bed of His salvation can also be found.  The mere idea of stepping out of the briars without hurt, without pain . . . with healing and the assurance of His abundant love is the essence of joy, comfort, peace and hope.

There is no peace in the heart of those in the patch, but there is healing in the heart of the one who takes refuge in Him. He has called me to be holy as He is holy — to live in the truth of who I am, regardless of my circumstances.  That is joy unspeakable.

When change comes because of grief and loss, remember there is no getting used to that!   God called me to rest in the knowledge of who I am in Christ, not in getting used to the briar patch — that’s not who I am!

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  II Corinthians 10:5

Rescuer Realized

Habakkuk the prophet saw it all and shares with us a portion of what was likely a lengthy conversation between him and God.   The account is shared in none other than the Old Testament book of Habakkuk.  It’s short — only three short chapters — but it is rich in the transforming understanding of who God is and the fullness of His glory!

How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?   Habakkuk 1:2

Habakkuk wrestled with recognizing the presence of God in the midst of difficult times.  He continues to question God in His allowance of wrongdoing and injustice, His tolerance of evil and conflict.  Habakkuk has forgotten for whom God exists!  He forgets that God is writing a story, but the detour in that great story must include the existence of unfortunate and sad circumstances because of the presence of sin.  And this often gives the false appearance of God’s absence.

God then, in chapter two, reminds Habakkuk of His great plan, His grand purpose and His holy splendor!  And Habakkuk’s eyes open to seeing, believing and trusting in the promises of God.  He finally realizes the message of rescue God has for His people.

You came out to deliver your people, to save your anointed one.   Habakkuk 3:13a

I cannot imagine the moment Habakkuk realized this truth!  His countenance changed, his life changed!  How he trusted in God changed and the depth of understanding of the love God has for him and His people was immeasurable.  Because, when all was lost, when nothing else was left, Habakkuk praised the One who enables!  It’s another great example of God’s whisper throughout time of His inevitable rescue!

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.  The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.   Habakkuk 3:17-19

Lord Jesus, remind me of your grand plan for me!  Continue to teach me of the joy I have in you because I belong to you!  I do rejoice . . . may I always rejoice . . . even when I have nothing, because with you I have everything!