New Beginnings…

17880052_10154855786119270_7133823541196787549_oWednesday was my last official day in the office at Frontline. Thursday was a self-proclaimed rest day– a day to detox, refresh my spirit, renew my mind, regroup my passions, dream and drive. The day started over breakfast with Bryan and Kyle at Tandem in TR. Then Bryan took Kyle, and I took off for the mountains. Just before I left, Bryan wisely encouraged me to take the day to rest–not to plan or organize, but to rest, reminding me that God Himself rested. And Jesus rested, not necessarily because he needed to, but to set a precedent for us. It was just the reminder I needed.

I thinks it funny how you return to familiar places during times of rest. I found myself at a familiar coffee shop called “Quotations” in downtown Brevard–a place Bryan and I frequented a decade or more ago when we were getting to know each other and dating in that town. Then I headed over to Hendersonville for lunch at Life Leaf Thai Fusion restaurant, followed by a massage at YAM (for what it’s worth, I highly recommend both of these! The Crispy Fish with Red Curry Sauce still lingers on my palate). On my way home, I drove through Flat Rock. I tried to stop at the Carl Sandburg Home, but the parking lot was completely full, so I’ll have to stop there another day.

Finally, I met up with Bryan back at Tandem in TR for a Passover Feast to celebrate Christ with dear friends. It was my first Seder Feast, and it was perfect! Even the tables were decorated with candlesticks and fresh red and white flowers–perfectly symbolizing the blood of Christ and the cleansing only He can bring. Praise God for sending our Redeemer Messiah in Jesus! The hosts weaved in a book of readings, including traditions and explanations, Scripture, hymns and spiritual songs, as we washed our hands in a common bowl and shared a common Seder plate (unleavened bread, greens dipped in salt water, lamb shank, bitter herbs, sweet relish, eggs dipped in salt water), followed by a traditional Jewish Passover feast. What a great way to kickoff this Easter weekend! His blood has paid my ransom!

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Friday, I met up with my “frientor” (mentor/friend) Annette in downtown Greenville. We strolled through parks and drank coffee as we rehearsed all God has done and what we see Him doing in and through our hearts and minds in recent months. Praise be to Jesus!

I’m excited for new opportunities, fresh starts, good friends, and much grace from our Savior! “For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1.16).

Allegory of Herbert’s “Love (III)”

I’ve been going through some of my old college notes and came across this essay that I originally wrote as partial fulfillment of Dr. Horton’s Literary Criticism class in October 2001. This poem reminds me so much of Psalm 23 and is still one of my all-time favorites. I hope you’ll enjoy the poem and the analysis.

“Love (III)” by George Herbert

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lack’d any thing.

A guest, I answer’d, worthy to be here:
Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?

Truth Lord, but I have marr’d them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat.

Thesis: George Herbert’s “Love (III)” is an allegory of spiritual conversion.

Outline:
I. “Love” and His actions allegorize God’s part of salvation.

A. God’s initial call to salvation is allegorized by Love’s welcoming the soul and drawing near to him.
B. God’s continued working in the soul is allegorized by Love leading the soul by the hand.
C. God’s free offer of an abundant life is allegorized by the Lord’s paying the debt and inviting the soul to “sit down” and “taste . . . meat” as a guest.

II. The “soul” and his responses allegorize man’s response to God’s call.

A. Man’s initial rejection but tacit interest is allegorized by the soul drawing back because of sin but still entering in.
B. Man’s desire to be saved is allegorized by the soul recognizing his desire to be a guest.
C. Man’s feelings of hopelessness are allegorized by the soul’s realizations of his own unworthiness and his own deserving of hell.
D. Man’s full trust and benefits of salvation are allegorized by the soul choosing to “sit and eat.”

Essay: “Allegory of ‘Love (III)'”

The great religious poet George Herbert wrote many poems using symbolism and allegory to relay his own evangelical protestant beliefs. Herbert’s greatest work is “The Temple,” a collection of religious poems concluding with “Love (III).” Many critics interpret this final poem to be an allegory of receiving communion. In relation to the preceding poem in the series, “Heaven,” this does not seem to be the best interpretation. Also, this poem is a description of a private occasion, rather than a public one. There is no mention of other guests or observers. George Herbert’s “Love (III) is more likely an allegory of spiritual conversion.

