Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!


Photo taken of sky over Orlando by Todd Onderdonk!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Jesus is the Reason...

I learned a lesson on Sunday when I set out to bake an award-winning, multi-layer Southern Living white chocolate cake. Nothing good has come out of my kitchen since 1993, so I'm not quite sure what possessed me to attempt the Martha Stewart thing. But I wanted to provide this outstanding baked treat to a few people for Christmas and attempted a "dry run" with the family to make sure it tasted as good as it looked.

After three-and-a-half hours that left my kitchen looking like an encounter with the Unibomber, the cake that flung from my oven tasted like leather smells and had the texture of a 14-day-old bagel.

"I think we need some ice cream here," I mournfully said to Todd. No doubt sensitive to the subtle quiver in my lower lip, Todd bolted for the freezer and returned with a gallon of Blue Bell Pralines and Cream. The kind of ice cream that fixes most anything.

"Do you want this on the side?" he gently asked.

"Please pile it on the top," I croaked.

Then I waited. And waited. And waited. The ice cream clung to the surface like a bobber on the lake.

"It won't even soak in!" I wailed. It was then I realized I had just baked a patent-pending recipe for tire traction on frozen asphalt.

Disappointed but undaunted, I tossed my award-winning cake into the trash and set myself in front of google to search for "five-star cookies." What emerged was a winning recipe for pumpkin drops. It didn't seem too Christmasy, but, after my cake disaster, I just wanted something people could actually consider eating. After a trip to Walmart for the new ingredients and about two more hours in the kitchen, I slid from the oven two cookie sheets of brownish orange lumps that bore a striking resemblance to East Texas dirt.

"Who wants to try these?" I cried. Todd and the boys exchanged worried glances. Baking project number two was an unmitigated flop.

I could see now grief just streaking Todd's face (no doubt contemplating his own front-yard disaster the day before involving the re-stringing of the lights on our swivel-headed lawn reindeer. "It's not as easy as it looks," Todd explained as he gestured to the metal creature on the lawn that looked a bit like a sheep with alopicea and rickets.)

So here we languish in Colleyville with a trash can full of baked goods they wouldn't throw at a Medieval prisoner and a lawn ornament that is borderline frightening to young children. Then it occurred to me, at last, that I was losing my way this Christmas. That Jesus is the reason and He was nowhere in my limited sight.

So, yesterday, I pulled out my trusty Sugar Cookie recipe and decided to go with what I know works. In the background, I had my laptop playing Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) sermons, including this amazing fusion of improvisational music and preaching by Richard Allen Farmer. I could feel all the stress of the baking and the shopping and the field trips and the recitals and all the other stuff we pile on top of Christmas just melt away. Talking to a friend this morning, she suggested that Jesus be brought into every activity we engage in, whether we are stringing lights or waiting in a long check-out line. I believe this is the key to maintaining our focus and our grace at this time of the year, and the true source of our joy.

Question: Where is Jesus in Christmas preparations for you?

World's Best Sugar Cookies



An oldie but goody from the vault...

I found a recipe for "The World's Best Sugar Cookies" on cooks.com. These cookies are incredible. My friends and I think it may have something to do with the combination of oil, powdered sugar and butter.

If you use this recipe for cut-out cookies: the dough is airy and the cookies are very fragile. I wouldn't advise making super thin cookies; go a little thicker to avoid breakage. Use chilled dough and a metal spatula (I use a smaller cake server) to transfer cookie dough from your work surface to the cookie sheet. Also, I remove from the oven right at 10 minutes to avoid over-baking.

Enjoy!

WORLD'S BEST SUGAR COOKIES
Printed from COOKS.COM

Ingredients

1 c. butter
1 c. vegetable oil
1 c. sugar
1 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 beaten eggs
5 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cream of tartar

Cream butter, oil and sugars; add vanilla. Stir in eggs and beat well, add dry ingredients and chill. Roll in walnut size ball, flatten with glass dipped in sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Very crisp. Half of a recipe makes a lot.

Frosting (optional)

1/4 cup butter
1 tsp. vanilla
2 T milk
2 cups powdered sugar
Food colorings

p.s. Making a big batch of cookies this Christmas? Don't forget the "unsung heroes" who work so hard behind-the-scenes on our behalf-- e.g., the mail carriers, refuse collectors, and all those wonderful folks in the many service industries we've come to rely upon. Imagine the world without them!

(Pic by georgie grd; see flickr.com for restrictions.)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Sonrise Upate!

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thess. 5:16-18

Hello, friends! We are back from an action-packed Florida Thanksgiving. It's been a tough month for Life Group with our collective travels, appointments, sick kids, etc. Let's pray that next Tuesday is a go... we'll continue with plans to share our three-minute "stories." Then the following week, we'll examine the three aspects of worldliness that we threatened to talk about a few weeks ago!

In lieu of getting together this week, I would ask you to perpetuate the "thanksgiving" spirit. In a kind of reverse but potentially revealing fashion. Pick one of the following exercises to reflect on this week:

Exercise 1: What and Why?

Typically, when we gather around the Thanksgiving table and throughout the day, we focus on God's blessings. For me, it's a bit like a kaleidoscope. So much to fathom and process that I don't stop in a meaningful way on any one blessing to seriously reflect and process. They're all just kind of colorfully morphing around in my mind. Everything from the goodness of God to Starbuck's Special Anniversary Blend. At the risk of sounding dismissive, that's honestly how it often goes for me. As I run through all the blessings brought to mind, the sublime and the mundane often get dumped into a big, old mental sieve where the intensity of gratitude for any one thing can become diluted. I'm challenging myself to re-visit and really ponder some of the key things I'm thankful for. I would encourage you, also, to freeze frame on one or two blessings this week. Thank God for what He has provided. Meditate on the provision. Then ask yourself why you are thankful for whatever it is.

Exercise 2: Oops! I forgot to say "thanks" for...

Ask God to help you discern what are you ungrateful for! What or where is the blessing that you take for granted? Thank God for whatever insight He provides in this area. Then imagine a world without it (or him or her...) and look for ways to show your appreciation today!

If you want to attempt a cyberspace "chat," hit "comments" and let's discuss! You have to sign up for a google account... it's self-explanatory... and you can identify yourself or hide behind the cloak of anonymity if you'd rather!

Love, Sarah

on my iPod... Lose My Soul by Toby Mac

Friday, November 07, 2008

December Book Signing

News Flash... Karen Graham will be joining me with her fabulous paintings on display!

Hey, friends... meet me at Corban Books on Saturday, December 6 from 10:00-1:00. If you already have a copy of Little Sins, Big Problems, you can come for Cathy P's homemade chocolate chip cookies... you know the ones!

Who: Me and hopefully you!

What: Book Signing (Little Sins, Big Problems/AMG Publishers)

When: 10:00-1:00

Where: Corban Books: 106 N Denton Tap Rd # 340, Coppell, TX 75019, (972) 304-4800

Why: 'Cause that's what they tell me authors are supposed to do...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Post-Election Reflections


Someone I love once told me it's not smart to talk about religion or politics. I have taken to heart half of that advice. I talk about religion religiously. But I never feel quite right about showing my cards politically. What I find more and more, is that I really have very little in the way of a passionate leaning to share. I woke up this morning feeling, frankly, under-represented. But I would have felt this way no matter who had won last night's election. Because what I hunger for in the way of leadership is someone who will affirm the things that echo my faith. The things that help marriages and families knit together. Things that promote gentility and kindness.

So, as I caught myself kind of wistfully sighing this morning... I had to do a "reality check" with Scripture.

