Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Recipe for Thanks

I am drying bread in my oven today. The whole house smells like bread baking. This is the first step for making my Mom's recipe for Thanksgiving dressing. I am excited that the Thanksgiving cooking sequence has begun!

I think this step is the most important for good dressing. You see, if you don't remove the moisture in the bread, there is no place for the turkey stock, butter and veggie juices to go. You end up with a soggy dressing that sits like a lump in your belly. By drying out the bread, you make room for all the flavorful wet ingredients.

When I remove the slices of bread from the low temp oven, they will rattle on the cookie sheets. They will be raspy and crunchy and ready to receive the juices that help the spices permeate the bread.

Those brittle slices of bread reminded me of a story. (Stick with me, it may not be very appetizing but I think you'll understand my point.) This story is from the old testament about Ezekiel. In chapter 37 we find him in a valley:

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, {there were} very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, {they were} very dry. Ezekiel 37:1-2

God asked Ezekiel if it was possible for those dry bones to live. He left it up to God. God told him to prophesy or preach to the bones. He spoke the words God gave him and he heard a rattling. A miraculous regeneration takes place for the house of Israel--because Ezekiel spoke God's words to the bones.

Have you ever felt like you've been walking in a desert? Do you feel like someone turned up the heat on your life lately? There are a few reasons for this, but the one I want to focus on is this: God has a plan for you.

Sometimes we get drenched in the worries and cares of the world and there is no room for the Holy Spirit to fill us up. So God takes us on a journey and turns up the heat a bit. We are left parched and dry...so much so that our will becomes brittle. But we are not abandoned there. It's when we can say, "Lord not my will but yours!" that God can begin His work.

O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water. Psalms 63:1

It's at this point that we are finally ready. God wants to fill us up with something better--something that will permeate our souls and bring back the spice to our lives. It's a regeneration of our spirit, that comes from the washing of the Word.

If you find yourself in an arid land during your walk with Christ this Thanksgiving, think about that side dish--dressing. Allow God to pour His Word into your life--find a quiet place, grab your Bible off the shelf and check out any of the following passages: Ezekiel 37:1-14, John 4:4-26, Psalm 42:1-5, John 6:32-40 and Revelation 7:13-17. Before you start to read, ask God to speak to you about your life in that passage, then dig.

Be prepared, you are about to experience a new blessing in your walk that will saturate your dry bones. He will pick you up out of that dark valley and quench your thirst. All you have to do is ask, receive and be thankful for it ALL.

Happy Thanksgiving dear ones, and may God speak to your dry bones!

"He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.' " John 7:38

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Wishing Well

So I was with a dear friend today and her sweet little boy. We stopped at a huge fountain and gave him coins to toss into the water. He was at first amazed that we would allow him to pitch pennies into the splashing water, but loved the game. Happily he toddled back and forth from us to the pool and tossing pennies one by one into the bubbling water. The coins seemed to vanish magically.

Have you ever done that? Have you pitched a penny into a fountain and tossed a wish in with it? It's a fun way to dream...whether it's a wish for winning the lottery, finding a soul mate or just hoping for a good parking spot at the grocery store, we love to wish.

Sometimes people look at God as a wishing pool. They summon on their best prayer skills and cast their wish into the sky...in hopes of Him granting it. And when an answer doesn't come, or they hear a "no"...they move on to the next fountain that might grant their wish.

In John 15:7, Jesus said, "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you."

Some people grasp onto the last part, "ask whatever you wish" and forget the first part.

"If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you..." You see, God wants us to have the desires of our heart. (Psalm 37:4) He loves to give gifts to His children. (Matthew 7:11) When we only come to Him with our wants and never stop to build our relationship with Him, we become a child playing at the fountain...casting our pennies in one after another, never abiding, never listening to His words.

We go away with a few less pennies, and a few more unanswered wishes. And we wonder, does He really care? Will He ever answer?

Dear reader, if we would only learn what it means to truly abide! Abide means to dwell, live with, remain. Can you truly say you abide with Him? Does His word abide in you?

I challenge you to take at least a week and really abide. Shut off the TV, open your Bible start and end your day with His word. Take those few minutes of your day...the ones you consider as not so important, like pennies on a sidewalk, and give them to Him.

Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened for you. Everyone who asks will receive. Everyone who searches will find. And the door will be opened for everyone who knocks. Would any of you give your hungry child a stone, if the child asked for some bread? Would you give your child a snake if the child asked for a fish? As bad as you are, you still know how to give good gifts to your children. But your heavenly Father is even more ready to give good things to people who ask. Matthew 7:7-11

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Mind Games

I have a 70 lb. lap dog. He is a cross between a collie and German shepherd. He's very protective of his family and likes to herd grandkids around the yard. Recently he met our neighborhood armadillos.

The dog is fascinated by these "armored squirrels" that root around in our yard. They come to harvest earthworms wherever they can be found. And, they leave behind holes just big enough to turn your ankle in while hanging out the wash.

Our dog has taken on the responsibility of policing our yard for these creatures. He watches from the front and back windows like a noble sentry. And when he sees movement, the barking begins. It is my job to open the door, (he has not figured out how to open a doorknob yet), and he shoots out to meet the unsuspecting interloper.

With all the barking and full speed chases, you'd think I would have buzzards circling for all the carcasses in our yard. But, just when you think the attack dog instinct is going to snuff out an armadillo...his shepherding instinct kicks in and he ushers them quickly to the fence line to our neighbor's yard. It's hilarious to watch, especially when he surprises the animals and they leap into the air about two feet. (This is why you never drive over an armadillo--they'll leap into your car's undercarriage.)

So for now, we play this cuckoo clock game every half hour or so. The armadillo is spotted, the bark strikes 3pm, and the gate opens for the race to begin. Neither animal understands the concept. The armadillos keep coming back, and the dog keeps chasing them to the neighbor's house.

The only way to really rid our yard of these hole diggers is to trap them and either send them away to the wild or have them put down humanely.

As a Christian, sometimes we get thoughts that creep across our mind's fence line. They root around in our brain and cause everything from worry to unclean thoughts. Some allow those thoughts to dig around too much and they start acting on those thoughts. And sometimes they end up with legal problems as a result of those actions.

In II Corinthians 10:5b it says, "...and {we are} taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ..."

How do you do that? When you find a bad thought creeping into your mind, you say a quick prayer and mentally grab it and give it to Christ to deal with. It's like trapping an armadillo and asking animal control to take care of it. Then focus on something else and remember it no more.

I know, it will be hard at first. Have you ever had someone play the "polar bear" game with you? They say, "Don't think about a polar bear!" And you find it impossible to NOT think about polar bears. Or someone starts humming the theme song to Gilligan's Island or the chicken song and you feel like your brain has rebelled completely. The mind is very sensitive to suggestion!

Philippians 4:8 says, "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things."

Once you pray about it and acknowledge to God that a bad thought has slipped in, (confession) replace those thoughts with good stuff. Memorize scripture, listen to positive music, or just count your blessings. Above all, focus on something good in your life.

It may take a while, because our brains get pretty lazy. Especially with all the pop up ads and commercials out there. Someone always wants our attention. Maybe it's time to fast from TV or computers for you. That's something you should pray about. Because once we cut off the access that some bad thoughts have through the media, we make it easier on ourselves to really round up these bad thoughts and send them out of our lives.

I know that one day those armadillos will be chased into the wrong yard. You see, for now they go to our neighbors who are environmentalists. (Maybe I should give the animals more credit than I have.) But one day I think they will end up in our other neighbor's yard, and she has lived in the wilds of Florida for decades. She probably even has a recipe for possum on the half shell.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2