“Love” and His actions allegorize God’s part of salvation. God’s initial call to salvation is allegorized by Love’s welcoming the soul and drawing near to him. God continues His work, through Love, by “sweetly questioning” the soul. He takes the “hand” of the beloved and gently leads him to His home. Love is pictured as a gracious host who shows unmerited favor to His guest. God’s free offer of an abundant life is allegorized by the Lord’s paying the debt and inviting the soul to “sit down” and “taste . . . meat” as a guest. If this poem were an allegory of communion, the host would be the priest, and the recipient would kneel rather than “sit.” Love uses rehtorical questions to confirm Himself as the Great Creator and Cleanser who “made the eyes” and “bore the blame” of the soul’s shameful sin.

The “soul” and his responses allegorize man’s response to God’s call. Man’s initial rejection but latent interest is allegorized by the soul’s drawing back because of sin but still entering in. The “first entrance in” implies at least curiosity on the soul’s part. Man’s desire to be saved is allegorized by the soul’s recognizing his desire to be a “guest.”

When asked by Love what the soul “lack’d,” the only response was to be “worthy” of being His “guest.” In the Anglican Church, receivers of Communion had to prove themselves worthy of the ordinance. This, however, is not the case here with the soul. The soul does not have to prove his worth; he merely claims the unmerited favor of God. Man’s feelings of hopelessness and total depravity are allegorized by the soul’s realizations of his own unworthiness and his own deserving of hell.

In the first stanza, the “soul drew back” because he knew he was “guilty of dust and sin.” When Love tells the soul he will be “a guest,” the soul questions Love in startled unbelief, “I the unkind, ungrateful?” The soul feels unworthy to look on Love with his “marr’d” eyes.

The soul then realizes his reasonable duty is service, but Love responds, “You must sit down,” implying that Love will serve the soul. Man’s full trust and benefits of salvation are allegorized by the soul choosing to “sit and eat.” The doctrine of God’s irresistible grace is inferred here as the soul finally succumbs to “sit” after initially resisting God’s call. The guest does not merely “taste” God’s meat but sits down to “eat.” While communion offers a small portion of bread and wine, salvation offers fulfillment and satiety.

That the allegory is of spiritual conversion in “Love (III)” is clearly a better interpretation than that of allegorizing the ordinance of Communion. Although parts of the poem may relate to communion, they only do so as communion on earth symbolizes the believers’ future communion with God in heaven. Only by the love of God may any of us receive salvation and be able to commune with Him.

Book Review and Deal: Conscience by Andrew D. Naselli and JD Crowley

9781433550744Naselli, Andrew David, and J.D. Crowley. Conscience: What It Is, How to Train It, and Loving Those Who DifferWheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2016.

This book has literally been life-changing for our family. Bryan and I have been fortunate to hear many of these principles either from JD or Andy or our pastor, Danny Brooks. JD presented some of this material at a missions conference a few years ago. My parents, sister and brother-in-law, and Bryan and I had the privilege of attending this conference together. My parents have been faithful followers of Jesus for nearly their whole lives, but the principles they heard that weekend were a brand new way of thinking–a liberating way of thinking!

A couple of years later, this book came out, and my parents read it together. Then they bought 20+ copies and gave them to their small group friends and to their kids (us) to work through with our spouses. Bryan and I read through this book together over our vacation this past month. We took time to talk through the various chapters, applying them to various situations we’ve come across recently. I went to school with one of the authors, Andy, and have had the privilege of getting to know JD over the past few years. This past fall, I got to hear JD and Andy co-teach the principles outlined in this book at a missions conference in Minneapolis, and it was a boost to my heart and mind.

Reading through the book, my biggest take-away was gratitude that a vital resource like this finally exists for the Church at large! It deals with tough topics and gives a practical and theological way to work through various issues of conscience. If you’re expecting exact answers on what to believe, you’ll be disappointed. Instead, it walks you through every New Testament passage that mentions the conscience and helps you ask the hard questions to calibrate your conscience to the Word of God.