1. The role of government.

In truth, no living man or woman or physical entity or institution can be the image of God in our lives. Our nation is founded on principles that honor God but clearly separate Church and State. This has biblical precedent. In the New Testament, the followers of Christ were also citizens under secular rule and bound to submit to the governing body. (Romans 13). They had an ultimate moral authority and a day-to-day governing authority. Scripture reveals the philosophy of government is to maintain justice (1 Peter 2:13-14)--that is, to praise good (e.g., tax deductions for benevolence) and punish evil (Genesis 9:6, Romans 13:4). So, whether you rejoice this morning in the election of Obama or mourn the loss of McCain (or maybe you are simply too fed up to care), you have gained or lost nothing with respect to a personal relationship with the ultimate victor, Jesus Christ.

2. We are not powerless.

Friends from my Bible study group clued me into what's shaking on some of the prime time television shows we never watch. Prime time for us is get-the-kids-ready-for-bed madness, so we tend to catch a bit of news and call it a night. I like to think I'm pretty current on some aspects of culture, but I had to practically pick my jaw up off the floor as friends described some recent plot lines from Gray's Anatomy. It left me with a sick feeling for my children and their future. In my mind, I went straight to the presidential election and wondered who would be best able to lift the manhole cover off the sewer for us. But here's the thing. At some point, we have to realize that we all have a role to play in breaking society's fall (recognizing that there will come a time in the grand metannarative where the fall will be precipitous and irrevocable for some) . We can grumble and gripe about things, or we can avow to make a difference in the communities where we live and work. The starting point for the type of grassroots activism is not with a single human leader or with our own muscle mass, but with the indefatigable power and might of the Holy Spirit.

3. Prayers of the righteous.

I've heard so many people talk about how hard they've been praying over this election. But now it's time to shift the focus. We need to be praying for our new leaders, God's hand on their shoulders, and that His will be done through them. But here's the thing. I can pray until I'm blue in the face, but if I am simmering in unconfessed sin (1 John 1:9) and living hypocritically, I have broken fellowship with the One who can turn the tide. Do you want to make a difference through prayer on behalf of others and the nation? Then join me today in taking an honest look inward and acknowledging before God where our own houses need cleaning.

4. You can move and groove.

I know of people who are doing some pretty amazing things at the local level, including a woman who is leading a group of prayer walkers through a local mall to appeal to the vendors to pull down the seedy posters hanging in storefront windows. This is the kind of "spark" that has the potential to ignite a "fire." Do you see an area of need in your community? Get involved! Don't wait for a committee or an organization to tell you what to do. Ask God to give you direction and go after it!

5. The Bottom Line.

Are you stressed out or anxious? Read Psalm 46:1 and rest in the security of the One who is really and truly in control.

(Photo by BohPhoto... click here for restrictions.)

On my iPod... just kind of hanging out waiting for David Cook at this point...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Refreshing Our Perspective on Prayer


desensitize vb: to make insensitive or non-reactive to a sensitizing agent

Familiarity with things can desensitize us. I used to be fearful about the long highway commute from my suburban Texas home to downtown Dallas where I attend seminary. You could shoot a Dirty Harry movie on certain stretches of Dallas highway and years spent cruising around lazy-river suburban roads with the kids had not prepared me for a 75-mile round trip alongside commuters who sometimes drive like they're going after blinking Pac Man fruit. After, ahem, a number of years now spent in slow pursuit of my degree, the fangs of the highway commute have sanded down a bit. Today, it's just a long drive in a car and, to be honest, some days it might seem like I'm going after the fruit. You see, I've been desensitized to the fear because it is now familiar to me.

People get desensitized to all sorts of things. Sometimes it's a good thing. I am grateful that my knuckles no longer turn a Geisha shade of white every time I point my car in the direction of downtown Dallas. But other types of desensitization aren't so good. People can get desensitized to sin and the suffering of others. We can even get desensitized to Scripture. I remember as a child one of my earliest memorizations was the Lord's Prayer found in Matthew 6: 9-13 which we recited weekly in church:

9 "This, then, is how you should pray:

"'Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,

10 your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.

These are the words of Jesus spoken to His disciples during the Sermon on the Mount. A divine prescription for prayer. Spiritually and practically speaking, this is huge, isn't it? Jesus on prayer. How ironic, though, that of the bazillion times I've uttered these words in church, it has only recently really resonated. You see, I had become desensitized to this prayer and turned it into a facsimile of the very "babbling" (vs. 7) that Jesus warned about two verses before!

I heard a worship leader recently say this: "Let's trust not just with our lips, but trust from our hearts." I flipped straight to the Lord's Prayer and realized that this has been an exercise in rhetoric over the years, and that I needed to internally appreciate it. In order to do that, I needed to step back and look at this prayer afresh. When I am studying the Bible, it helps to try and isolate major themes. So, that's what I did with the Lord's Prayer and this is what surfaced:

Key Fundamentals

1. You are worthy of love and respect. (9)

2. I trust you. (10)

3. I need you. (11-13)


Underlying Heart Conditions

1. Humility

2. Submission

3. Self Surrender


After isolating key themes and understanding the heart conditions necessary for internalizing this prayer, it’s helpful to re-read the words with themes in mind. Also, consider the following:

Prayer: It’s Intimate

Notice Jesus ascribed the pronoun "Our" to "Father." This is a case in which a bland little workhorse descriptor becomes a staggeringly important key word. Why did He not say "my" father or drop the possessive attribution altogether? Because, the father of Jesus is the father of all who believe and we have a familial bond to Christ. Scripture affirms this and, to most Christians, it might seem like a statement of the obvious. But have you thought about what this means lately?

The Greek word for Father here is "pater" and is used elsewhere in Scripture to refer to a male parent (Mk. 9:24) or ancestors (e.g., Mt. 3:9). "Pater" is also employed as a title of respect for an older man (Mt. 7:2), and elsewhere refers to God as the Father of all believers (Mt. 5:16). Though the true nature of our bond with God is beyond our limited human understanding, the word gives us the picture of a perfect father, a loving provider and protector, worthy of his child's love and respect.


Prayer: It's not one-sided

You notice that Jesus begins His prayer by acknowledging the honor, trustworthiness and authority of God. In this way, the Lord's Prayer is not "me" centered. Before the first petition is made to God, there is other-centered recognition of His greatness. Think about it in human terms. We all have people in our lives who "take" from us and we know what that feels like. How do you suppose God feels when we only go to Him during times of need? When our only approach to the throne comes when we need to be bailed out.While there's not a thing that you or I could do to fill a "need" in God because He is perfectly complete, we should be praising His authority and goodness, and expressing to Him our love and gratitude.

Prayer: No Boats or BMW's, please

"Give us today our daily bread" does not bloat into boats and BMW’s. Our "daily bread" is perhaps a reference beyond food to our most basic needs. But if our prayers are chock-full of requests for "things" and "more things" on top of the seam-busting array of "things" we already have, I wonder if we've gone astray of what Jesus meant when He told His followers to ask for "daily bread."

Prayer: Necessary Forgiveness

The author Gary Thomas has a particularly thought-provoking message in his book, Sacred Marriage. Thomas suggests that when we are bothered by something with respect to our spouse--a habit or personality trait--that we should step back and see if the problem doesn't reside with us. Is it my own deficiency or sin area something I notice in others? If we could see our own role—a true and unvarnished picture of ourselves—in relationships that challenge us, maybe we could bridge nearer to the necessary forgiveness of others that Jesus calls for in The Lord’s Prayer.

Bible Study Tip: Are there passages of Scripture that have lost impact in your life because you have become desensitized to the message? Try reading them with a focus on identifying key themes or re-write and paraphrase the verses in your own words as a journal exercise..

References for this article include the NIV Study Bible (Zondervan 1985), Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Zondervan 2006) and Webster's New Dictionary of the English Language (Merriam-Webster 2005). Photo by impactmatt, click here for restrictions.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Our family mourns the passing last week of a dear friend, Dr. Ted Mock. He had a brilliant mind that harmonized faith and science, and he will be missed. Below is a reprise of a blog interview I had with Dr. Mock a couple years ago.

