I Didn’t Do It

I didn’t read every book on my 2011 Book List. Fail! But I did learn a few lessons:

1. Don’t put books on the Book List that you aren’t interested in reading but just want to check off your list.
2. Do make somewhat of a schedule for reading so that in December, you aren’t left with 11 books to read.

With that being said, I have read some very good books. I did book reviews on some. It is my 2012 goal to read many more books (that I am very interested in) and to write book reviews on all of them. I will probably fail at that too, but maybe not. I am learning how to better manage my time.

Here is my 2011 Book List with the reviews that I did write, in case you are interested in putting any of these on your list for next year. (The books that aren’t crossed off are the ones that I am still working on and hope to have done by the New Year… I’m halfway through the last four… I can do it!)

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Fruit From the Vine: Would You Be Thankful If…

While taking a shower, I found myself complaining in my heart a little that the water wasn’t quite hot enough. It was almost there but I like the water so hot that it just about burns my skin. I then realized I was being completely fickle because a lot of the world doesn’t have hot water at an immediate turn of a knob like I do. Well, a lot of the world doesn’t even have water pumped by electricity. And a lot of the world doesn’t even have water to bathe in. Let alone, water to drink! So I began to thank God. “Thank you God for the blessing of hot water. For the blessing of water. Period.”

I began to think of something I have been sporadically doing, my thankfulness journal. Another idea that we had for our family was to make a blessing jar where everyone can add a written blessing to the jar throughout the year, reflecting on the blessing we have received from God, and then we read them at year end. These ideas are great and I think they can give you eyes to see the little things around you that are God’s blessings. They are a great remedy to a complaining spirit. However, in our egocentricity, it often stops here! We are so thankful for God’s gifts. But we forget that GOD gave them. HE is the giver and the goal and the end of all our wants.

I am concerned for myself and for many. If I didn’t have any hot water, or didn’t have any water at all for that matter, would I still be thankful? Not for God’s blessings, but for God Himself? If I were visited by trial like Job or had a thorn in my flesh the Lord would not remove, like Paul, would I still be thankful? If there was literally nothing to be thankful for in my life, would I still be thankful? Because there are many who don’t have the things I have to be thankful for… yet they are still able to thank God and are truly thankful. Because they have HIM.

I would love to use scripture to expound here. And I started to. But then I read a few pages from John Piper’s book, “God is the Gospel.” I can’t put things like Piper can. I must add his words here as they hit home for me on this Thanksgiving. In a few paragraphs, you will see how we are to regard the Gospel as the gift of God Himself over and in all His saving and painful gifts (and pleasant gifts, too):

“The gospel has unleashed the omnipotent mercy of God so that thousands of other gifts flow to us from the gospel heart of God. I am thinking of a text like Romans 8:32: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” This means that the heart of the gospel—God’s not sparing his own Son—is the guarantee that “all things” will be given to us. All things? What does that mean? It means the same thing that Romans 8:28 means: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” God takes “all things” and makes them serve our ultimate good. It doesn’t mean we get everything our imperfect hearts want. It means we get what’s good for us.

Compare this with Philippians 4:19: “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Every need! Does that mean we never have hard times? Evidently not. Seven verses earlier Paul said, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger,abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (vv. 12-13).  This is amazing. God meets “every need” (v. 19).

Therefore, I have learned how to face “hunger” and “need” (v. 12). I can do “all things” through him who strengthens me—including be hungry and be in need! I conclude from this that for Christians everything we need—in order to do God’s will and magnify him—will be supplied. 

According to Romans 8:32 this was secured by the gospel. It is stated even more strikingly in Romans 8:35-37. Here the love of Christ guarantees that we will be more than conquerors in every circumstance, including the circumstance of being killed.  “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Astonishing! We are more than conquerors as we are being killed all day long! So nothing can separate us from Christ’s love, not because Christ’s love protects us from harm, but because it protects us from the ultimate harm of unbelief and separation from the love of God.  

The gospel gift of God’s love is better than life. “Neither death nor life …will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39). In fact, not only can death not separate us from the love of God, it is, along with every other hardship, a gospel gift. Listen to the way Paul says it in 1 Corinthians 3:21-23, “Let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” All things are yours—including death! Death is included in our treasure chest of gifts from God through the gospel.