And it’s currently on sale! The electronic version is available on Amazon for only $2.99 for a short time. I encourage you to purchase a copy and dig into God’s Word as you calibrate your conscience (and learn how to love others whose consciences differ from your own).

May God show you His power and true, biblical freedom as you grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, calibrating your consciences to His Word. It’s not easy…but it’s so worth it!

 

 

Helpful Thoughts on What to Read

I recently started a twice monthly book club at my house. It has been SO much fun! The goal is to create a casual space for women to share what they’ve been reading, get book suggestions, hear reviews (or cautions) from other ladies, and encourage one another to read more. And it’s a good excuse for coffee and fellowship…as well as a chance to invite neighbors and community friends in!

The Gospel Coalition recently published a short interview of Noël Piper, Gloria Furman and Kathleen Nielson discussing the topic of reading. These are some of my favorite authors, so I love hearing their perspective! And I thought you’d enjoy it too!

Help! My Friend Is Reading a Dangerous Book from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

My “March Madness Mama” Goals

Winter months are always harder anyway, so I know I’ve had a little extra “mama bear padding” between holiday celebrations and the natural “hibernation process” that occurs in colder months. This last weekend, I stepped on the scale and noticed that my weight has been inching back up over the last few months. After having my son two years ago, I found it relatively easy to drop my pregnancy weight, which I contribute entirely to nursing! Thankfully, I was able to nurse for a little over a year, but as soon as I stopped nursing–you guessed it–I almost immediately gained 10 pounds back! And the scale has been tipping upwards ever since that point. With spring around the corner, it’s time to take control, shed the pounds, and get trim again!

I HATE fad diets and am actually pretty, vehemently opposed to dieting in general, but I do agree with following a healthful lifestyle, which includes a healthful diet (“the kinds of food that a person…habitually eats”) as well as regular exercise, sleep, hydration, etc. (Check out my post about the inspiration of MJTL’s blog banner here.)

My ultimate goal in doing this is not a number on a scale or to look good in a bathing suit (see posts on Biblical views of Health and Beauty), but to be fit for service–service to God, my family, and my community. I debated between Trim Healthy Mama (THM), Whole30, and Paleo plans, and I may be a crazy-mad mama, but starting today, these are my goals for this March:

  1. Be in the Word every single day! (I’m currently studying the Gospel of Mark.)
  2. Get active 5 days per week, at least 25 minutes per day, and I must break a sweat!
  3. Drink 1 gallon of water every day! (That’s 16 cups or 8 16-oz. glasses.)
  4. Eliminate dairy from my diet (I may add this back later, but it’s easier to say “none” than “limited” and be tempted to eat it too often).
  5. Follow the Trim Healthy Mama (THM) basic principles (essentially, keep your fats and carbs separate; eat healthy proteins with every meal; and eat small meals or snacks every 3-4 hours to keep your metabolism up).

Below is a basic overview of THM that I found on Brea Getting Fit‘s blog. And I’ll be saving more tips and recipes on my “THM and Whole30 Inspiration” Pinterest board, if you need some inspiration.

What are your “March Madness Mama” goals? Even if you’re not a “Mad Mama,” will you join me on the journey to be fit for service to God and our communities?

Book Review: Bittersweet, by Shauna Niequist

419sdwuncul-_sx321_bo1204203200_Niequist, Shauna. Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013. 256 pages.

Shauna Niequist continues to be one of my favorite authors. I found so many parallels in her Bittersweet story to our own story, that by chapter two, I was in tears. Thankfully, that was the “change” part of the book, and the “grace” part was still to come.

This book was raw, relatable, and beautifully crafted. The chapters are short and easy to read on the run–which is perfect as a mom to a very active toddler! I’d read a chapter or two before bed or between tasks during nap time, and it was a retreat in itself. Be ready to do some soul-searching and “self-processing” when you pick up this book–and maybe have a box of tissues nearby.