2006 Interview with Ted Mock...


I was curious about recent scientific news reported in Newsweek Magazine. So I consulted family friend, Dr. Ted Mock, who is a scientist. Dr. Mock has some interesting thoughts on science and God. I have his permission to share the note below.


With respect to your query pertaining to the origin of the universe, let me preface my remarks with the statement that many scientists like myself believe in a “world of reason” and a “world of faith,” and properly understood they shed light on each other, they are never in actual conflict with one another, and they simply must be accepted on the basis of their own terms.

Scientists and mathematicians – [think here of the well known Goedel's Theorem that proves the existence of meaningful mathematical statements that are neither provable nor disprovable, now or ever] – have accepted the fact that there are some statements that can neither be proven true nor false. To my way of thinking, scientists will never be able to “prove” nor “disprove” the existence of God. We can admire his handiwork and marvel at how he created the world and everything in it, but we will each have to accept his existence on the basis of our faith.

Scientists are constantly evoking new theories or improving on old ones as to how they believe our universe was created. One of the more popular concepts for the past half century has revolved around the theory of the “Big Bang”. But theoreticians go far beyond that concept to try to explain how the “Big Bang” was generated and how many other universes may have been created at the same time (or at any other period of time). Some theories postulate that we live in a multidimensional space of infinite membranes, and when any two parallel membranes touch at any point at any instant of time, there is a transfer of an immense amount of energy that would appear in the recipient membrane as a “Big Bang” with all the subsequent attributes we currently attribute to that phenomenon.

There are many other theories proposed for the creation of the universe. One of these is based on Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle – which can be used to assert that even a pure vacuum contains a myriad of virtual particles that come into and out of existence -- with positive charges balancing negative charges, positive energy particles balancing negative energy particles, etc. Occasionally, over an infinity of time and space, some of these particles will appear with near infinite energy, thus creating universes such as the one we inhabit. (Somewhere another universe exists which is a “negative” of our universe, the exact “reflection” of our own.) There are other theories, such as those based on the fairly recent “string theory” as a starting point.

The message I wish to convey is that the farther back we penetrate into the origin of space and time, the more we understand how limited our knowledge really is, and how we merely move the frontier of our understanding farther and farther back as if we are receding into an infinity of mirrors in which we will never catch up to our own image.

I realize that this may seem a bit confusing – because it simply isn’t clear to anyone – including Einstein. Place your faith in God, and take time to marvel at the intricacies of his handiwork, as we slowly understand them with the growth in our scientific knowledge.


Dr. Ted Mock is a distinguished scientist and educator who holds graduate degrees in engineering, chemistry, international affairs, business administration, and a Doctorate in nuclear science. He also has a J.D. and L.L. M in intellectual property law. Dr. Mock has served as a professor of mathematics at the U.S. Air Force Academy, the George Washington University and the University of Virginia, and a Visiting Scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has also contributed as a Senior Science Advisor to the Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Energy.


(Photos by Alidarbac (top) and Feuillu. See flickr.com for restrictions.)



Friday, September 19, 2008

Sonrise Meeting Next Week!

Great discussion Tuesday on an incredibly revealing verse in Hebrews. You had some stellar insights. At JH's suggestion, this week we tackle James 1: 1-8.

1. First pray that God will lead you in your study.

2. Then read the Bible text without consulting notes or study aids.

3. Determine who is speaking to whom and why (OK to use commentaries here).

4. Then begin asking questions. Focus on any aspect of these verses that you'd like to personally explore. You might want to do a "key word" study on one of the words, e.g., "endurance" or "trials." Or, you might want to close your eyes and visualize the experience of being "tossed by the wind" using the imagery of vs. 6. Or, you might ask why it is that we should not expect to receive anything from the Lord (vs. 7). Or, you might think of example of someone you know (or, ahem, even yourself) who has at one time or another been "double-minded" (vs. 8). So, lots of freedom here... lock on to whatever the Holy Spirit leads you to focus on and study it a bit... pray about it... ponder it.

Then at the end... let's wrap ourselves around a bit of application and consider what type of attitudes people exhibit when they are in the midst of trials/temptation/suffering... and let's see where our discussion goes from there!

See you next week!

Love,

Sarah

On my iPod... Land of Confusion by Genesis.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Sonrise Meeting: 8:15-9:15 Tomorrow!

Welcome to new Sonrise Bible Study friends! We're so happy to have you join us! As you "regulars" know, we had so much fun learning about "How To Study the Bible" in the Spring, we are doing it all over again! (My favorite comment: "Can I have a cold cloth for my head?") We moved along at a pretty aggressive pace the first time around. This time, we'll be revisiting the highlights of what we learned and rolling up our sleeves to begin working more closely with the text. So this is a great time to jump in!

Below are tomorrow's notes:

Discovery Steps:

1. Observe: What does it say?
2. Interpret: What does it mean?
3. Apply: What do I/you/we do with this?

The Approach:

1. Pray: It’s a “team” effort.
2. Start with Bible.
3. Ask questions.
4. Consult references (e.g., Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary, Mounce’s Dictionary of OT/NT terms, Internet sites (trusted, please!).
5. Begin answering questions.

Cover Many Bases: Who, What, When, Where, Why, How, So What? (Professor Howard Hendrix/Dallas Theological Seminary)

E.g., Mark 4: 35-41

Who: Textual Context: Verse 34 explains “them” in verse 35. Jesus is talking to His disciples.

What: A summary in your own words. They (Jesus & disciples) are leaving a large crowd and preparing to cross a lake when a violent storm hits. The disciples awaken Jesus, who was sleeping, and accuse Him of not caring about their welfare. Jesus uses three words to calm the storm then questions the faith of His students. The disciples are terrified and astounded.

When: Verse 35 tells us it is evening. Can you imagine the amplified terror of this scene in darkness?

Where: We go back to the beginning of the chapter (4:1) to learn that the crowd was so large, Jesus took a boat out onto the lake to make room for more people on land. The disciples have joined Jesus in boats. They are preparing to go from one side of the lake to the other. What lake? See 2:1. Geographical context: Capernaum/Sea of Galilee, a location known for especially violent squalls when cool mountain air meets shallow, semi-tropical waters (The Moody Atlas of Bible Lands).

Key Words: Two other Gospel accounts: (Matthew 8:22-27, Luke 8: 21-25). “Very much afraid” versus “amazed” (Mt.)?

Why: Why is this story important? What can we deduce? Is this a story about boating? Or storm preparedness? Or is it more likely a message about faith?

So what (Application): What’s the take-away? What are we to learn in 2008 from God's revelation? Are there furious storms in your life? How do you respond? Do you worry? Are you anxious? Or are you stepping out and abiding by faith?

Next Time: Read, analyze and interpret Hebrews 2:18. Who is this about? Any key words? What is the context? Is there application value for us today?

Friday, September 05, 2008

A View on Empathy

empathy (noun): 1. Identification with and understanding of another's situation, feelings, and motives. The American Heritage Dictionary

What are the descriptors we typically use to describe God? We might say He is holy... awesome... loving... gracious... merciful... just... compassionate... pure. The list could go on, of course. In my reading of Hebrews this week, another word came to mind. God is empathetic.

For since he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.

Hebrews 2:18 (Net Bible)


"He," of course, refers to the incarnate Jesus Christ, who resisted the temptations of Satan, most vividly described for us in the wilderness account (Luke 4). Though Jesus never had the experience of committing personal sin, He had direct exposure as a man to the demonic tugs and whispering that can lead to sin. Thus, Jesus acquired empathy.

As we are called in the Christian walk to model our hearts and actions after Jesus Christ, and we pray and think about what it means to be more holy and loving and merciful and just, etc., I believe we are likewise called to be more empathetic.