So in one text Paul says that we are “more than conquerors” in death. And in another text he says that all things are ours, including death. I take him to mean that because of the truths of Romans 8:28 and 8:32 God takes every hardship and makes it serve us, including death. Death is “ours”—our servant. The fact that we are “more than conquerors” means that death doesn’t just lie dead at our feet after the battle—it is taken captive and made to serve us.

And how does death serve us? How does the blood-bought servitude of death bless the children of God? Paul answers, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”(Phil. 1:21). Why is dying gain? He answers two verses later: “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” Being with Christ after death is “far better” than staying on earth. That is why we are more than conquerors when death seems to triumph. It becomes a door to better fellowship with Christ. 

Because of the gospel, God promises to “give us all things” with Christ (Rom. 8:32). The “all things” turns out to include not just pleasant things but terrible things like tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword, and death. These are all gospel gifts purchased for us by the blood of Christ. 

Death is a gift because it takes us more quickly to the great good of the gospel—seeing and savoring the glory of God in the face of Christ. What about these other gifts—tribulation, distress, and so on? How are they benefits that are bought by the gospel? How are they part of the “all things” in Romans 8:32 and 28 and Philippians 4:13? The answer is that in the merciful sovereignty of Christ, empowered by his own blood, these sufferings accomplish the greatest good of the gospel, a more pure and authentic and deeply satisfying seeing and savoring of God in Christ. 

…This is not the design of the devil. It is the design of God. Paul’s life-threatening suffering was designed by God to keep him close to God. The aim of the gospel is not an easy life. It is deeper knowledge of God and deeper trust in God. God did not spare his own Son. Therefore all things are yours— “the world or life or death (or thorns in the flesh or life-threatening persecution) all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” These are gospel gifts because by the blood of Christ they help bring about the goal of the gospel. This goal is not our ease or wealth or safety in this age, but our dependence on Christ and our delight in his glory.”

I treasure this. My heart rests here. Not because it is easy to read or believe, but because it is true. And I am full of thanks for this Truth– whose Name is Jesus.

Thanksgiving Menu- Check!

Thanksgiving 2011 is now 12 days away. 11 days for me, as we are having a feast with friends on Wednesday and a feast with family on Thursday. This means I had to get on the ball (Butterball?) and plan a menu. Which, of course, is not foreign to me. And I love it, just a little. But still, it had to be done ASAP or disorganization, stress, and caffeinated last minute-ness would ensue.

I offer a disclaimer right off the bat: There is white bread on my Menu. *gasp!* I am not an experienced Thanksgiving-er. This is technically my first one. So you can see why I would be a little afraid to try whole wheat or an alternative bread when other non-family member people are coming to my house to eat dinner. People who may or may not care about eating white bread. So I had to do it. However, with this one small exception, the menu is packed with REAL food. Maybe no one will know. Maybe no one will care. Except for the neurotic hippie. (That would be me.)

With that being said… let us proceed.

The Menu

Turkey
No stuffing inside the bird. Instead, lemon, orange, carrots, celery, thyme and butter. So I guess it is sort of stuffed… just not with bread.

Caramelized Onion Dressing
A classic stuffing with the addition of caramelized onions and parmesan cheese.

Cheddar Jalapeno Dressing
A dressing made with an Italian loaf, cheddar, jalapenos, and a lager beer for depth of flavor.

Green Bean Casserole
Not your grandma’s recipe. This one is made with fresh mushrooms, cream and homemade chicken stock, and topped with caramelized onions.

Whipped Sweet Potatoes and Bananas with Honey
For the kids as well as the adults. Takes the marshmallow topping idea to a new and sophisticated level, gracing it instead with candied pecans.

Creamy Mashed Potatoes
Gotta use the gravy with something! Made with Yukon Golds.

Cranberry Orange Sauce with Maple Syrup
Replacing white sugar with maple syrup is always a good idea. So is combining cranberries with oranges with cinnamon.

Appetizers, Rolls and Dessert
I am passing this off to anyone and everyone who offers to bring something. Like our friend, the Pastry Chef!

I hope to be posting many of these recipes in the near future. I have high hopes; hopefully there is nothing to disappoint on that day. But who can go wrong with caramelized onions, butter and cream?!