Her book Bread & Wine is still my favorite, but this was a good companion book. It didn’t get too deep or offer Scripture references for thought, but it was full of wit and insight into the practical side of dealing with emotions during seasons of change and disappointment, while leaning hard on Jesus. It very much felt like diary entries over a season of time that Shauna graciously allowed us permission to read.

My favorite quote is actually found on the back cover: “I’ve learned the hard way that change is one of God’s greatest gifts, and most useful tools. Change can push us, pull us, rebuke and remake us. It can show us who we’ve become, in the worst ways, and also in the best ways. I’ve learned that it’s not something to run away from, as though we could, and that in many cases, change is a function of God’s graciousness, not life’s cruelty.”

To Know Him & To Make Him Known

2017 Theme: To Know Him & To Make Him Known (i.e., Word-Filled and Overflowing!)

Theme Verse: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16).

Theme Song: “Thrive” by Casting Crowns

Kale, Pomegranate, and Caramelized Parsnip Salad Recipe by PBS Food

I had a large bag of kale from our winter garden, along with a few other mixed greens, 2 small bags of parsnips, and 4 pomegranates in my refrigerator, so when I saw this recipe on Pinterest, I immediately wanted to try it.

I put on a large pot of chicken noodle soup while I roasted the parsnips and prepped the other salad ingredients. It was absolutely delicious! And it looked like Christmas! This one’s going in the archives. The dressing recipe alone is worth saving! And it was the perfect accompaniment to the soup on this dreary winter day.

Here’s what PBS says: “Prepare a crispy maple-caramelized, roasted parsnips intermingled with sweet pomegranate seeds and shredded kale from Aube Giroux of the Kitchen Vignettes blog.”

Kale, Pomegranate, and Caramelized Parsnip Salad Recipe

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients

For the Salad:

  • 1 large bunch of kale (about 10 large leaves)
  • 1 pomegranate
  • 4 medium parsnips (about 1 pound)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp maple syrup

For the Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Optional Garnish:

  • 2 Tbsp. freshly grated parmesan
  • 3 Tbsp. toasted hazelnuts

Directions

  1. Wash the parsnips and scrub if needed, no need to peel them. Slice lengthwise into pieces about 3 inches long and then cut those into quarters (or eights if the parsnips are big). Place them in a roasting pan with the 2 Tbsp olive oil and 2 Tbsp maple syrup and toss well. Roast them in a 375 F oven for about 35 to 40 minutes, or until tender inside and crispy golden on the outside. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  2. Place all the salad dressing ingredients in a jar, screw on the lid, and shake vigorously.
  3. Cut away the stems from the kale leaves and discard them. Place the kale leaves on top of one another and shred finely. Place the shredded kale in a large salad bowl and toss with the vinaigrette. Let the kale rest for 30 minutes to absorb the dressing.
  4. Deseed the pomegranate. This video shows how to do it. Add the pomegranate seeds and the cooled roasted parsnip to your salad and toss.
  5. If you wish, garnish with toasted hazelnuts (simply place hazelnuts in a skillet on medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently so they don’t burn) and freshly grated parmesan.

Original URL: http://www.pbs.org/food/kitchen-vignettes/kale-pomegranate-and-caramelized-parsnip-salad/

 

Thy Will Be Done, Lord!

In a season of life where we have seen so much suffering and death and hurt in the lives of friends, in the loss of loved ones, in insults and injuries of various kinds, this song is a breath of fresh air.

I know God is good, but sometimes life really hurts. Thankful there is hope in Jesus and in seeing these loved ones again–but still so much pain in this broken world. Praying for that peace that passes understanding when life really doesn’t make sense. Thy will be done, Lord.

Music video by Hillary Scott & The Scott Family performing Thy Will. (C) 2016 EMI Records Nashville.

“I’m so confused;
I know I heard you loud and clear.
So, I followed through;
Somehow I ended up here.
I don’t wanna think
I may never understand
That my broken heart is a part of your plan.
When I try to pray,
All I’ve got is hurt and these four words:

“Thy will be done;
Thy will be done;
Thy will be done.