How does an ordinary man or woman acquire empathy? From experience. What kinds of experience? All kinds of experience. Even our sins.

I know a lot of Christians who are haunted by "guilt ghosts." Ashamed of past missteps and misdeeds and unable to move forward with confidence and agility. Satan loves and perhaps carefully works at crafting this mental rut. Because guilty Christians have less impact for God. The shame holds them back like a car downshifted into low gear.

When Christ sacrificed His body for our sins, He paid the price in full for every, single one of your sins. What you have thought and done in the past... what you are thinking and doing right now... and what you will think and do in the future. Your sins are forgiven. (Hebrews 10: 10-18)

Still, God loves a contrite heart. So, we are to confess our sins to God in prayer as we abide in a deepening and maturing relationship with Him. (1 John 1:1-10) This is not for His edification; He knew what you were going to do before you even thought about it. But He cares about your spiritual walk and wants you to have a growing awareness of what constitutes Christ-like thoughts and behaviors.

But back to this word "empathy..." I would challenge you today to reflect upon your own personal sufferings... those beyond your control and those that have stemmed from sin. What valuable lesson have you learned. And who can be helped by your experience?

Question: Who can you empathize with? Who, then, can you serve?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Taming Transitions



"... the Lord will go before you, and God of Israel will be your rear guard." Isaiah 52: 12 (b)

This is for all you parents with bittersweet hearts today as you launch your children on a new leg of the journey. It's my favorite verse of assurance in times of transition. It's the picture of God paving the way... clearing obstacles ahead... while standing strong behind us... protecting and safeguarding.

I've had to remind myself the past couple of days that most transitions tote some degree of uncertainty and fear. But on the other end of most change is a routine... a rhythm... a familiar groove.

Take heart in whatever transition you face today or tomorrow that God is all around you!

(Sunrise pic by ccgd... check here for restrictions.)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Browning Bummer



The chip folks (Frito Lay, Heinz, Kettle, Lance) got into a bit of trouble with California regulators for lack of compliance with respect to product "warning" labels regarding levels of a potentially harmful chemical released in high-temperature cooking. I'd never heard of "acrylamide" before so I did a bit of googling and was surprised at what surfaced.

Acrylamide isn't an additive but a byproduct of frying, baking, toasting or roasting foods--primarily plant-derived foods (potatoes, grains, coffee beans)--to the point of excessive browning. Studies on animals have suggested that extremely high levels of acrylamide prove carcinogenic. There are ongoing studies looking at what constitutes safe levels of human consumption. In the meantime, the snack producers are being fined and have said they will modify cooking methods over the next three years to reduce acrylamide levels.

We should perhaps be aware of how the byproduct sneaks into our home-cooked foods, as well. The FDA has a helpful paper on this here.

I used olive oil exclusively now, which is for the most part a good thing. But it's worth noting that the "smoke point" for olive oil is a bit lower than that of other oils. So when cooking with olive oil, attend to it carefully to prevent over-heating. And if your oil does smoke--any type--you're well advised to get rid of it and start over!

(Photos from FDA website. Pics contrast good (left) versus excessive browning which hikes acrylamide production. I know, I know... that's how I like my toast, too!)

On top of my reading stack: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean -Dominique Bauby

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Sweet Treat



This was the perfect end-0f-summer indulgence for me. Elizabeth Reaser is utterly charming in the role of Inge, a 1920's mail-order bride. The multi-generational period piece has elements of winter but plays out on balance more like gentle Spring rain. Fleeting moments of innuendo put the film out of children's reach. But if you're looking for a beautifully filmed and cleverly scripted love story to wind down the summer, Sweet Land: A Love Story is a treat.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Love Letters Ministry



God has worked so powerfully through a gracious and godly woman in my church who has been sending me letters of encouragement for several years now. The letters lead off with a Scripture verse and conclude with a short, personal note that always speaks to my soul. In a world of Blackberries and e-mail and IM, it's a special day when a hand-written note lands in the mailbox.

My Bible study group is launching a "Love Letters" ministry and I'd like to invite you to contact me with the name and address of someone you know who needs encouragement. Tell us a little bit about the person and his or her needs. Then, one of us will send a letter with a relevant Bible verse. You can contact me at: sarah@sarahonderdonk.com

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33

Firefox Looks Funny!

If you are viewing this blog using Firefox, the layout looks really weird. I'm sorry about that. For normal viewing, use Explorer. I'll try and figure out if there's a fix for Firefox...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Knopfler Gem

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Darling Pretty by Mark Knopfler is available in MP3 format on amazon.com.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

As I was writing the post below and thinking of truly exceptional teacher/preachers, I was reminded of Greg Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California. His sermons are broadcast here on the radio and I really enjoy listening to him in the car sometimes. I was trying to track down a link to his website for you when I came upon a tribute to his son, Christopher Laurie, who was tragically killed in a car accident this week. Christopher, who was 33-years-old and worked on staff at Harvest, had a young family and a baby due in November. Please, please keep this family in your prayers.

"Bible Teaching" Debate

Interesting post on The Blogging Parson (and a good discussion under "comments" there) about the term "Bible teaching" and all that it conveys. You can check it out here.

At first read, I felt a bit defensive about seeing the "teaching" arm of the American "Bible church" under somewhat unflattering scrutiny, believing that it does fill an important role--in name and function--as it seeks to represent, edify and equip those who hunger to know God beyond a meet and greet. But, I think there's an important and valid point being raised. If the "teaching" prunes back the Bible's inherently thrilling testimony of the ministry and person of Jesus Christ, and fails to create a supportive, positive environment where spiritual passion can ignite heart-felt activism, there's a problem... something akin to vaguely symptomatic heart disease that just might eventually become a "teaching" church's major health concern.

On my iPod... Call My Name by Third Day

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

ROLF Over Regan

Brian Regan is very, very funny!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tasty Lentil Stew



See my recipe below for the lentil soup we made last week. Please note the photo above illustrates someone else's recipe (but ours looked similar). This recipe is full of antioxidants and vegetable protein. You may also wish to use "lower sodium" versions of the soy sauce, V8 and broth if you're trying to cut back on salt. This recipe will cook to a "stew" consistency. You can add more water toward the end to make soup. Also, vegetarians can double up on vegetable broth in lieu of chicken broth. Mainstream researchers are intrigued by the potential cancer-fighting properties of olive oil and tumeric, so enjoy these ingredients in abundance!

Lentil Soup

Ingredients:

1 package dried lentils
1-2 T. olive oil
1 leek stalk (chop in “rings” and wash well in colander) or 1 medium onion diced
2 T. peeled/grated ginger root (optional)
2 T. chopped garlic
2 C. chopped veggies (celery, carrots, corn, tomatoes, etc.)
1 box Swanson’s Organic Chicken Broth
1 box Swanson’s Organic Vegetable Broth
2 Cups water
2 T. Honey
1 T. Soy Sauce (we used reduced sodium type)
1 T. Worcestershire Sauce
1 1/4 C. V8 or Tomato Juice

Spices:

Tumeric: 1 tsp.
Mild Curry: 1 tsp.
Cumin: 1 tsp.
Garlic Powder: dash

How To Cook:

Rinse lentils in colander and set aside.

Sautee leek, ginger root, garlic and rest of veggies in 1-2 T. oil over medium/high heat until tender (about 5 minutes… carrots will still be crunchy, that’s OK).

Add spices and cook another minute or two until mixed.

Add Broth, Honey, Soy Sauce, Worstshire Sauce, V8 Juice, water. Then, add lentils.

Cook over medium-high heat to boiling.

Then, cover pot and reduce heat to simmer for an hour.

Makes a bunch of servings. Freeze what you won’t use in two days.