“I know you’re good,
But this don’t feel good right now.
And I know you think
Of things I could never think about.
It’s hard to count it all joy,
Distracted by the noise.
Just trying to make sense
Of all your promises.
Sometimes I gotta stop,
Remember that you’re God
And I am not.

“So, Thy will be done;
Thy will be done;
Thy will be done.

“Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is:
Thy will be done;
Thy will be done;
Thy will.

“I know you see me.
I know you hear me, Lord.
Your plans are for me;
Goodness you have in store.
I know you hear me;
I know you see me, Lord.
Your plans are for me;
Good news you have in store.

“So, thy will be done;
Thy will be done;
Thy will be done.

“Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is:
Thy will be done;
Thy will be done;
Thy will be done.
I know you see me;
I know you hear me, Lord.”

Songwriters

BERNIE HERMS, HILLARY SCOTT, EMILY LYNN WEISBAND

Published by
Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Universal Music Publishing Group

Book Review: The Pastor’s Wife by Gloria Furman

9781433543838(Furman, Gloria. The Pastor’s Wife: Strengthened by Grace for a Life of Love. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015. 156 pages.)

The Pastor’s Wife is a quick read and is summed up in its own introduction on page 20: “In case you don’t have time to read the rest of this book I’ll just put my cards on the table–I think wives of ministers need encouragement and refreshment in the Lord, and we find that hope and help in the gospel. This idea isn’t new or scandalous, but with all things clamoring for our attention I think we (I!) could use an opportunity to recalibrate our perspective and set our gaze on eternal things. After all, why would we want to wade around in shallow puddles of man-made ideals when there is the incomprehensible ocean of the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge for us to dive into (Eph. 3:18-19)?”

While this book is called The Pastor’s Wife, with a few tweaks, it could apply to any believing wife (or woman, for that matter). But as it stands, it should still be read by all women (and maybe men too) because it shows at the very least how to pray for and encourage your pastor’s wife in her God-given role.

The Pastor’s Wife is saturated with Scripture and Gospel realities–every section pointing our hearts to repent from our sin and run to Jesus! Over and over, our need for the grace of the Gospel is revealed–not just for salvation but in every moment of every day. In fact, every page exudes Gospel grace. We all need “encouragement and refreshment in the Lord” (20), and this book continually points us back to the reality of our Redeemer and exhorts us to renew our minds in His glorious Gospel.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

“‘The Plan’ … was my functional idol, and I couldn’t fathom what life would be like if the plan failed” (44).

“We don’t take up the axe to chop down our idols so that our Father will love us. No, we reject our idols because we are our Father’s beloved daughters. … You know that a ministry opportunity is greater to you than Jesus if, when it is taken, hindered, or altered, you feel rattled, wrecked, preoccupied, anxious, insecure, insignificant, ignored, angry, sad, betrayed, or distraught. …when we design our lives around idols, we are setting up our own little kingdoms in which we insist that we are sovereign” (45).

“Sister, if the Lord is your shepherd, he will not leave you wanting. He provides abundantly for your needs and cares for you in seasons that are frightening. Of all the things we need on this earth, he provides it all, and he restores our soul. There is no shadow in any valley so dark that his Word does not illumine. Sister, you’re being followed. ‘Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever’ (Ps. 23:6). Held in our Shepherd’s unflinching grip, we are safely his at all times and in every circumstance. Your constancy is Christ. And at the end of all things created, in the most beautiful paradox of the ages, the Lamb is shown to be the Shepherd, ‘and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’ (Rev. 7:17)” (54).

My favorite chapter was the final chapter about God being glorified in our weaknesses. Without spoiling the end too much, I found this chapter refreshing. So much emphasis is placed on finding and utilizing our strengths–for the Kingdom, for business, in marriage, etc. But God’s ways are not our ways and He chooses to use the foolishness of man to show forth His immense wisdom (Isaiah 55:8; I Cor. 1:27-31). Life and ministry is not about me or my strengths, but about the strength of Jesus to redeem us from our sin into His righteousness, and to use our weaknesses to show forth His surpassing glory (II Cor. 3:3-10). Amen and amen!