Photo by Seitti... see http://flickr.com/photos/seitti/451267635/ for restrictions.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Useful Giving Sites

Check out this site and be inspired by some cheerful givers. Curious about how various charitable organizations rate? Find out here.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Harrowing Heroism



I had to remind myself to breathe during certain scenes of this suspenseful and harrowing movie. Brilliant casting serves up cringing tension between an understated and wholly believable heroine and her iconic-evil tormentors. The New Yorker nailed it: "Compelling. Wire-tight suspense. May sound like a history lesson, but don't be fooled. It's a horror film."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Turning Picky Eaters into Good Stewards


Picking up here we left off a couple days ago on the subject of food conservation...

Last week's story coming out of Great Britain calling for food conservation reminded me of the World War II rationing my mother used to tell me about. Not to be alarmist about what's going on over there. The government's not decrying the end of the world. But with no relief in near sight for the world's energy woes, it appears the British government is trying to help its citizens navigate uphill challenges ahead.

My parents were young adults during a period of rationing here and I grew up hearing stories about how people had to make do without an abundance of things like sugar, coffee and nylon. My mother described the way in which women without hose would draw a line down the back of their legs using eyebrow pencil and people began to drink a coffee-substitute called Postum and would sometimes use things like jam or jelly to sweeten beverages.

"Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' (Matthew 6:31)

The Bible tells us we're not supposed to worry about what we will eat or drink or wear. We are to trust in the total sufficiency of God as our provider of all things.

"For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. (Matthew 6:32)

Some translations use the word "pagan" instead of Gentiles. The point here being that those who don't have faith have material concerns because they are fundamentally of a mindset of self sufficiency. Christ followers, in contrast, are to realize their inadequacy and trust in God to provide. He knows what we need and we are to set our minds on spiritual matters, instead.

"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)

I imagined myself coping in a world of rising prices and dwindling resources of "worse case" rationing magnitude. I've trained myself over the past few years to essentially live without added sugar and, except for some limited dairy, I avoid most animal products. Not for "doomsday" but health reasons. With the exception of coffee, which turns the ignition key in my brain, I like to think I could transition without major trauma to a lifestyle of stricter conservation (though, admittedly, fewer choices would take some getting used to...).

But my gut reaction as I extrapolated the Great Britain story was concern for my children's future and how unwise it's been for me to serve as "short order cook" all these years. "Oh, you don't like dinner tonight? Well, what can I make for you, instead, little sweetie?" Consequently, "Good Cop" Mom (versus "Bad Cop" Dad who's quick to say "Eat what's on your plate and thank your mother for this delicious food!") is raising up these children who are text book picky eaters. What if some staple of their diet was suddenly no longer available? They don't do substitutes too gracefully. A world of cutbacks and conservation in certain areas would be pretty difficult for my crew.

Mercifully, my default is Scripture where Matthew assures me that it is not a stocked pantry or a tremulous economy but God who sustains my children. I trust that He will provide. Still, as a mother, I have a responsibility to guide my children and if there's the chu-chu-chu-chu-chu of a slow train coming, God wants me to shoo them off the tracks.

So I've avowed this summer to make some changes. To begin building a healthier respect for our food and other resources. To expand their culinary horizons beyond the limited offerings within their respective comfort zones. I know that many if not most of you are way beyond me in this area having already adopted and are living out some of the tips that follow. But in case you find yourself in the same indulgent food rut with your kids, here are some suggestions:
  • "Clean up your plate!" is well intentioned but can lead to food issues and even eating disorders. Better to teach kids to serve themselves small portions then return for more if desired.

  • Let them participate in the cooking process. Give them a "grown up" task beyond simply dumping ingredients into a bowl. This has to be carefully supervised, obviously, but let them chop up vegetables and other ingredients when they are old enough to handle a knife responsibly. I wouldn't let my eight-year-old do this yet (unless the job can be accomplished without frustration using a butter knife), but now frequently enlist my ten-and-twelve-year-olds in the chopping mission. I will hold the knife with them for some tasks involving foods like onions which can cause a blade to slip. I've been amazed at what the kids will try and like when they've had a meaningful role in the cooking process.

  • Trim off eaten portion of foods they don't finish (to prevent the growth of bacteria) then promptly wrap and refrigerate. Tell them this will be their snack later. You'll be amazed at how this helps with the child who takes more than she wants. All it takes is one or two half-eaten, left-over slices of pizza or peanut butter sandwiches as the "snack" for Junior to begin taking only what he will really eat.

  • Gently talk to your older children about rising prices worldwide and the importance of being good stewards of God's resources. Tell your older children about World War II rationing and the creative ways in which people learned to substitute one item for another, and how a nation of individuals became a patriotic team. Talk about the importance of any ongoing environmental programs you already have in place, such as recycling. Be positive. Read from Matthew and assure them that God is always in control.

  • Consider having a "Good Steward" day this summer where you plan to cut back on consumption of energy (no television or driving). Prepare a vegetarian stew and homemade cornbread for dinner. Heavily involve the kids in the cooking process and look for ways to make the day fun and memorable. We did something like this last week. We worked together to make a lentil stew using a lot of vegetables we had on hand for salads. The kids did most of the prep work and for the first time ever... everyone not only willingly tried the lentils... but thought the stew was absolutely delicious. It's probably 102 degrees where you are this week, but the stew is healthy and tasty and you might enjoy making a batch this summer. I'll publish the recipe soon.

  • Tell the kids "no" in advance of shopping missions... that "no" will be the response to any requests for the junk you typically cave into in response to "Can I have it... please?" Then mean what you say. Don't buy it! After a few trips, the kids will see that you mean business and will back off the supermarket junk food barrage. But it's important to be consistent. Don't say "no" in advance then say "okay" to silence them at the store. Short term respite does not make for lasting relief.
Maybe some of you have some other ideas to share on this topic or some good recipes for left-overs. I'd love to hear from you! Hit the "comments" button to reply. You can sign your name or remain anonymous.

Photo by all in green: see http://flickr.com/photos/isoldesmom/434057363/ for restrictions.

On my iPod... Till We Ain't Strangers Anymore by Bon Jovi & LeAnn Rimes

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Sonrise Update




Sonrisers... wonderful discussions the past couple weeks from our reading of Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. Please continue to read at your own pace and we'll probably conclude this summer study within the next few weeks.

For next week... please come with plans to share your "three-minute testimonial..." something that crystallizes the impact of salvation on your life that can be easily shared with others.

Love to you all!

Sarah

Photo by Thomas Glass used with permission. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Waste Away


Interesting news coming out of Great Britain this past week. Seems the government is encouraging its citizens to stop wasting food in response to escalating prices. You can read about it here. There was another interesting story last week about what researchers in St. Louis theorize about longevity and calorie restriction. You can read that one here but the bottom line is that research suggests a link between longer life and reduced food intake. So one story casts food reduction in an economic light and the other saddles up to health benefits. These two stories went ding-ding-ding in my brain and sent me to scripture for some biblical perspective.

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Cor 10:31)

This verse begins the summation of a section that deals with matters of conscience as it relates to activities that would cause someone to stumble, specifically the consumption of meat used in idol rituals. The point being here that meat in and of itself is not bad, but if there's the risk of tipping someone off the fence by taking in the vestiges of pagan living, the Christ follower should abstain. This is the Apostle Paul's writing and not surprisingly his bottom line on the subject of eating in drinking is to bring "glory" to God.

This made me think about the "glory" to God in being good stewards of His resources. It seems to me we dishonor God when we waste things like food because we are demonstrating, publicly and privately, a spirit of entitlement or lack of gratitude for God's gracious provisions. When the Christ follower wastes in public, where is the glory to God? When she wastes in private, where is the honor to God?

I remember being at an all-you-can-eat CiCi's Pizza buffet a couple years ago with a group of kids. The little boy ahead of me in line was maybe 10 years old. He proudly exclaimed, "Ten (slices) is my record!" As he began to pile slices of pizza on his plate, undoubtedly attempting to beat the record, I gently said: "I don't see how you can eat so much pizza! Why don't you just take a couple slices now and come back for more if you want to." He looked at me with those big, round, pleading kid eyes and said, "But I'm really hungry." I felt like I'd just stolen his bicycle, so I let it go. Then I watched the little guy take one or two bites off the tip of each slice, casting the balance of pizza on his tray. When he was done, he still had the equivalent of a perfect pan pizza on that tray, now contaminated and destined for a dumpster.

Not that we are any better, mind you. I discovered more than halfway through the school year that most of one of my children's school lunches was getting tossed in the trash. He was "starving" by the end of the day and one of his teachers was occasionally providing a nice snack. By my estimation, about 100 all-natural peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and an assortment of green and orange vegetables and probably some heart-healthy Kashi products plopped into the municipal landfill bewteen September and early February. (To think I even used a crimper...)

We waste in other ways. A major waste factor in our house is failure to plan ahead. We'll often decide to go out to dinner even though there are left-overs in the fridge that need to be consumed. When I'm pulling outer leaves off lettuce or red cabbage, I will often thrown out the whole leaf instead of taking the time to trim the bad spots. I rarely save the kids' half eaten meals for later. Instead, I dump them in the trash. Same thing with the "to go" boxes we take home from restaurants. They usually languish in the fridge for a couple days and when I get sick of pulling them out to reach the pickles, I pitch them.

I'm totally out of touch with what lurks behind the green beans and noodle soup in my pantry. This weekend, I found a bunch of expired canned goods and boxed products that I simply failed to remember I had. Same thing with the freezer. The back of the bottom shelf looks like an underground crystal exhibit at Luray Caverns. I waste fuel by treating my trunk like it's across between a home office and baseball dugout, and by failing to strategically coordinate errand runs. We waste electricity when we leave TV's running and lights on. I waste water and energy when I wash items like pajamas that have only been worn once. I waste more energy when I keep cool air pouring through air vents in rooms we don't even use. I could go on and on reflecting upon the ways in which I fail to glorify God by wasting the resources He has so graciously afforded us.

The folks in Great Britain have inspired me to think about areas in which my family wastes resources and, perhaps, there's even a health benefit to being better stewards of God's gracious provisions.

On my iPod... Brian Regan Live... oh, my... beyond hilarious...

Photo by hipsxxheart; click here for restrictions: http://flickr.com/photos/hipsxxhearts/2244996809/.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Meeting at Mimi's

Friends... our Bible study group is meeting at Mimi's Cafe in Grapevine on Tuesday, June 24 from 8:30-9:30. We'll be back at 121 Community Church the following week. Remember to read the first two chapters of Sacred Marriage for our discussion. Contact me at sarah@sarahonderdonk.com for more information. See you there! Love, Sarah

Thursday, June 19, 2008

My Cookie Secret (Shhh....)



The cookie cake I just baked for Todd's department was such a hit, I received a request for the recipe. Here we go:

1. Find the dairy aisle at your nearest WalMart.

2. Pick up a big tub of "Nestle's Tollhouse Cookie Dough"

3. Get it home and smoosh w/spoon to a depth of ~1/2 inch in the bottom of a greased pie pan.

4. Follow baking instructions for "Make a Big Cookie" on the label (don't over-bake).

5. Delight in the fact something yummy just came out of your kitchen and you only have a spoon to wash!

Finished reading... Love in the Time of Cholera... famed author has a way with words... but I had a bit of trouble immersing into the messier character elements of this protracted passion play... in the end I was left wondering who to cheer for...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

What Dreams May Come

Next Sonrise Session: How Are You Planning for the Future?

Question 1: Describe your dream for the future.

_______________________________________

_______________________________________

_______________________________________

_______________________________________


Question 2: Who is served by your dream? (Circle all that apply.)

  • God
  • Me
  • Others

Question 3: Can you accomplish your goals without advanced planning? (Circle one.)

  • Yes
  • No

Question 4: If you answered "no" to question 3, describe some tangible tactics you could pursue right now to advance your distant goals (i.e., education, networking, counseling, lifestyle changes, etc.)

_________________________________________________

_________________________________________________

_________________________________________________

Question 5: Can you accomplish your goals without the help of God? (Circle one.)

  • Yes
  • No

Hint: "Yes" is the wrong answer...

Question 6: If you answered "no" to question 5, describe your plan for spiritual development (i.e., informal or formal Bible study, prayer, find a church, service to others, find quiet spaces for reflection, etc.)

________________________________________________

________________________________________________

________________________________________________

________________________________________________

Finally, where is the synergy or integration between your answers in 4 & 6?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Summer Reading Club!




Our Sonrsie Bible Study Group will be reading Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas this summer. (We'll be picking up where we left off this fall with "How To Study the Bible.") Sonrisers, please order or pick up a copy of your book this week so we can dive in. I'll try to get a copy myself today and map out a liesurely reading pace for the summer.

If you are looking for a ladies Bible study group in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, this is a great time to join us! We're very friendly and casual (got to be that time of the morning...)... but committed to growing our spiritual maturity and love for God and one another. Some of our best moments are along "side roads" that sometimes become the "main road" of a given session (this is not BSF). So if you want a highly stuctured study group, we might drive you crazy. But we do try to hold to a firm end point (1 hour) so that busy ladies can move onto the next leg of the day. Please come and check us out one Tuesday this summer!

What: Sonrise Bible Study Group
Where: 121 Community Church in Grapevine, TX: http://www.121cc.com/
When: Tuesday's from 8:30-9:30 (except next week... we meet at 8:00 a.m.)
Contact: sarah@sarahonderdonk.com

Next Week: I was admiring some Mexican feather grass the other day. Swaying back and forth with the wind. But it made me wonder how many of us are like that grass... at the mercy of the "winds" of life... living defensively... ill equipped to endure life's major transitions... stuck in a perpetual "reaction" rut... waiting passively for opportunities or solutions that may or may not come... focused on the past or the present but oblivious to the potential for the future. This week, I'd like you to think about your dreams for this life. What are they? And how are you preparing today... in tangible, purposeful ways... to ultimately realize those dreams?

On my iPod... Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits (I'm on a Mark Knopfler kick...)

Saturday, June 07, 2008

An interesting theological ponderable inside this excerpt about human creativity...

The artist is the creator of beautiful things.
To reveal art and conceal the artist is art's aim.


From the Preface To The Picture Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

On my iPod... Telegraph Road by Dire Straits... a long song that speeds away with an amazing guitar and keyboard duel at the end... though lamenting lyrics would seem at times to play a blame game with God...

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Sonrise Bible Study Summer Schedule!

Friends... please note the schedule change for our Tuesday Ladies Bible Study. This summer we'll be meeting on Tuesdays from 8:30-9:30 at 121 Community Church in Grapevine. Visitors are welcome!

A couple near-term adjustments, though...

1. Next week, we're meeting on Wednesday the 28th at 8:00 a.m.

2. The beloved and beautiful KP is leading us on June 2 at 8:30.

3. On June 10 and June 17, we need to meet at 8:00 a.m. (sorry about that... I sense the tomatoes and lettuce heads flying...)

See you on Wednesday for more on the subject of biblical context...

Love,

Sarah

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Bella is Beautiful


An unusual, gently paced film that leaves an echo in the heart. Lead actor and producer Eduardo Verastegui gives an understated but moving performance. Hiding behind a mountain-man beard for the balance of the film, Verastegui acts with his eyes, exposing in ways more powerful than words the character's passage from pain and hopelessness to love and redemption. Despite mature themes, Bella is refreshingly devoid of sex and violence. Filmmakers took the high road here, as Bella abounds in grace.
On my iPod... All I Need Is You by Click Five

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Tough Choices

When we're trying to encourage our boys to make good moral choices, we use a lot of "path" imagery (e.g., Psalm 27:11). But I've come to realize that we need to make sure that we're not painting a picture for the boys of rose petals and gentle breezes and marine skies along that right path. Because sometimes there are land mines and thickets along the good path, too. Other times we will find ourselves, quite frankly, off track where corrective measures follow painful choices.

We found ourselves stuck and nearly halted in traffic the other day. We'd gone after school to a bookstore in Lewisville and were on the early end of rush hour on the highway. But traffic was moving in slow motion. "Must be an accident," I speculated. Sure enough, as we passed a strip of familiar restaurants off to the right, we could see that a huge 18-wheeler had turned the parking lot of the Macaroni Grill into a junk yard. Cars were compressed like squeezed accordions and I prayed that the people involved by some miracle could have survived.

Turns out, there were no injuries at all. The driver had sustained a medical crisis of some sort that made him lose control of his truck. While he still had a breath of functionality, he made a split-second decision to careen his truck to the right and take out a phalanx of parked cars. If he'd gone left, instead, he would have plowed into Dallas highway rush hour commuters. So his decision, though it proved costly to property and restaurant income, undoubtedly saved several if not many lives. This is a case, I told the kids, of when the right decision proves better than the wrong one yet both options resulted in distress.

In Luke 14:25, we find Jesus en route to Jerusalem where he pauses to teach a swelling crowd that there is a cost to following Him and that they are wise to assess this cost before signing on. In verses 31-33, He relates to the people a parable about a king who wants to wage war against another king and emphasizes the importance of planning ahead:

Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? (Luke 14: 31(b)

If the war-minded king determines that he can't win the battle, Jesus teaches, he must surrender:

If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. (Luke 14: 32)

The point of this story is to show would-be followers that discipleship requires an all-out surrender to Christ, and there will be suffering and rejection and pain and abandonment of that which glorifies the self. Jesus wants people to know this up front so that they can assess whether or not they will are willing to submit to the burdens of discipleship.

But let's get inside the mind of the earthly king for a moment as we explore the subject of choices, in general. Within this parable, we have a person who has two possible courses of action or "paths." The first choice, to clip at the heels of the bigger dog, would most assuredly result in personal destruction. The second choice, which amounts to rolling over with a whimper, would result in enemy domination but, presumably, the preservation of one's life. Two choices which involve pain and sacrifice, yet one is clearly preferable to the other.

Sometimes in life, we are faced with a choice of two paths. Oftentimes, the benefits of being on the "right" path versus the "wrong" path are strikingly obvious. If you steal a car, you're going to jail. That's a no brainer.

Other times, it really comes down to making the best choice along the path we're on. If we find ourselves on the wrong road, by victimization or accident or our own personal sin, the only way back to the right track involves a decision that will result in pain. Though it appeared he was not at fault, the driver of the truck that plowed into a parking lot was the instrument of mayhem. But his choice to crash one way versus another, though calamitous, undoubtedly saved lives.

So what's my point? If you're reading this and it's sounding like I'm making the case for choosing the nicest bad behavior or a "little" versus a "bigger" sin, that's not the case. But I'm enough of a broken vessel and realist to know that all of us and all of our children will find ourselves at various points on paths that are torturous, either by our own actions or the engagement and interference of others. God allows people to wind down these roads and oftentimes we are stronger and more mature, and our consciences are fortified and sensitized for having been challenged and affronted. Learning from our mistakes can make future choices--the right ones--easier.

In all of my "right path" and "wrong path" discussions with my kids up to this point, I've focused on the absolutes: If you do "x," you will ruin you life. If you choose "y," you will stand to benefit. While there is always truth in this lesson, more and more, I see the need to build upon this instruction with the message of choosing sometimes as best we can in a given circumstance, recognizing that the right choice may have uncertain or even painful consequences.

What's our guide on the "bad path" patches? It's certainly not our human nature or reasoning, which will always drive us further into the deep, dark woods. It is love of God and one another--the twined cord that bundles God's Commandments--that will right a wrong course, making our paths ultimately straight.

My Dream Band (today, anyway!)... Chad Kroeger, David Cook, Rick Astley (I know, I know...) Chrissy Hynde on vocals... Mark Knopfler and Carlos Santana on guitar... Stewart Copeland on drums... Rick Wakeman on keyboards.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Sonrise Session #9: Cultural Context

We've had a couple weeks of great discussion... off topic... but good stuff. Re. next week... I'm at the school on Tuesday and will need to re-schedule... could do Thursday, maybe? We'll chat. In the meantime... see notes for next session below.

History, PLUS... what was going down around...

o 1Timothy 2:9-10: Ancient haughties?

o 1Cor 8: Best chops can be found here, but

o John 20: 17: Mary as messenger/ref. John 4:27

o Acts 1:8/ref. John 4:9: Yes, go talk to them.

Random Comments...

"What's the rush?"

"Where is the voice in America... after all these years... that we can hear... that's speaking out against the objectification of women?"

"It's out there... being drowned out."

On my iPod... Weather With You (Live) by Neil & Tim Finn

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Mother's Day Simplicity

My mother, who is 83, implores me each year to recognize Mother's Day with a simple card. "It's really all I want," she's told me for, like, 30 years.

Do I listen?

Noooo. Because, somehow, I think I know best. So, off I go every year in search of a token or a trinket or something to wear or hang or otherwise display. But after so many years of accumulating things, she is running out of space and "thing maintenance" is no longer her groove.

Mother's Day kind of crept up on me this year. I realized it was approaching four days beforehand, which left me with little time to pull together a thoughtful gift. So, this year I did what she's asked me to do all these years. I simply sent a card. Mom was thrilled. She got what she wanted.

I got what I wanted this year, too. The boys, in non-matching pajama ensembles and serious bedhead, burst into the bedroom on Sunday morning to wake me up (I'd been awake for about an hour, mind you, but Todd clued me into special events that required me to stay put!). "Happy Mother's Day!" they squealed proffering breakfast on a tray which consisted of about 18 corn flakes ("I poured them myself!") in three-and-a-half-cups of milk ("I poured that, too!), a label-emblazoned banana, and a couple splashes of orange juice in the distressed plastic Pepsi cup we've used over the years as a bath toy, bug trapper and listening device.

"This is the best Mother's Day breakfast ever," I exclaimed! Todd, no doubt reflecting upon past years of gourmet muffins, omelets and fancy schmancy coffees, shot me a look that said "Oh, sure..."

But, I meant it. I really, really did. And for the first time... I understood what my own mother has been trying to say all these years... sometimes less is best.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Produce & Pesticides



Fruits and vegetables are power foods and should be abundant in your diet. But you need to be aware that some produce carries and retains more pesticide than others. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the most contaminated fruits and vegetables are (ranked high to low):

1. Strawberries
2. Green and red bell peppers
3. Spinach (poor veggie needs some good PR!)
4. Cherries (USA)
5. Peaches
6. Cantaloupe (Mexico)
7. Celery
8. Apples
9. Apricots
10. Green beans
11. Grapes (Chile)
12. Cucumbers

You might want to consider buying organics, which are pesticide free. Otherwise, it makes good sense to peel fruits if possible. Avoid non-organic potato skins. Remove and discard the outermost leaves of lettuce and cabbage. Other surfaces that can't be peeled can be washed with soap and water or a commercial vegetable wash. Washing with plain water removes 25-50 percent of the pesticide residue.

Studies show that the more fruits and vegetables consumed, the less the risk of certain cancers and heart disease. So don't give up on good foods! Just make the good foods better by properly minimizing harmful residues and, perhaps, opting for organics if you can.

Source: Eat to Live, by Joel Fuhrman. M.D.

(Photo by pocho, see flickr.com for restrictions.)

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Losing My Patience (Or Finding It?)

There's a sentence I'll think twice about before saying again: "I am losing my patience." Because, honestly, I now wonder if I ever really had any. I wonder how much patience you have, either!

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Psalm 130: 5-6

Key word wait: quvah (Heb: to expect, look patiently, wait upon)

Scripture paints for us the picture of watchmen longing for the first glint of sunlight creeping over the horizon, a visual that would signal for them the end of a sleepless night spent on defensive alert. Only after a prescribed period of time or "shift" can a watchman release his heavy eyes to the freedom of rest. Have you ever pulled an all nighter? Up late studying? Or working into the night on some sort of deadline-driven project? Utterly spent and aching for sleep? Even more than that, Scripture tells us, the psalmist longs for the Lord.

In order to fully appreciate these verses, I suppose one would first need to understand what it really means to wait. In the world in which many of us live today, this sense of waiting becomes more and more abstract, I believe.

In 1922, it would take days by train to chug across the country to visit Grandma.

In 1942, it might take weeks to get a letter to a loved one fighting in Europe.

In 1972, I would have to live with a bad hair style two years as it grew out. (Now, if I have the money, I can get hair extensions!)

In 1982, I would be tapping away at a manual typewriter with a bottle of White-Out nearby. Now, if I make a mistake, the computer tells me about it and I click a fix.

In 1992, I was still waiting for the newspaper to land on my doorstep so I could find out what was going on in the world. Today, I type in "msnbc.com" and learn about events and situations as they occur.

Today, if I want to feed the family a nice home-cooked meal, I don't have to shoot anything or even simmer something for that matter. I pull up to the Boston Market, brandish my credit card, and dinner is served.

So, what's to be patient about? What does that word even mean?

When the Bible tells me to "wait" on God, how can I understand a concept that human experience no longer stringently requires? Mind you, I'd be loathe to go backwards. I like my instant headline news and Boston Market on little league nights. It's a good life. Still, gone are the days of running eagerly to the mailbox to see if that letter from a loved one has arrived. We can check our inboxes, quickly read, and click to an invisible trash can. Makes me wonder if there's something we've lost in the web of progress.

So, as I contemplate this concept of "waiting" on God, I have to wonder if, despite all of our ready access to things spiritual (the entire Bible can be found here: http://www.netbible.org/), if we are at a certain disadvantage as it relates to the ability to appreciate the silent spaces of God's economy--the times we're meant to stand still and simply trust.

Strikes me as a case, frankly, of when more is truly less...

On my iPod... Welcome to Wherever You Are by Bon Jovi

Thursday, May 01, 2008



We do not want the men of another color for our brothers-in-law, but we do want them for our brothers.

Booker T. Washington
(Photo from: http://owlhaven.net)

Monday, April 28, 2008

Movie Star Personality Quiz!




Dr. Richard's Spiritual Life course at DTS features a personal inventory called Stars & Scars that's designed to help us understand where we are spiritually weak and strong. I learned a lot about myself in that class and have been a fan of personal "polls" ever since.

A friend forwarded the quiz below to me over the weekend. It's in the spirit of fun... but if you go a bit below the surface with your Hollywood "type," you might find some areas of personal strength and vulnerability. My star type (strengths/weaknesses) was surprisingly consistent with what surfaced in my DTS inventory. So... see what you can learn!

Ladies Only: Ever wonder which movie star you are most like?

A team of researchers has analyzed the personalities of movie stars and incorporated the data into this quiz. There are only 10 questions so it doesn't take long.

Number your paper from 1 to 10, then answer each question with the choice that most describes you at this point in your life, and then add up the points that correspond with your answers.
Don't look ahead or you will ruin the fun!

1. Which describes your perfect date?

a) Candlelight dinner for two
b) Amusement Park
c) Roller blading in the park
d) Rock Concert
e) Have dinner & see a movie
f) Dinner at home with a loved one

2. What is your favorite type of music?

a) Rock and Roll
b) Alternative
c) Soft Rock
d) Classical
e) Christian
f) Jazz

3. What is your favorite type of movie?

a) Comedy
b) Horror
c) Musical
d) Romance
e) Documentary
f) Mystery

4. Which of the following jobs would you choose if you were given only these choices?

a) Waiter/Waitress
b) Sports Player
c) Teacher
d) Policeman
e) Bartender
f) Business person

5. Which would you rather do if you had an hour to waste?

a) Work out
b) Make out
c) Watch TV
d) Listen to the radio
e) Sleep
f) Read

6. Of the following colors, which do you like best?
a) Yellow
b) White
c) Sky blue
d) Teal
e) Gold
f) Red

7. Which one of the following would you like to eat right now?
a) Ice cream
b) Pizza
c) Sushi
d) Pasta
e) Salad
f) Lobster Tail

8. Which is your favorite holiday?

a) Halloween
b) Christmas
c) New Year's
d) Valentine's Day
e) Thanksgiving
f) Fourth of July

9. If you could go to any of the following places, which would it be?
a) Reno
b) Spain
c) Las Vegas
d) Hawaii
e) Hollywood
f) British Columbia

10. Of the following, who would you rather spend time with?

a) Someone who is smart
b) Someone with good looks
c) Someone who is a party animal
d) Someone who has fun all the time
e) Someone who is very emotional
f) Someone who is fun to be with

Now total up your points on each question:

1 a-4 b-2 c-5 d-1 e-3 f-6
2. a-2 b-1 c-4 d-5 e-3 f-6
3. a-2 b-1 c-3 d-4 e-5 f-6
4. a-4 b-5 c-3 d-2 e-1 f-6
5. a-5 b-4 c-2 d-1 e-3 f-6
6. a-1 b-5 c-3 d-2 e-4 f-6
7. a-3 b-2 c-1 d-4 e-5 f-6
8. a-1 b-3 c-2 d-4 e-5 f-6
9. a-4 b-5 c-1 d-4 e-3 f-6
10. a-5 b-2 c-1 d-3 e-4 f-6

NOW take your total and find out which Movie Star you are:

(10-17 points) You are MADONNA:
You are wild and crazy and you know it. You know how to have fun, but you may take it to extremes. You know what you are doing though, and are much in control of your own life. People don't always see things your way, but that doesn't mean that you should do away with your beliefs. Try to remember that your wild spirit can lead to hurting yourself and others.

(18-26 points) You are DORIS DAY:
You are fun, friendly, and popular! You are a real crowd pleaser. You have probably been out on the town your share of times, yet you come home with the values that your mother taught you. Marriage and children are very important to you, but only after you have fun. Don't let the people you please influence
you to stray.

(27-34 points) You are DEBBIE REYNOLDS:
You are cute, and everyone loves you. You are a best friend that no one takes the chance of losing. You never hurt feelings and seldom have your own feelings hurt. Life is a breeze. You are witty, and calm most of the time. Just keep clear of back stabbers, and you are worry-free.


(35-42 points) You are GRACE KELLY:
You are a lover. Romance, flowers, and wine are all you need to enjoy yourself. You are serious about all commitments and are a family person. You call your Mom every Sunday, and never forget a Birthday. Don't let your passion for romance get confused with the real thing.

(43-50 points) You are KATHERINE HEPBURN:
You are smart, a real thinker. Every situation is approached with a plan. You are very healthy in mind and body. You won't be taken advantage of. You have only a couple of individuals that you consider 'real friends'. You teach strong family values. Keep your feet planted in them, but don't overlook a bad situation when it does happen.

(51-60 points) You are ELIZABETH TAYLOR:
Everyone is in awe of you. You know what you want and how to get it. You have more friends than you know what to do with. Your word is your bond. Everyone knows when you say something it is money in the bank. You attract the opposite sex. Your intelligence overwhelms most. Your memory is the next thing to photographic. Everyone admires you because you are so considerate and lovable. You know how to enjoy life and treat people right.