Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Lesson From James

Know this, my beloved brothers: let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak, & slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. -- James 1:19-20

I've often heard people claim a "life verse" for themselves. I'm not so sure I like that concept, because of its implication that this is a particularly special verse, when in fact all of Scripture is God-breathed &, therefore, special. That being said, I do know that there are verses that seem to come up again & again in our lives. There are verses, chapters, & even whole books that I turn to again & again for comfort, for peace, for reassurance, for strength, for correction, etc. James 1:19-20 are two verses that I go to repeatedly because I can often be the exact opposite of what they call me to be. A fact that I need to be reminded of so that I can repent -- turn the other way & behave contrary to the way my flesh wants me to behave.

"Be quick to hear". How often am I not really listening to my husband, mother, sister-in-law? How often do I hear what they're saying (as in, "am cognizant of the words that are being spoken"), but not really listening to what they're saying (as in "giving careful thought & consideration to the words that are being spoken")? How often am I busy formulating my answer, my rebuttal, my example from my own life? I need to silence the thoughts that are whirling around in my head while others are speaking. I need to give them my undivided attention, just as I want them to do for me. After all, how can I really minister to others if I'm not doing this?

Have you ever asked someone - pointedly - to listen to you? I have, & I had a revelation this morning that when I do that, my meaning is sometimes - often? - not just "listen to me", but "do what I'm saying". When I am giving my opinion on how I think my husband should handle a particular situation, I can often become quite adamant that he "listen to me" when it becomes apparent that he's going to handle it differently than I'm suggesting. It struck me this morning that him choosing another way doesn't mean he's not listening to me. It means he doesn't agree with me. . .& that's okay! Maybe instead of focusing so strenuously on being heard, I should apply this verse & be the listener.  How much angst in life would be alleviated by simply following this one command in Scripture -- "be quick to hear"?

"Be...slow to speak". *Sigh* I am one of those people that struggles not to pop off at the mouth whenever something irritates me. In evaluating my speech, I've also noticed that, in addition to speaking rashly & angrily, I can easily revert to: 
     -conceitedly speaking of just myself (dominating a conversation)
     -pridefully boasting about some accomplishment or spiritual insight
     -talking too much
Now, that's not to say that my speech always falls into one of these categories, but it often can if I'm not careful.  Sometimes, I don't give much thought to what I want to say or what effect my words will have; I just say it. And, I just have to say, that each & every time I do this, I regret it.  In being slow to speak, I'm to give careful consideration to my words. I'm not to simply say the first thing that I think of. I'm to step back, especially in an emotionally-charged situation, read Scripture, meditate on it, & pray before entering into dialogue. Then, when I do speak, my words are to be "gracious, seasoned with salt" (Col. 4:6), not rash or harsh. And, of course, my words should show that I have the Spirit living in me, so the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control, & gentleness should be ever-present when I speak. My mother (& others, I'm sure) has said that God gave us 2 ears & 1 mouth because we're supposed to listen more than we speak. Another Scripture verse that comes to mind here is Proverbs 10:19, which says that "when words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent." Lord, help me be slow to speak!

"Be...slow to anger". Now, this is a sore spot. I have quite a temper. Of course, I'd like to blame my pedigree (Scotch-Irish, German, & Comanche is not a good combination if you want to be one of those even-tempered people). However, I know that the real culprit is me; I'm sinful, bottom line. It is a fact that some people have a temperament that is more disposed toward anger; I anger much more easily than Michael. He's much more laid back that I am. I don't know how in the world he just lets things roll right off him, but he does. I'm the opposite. I'll get my hackles up faster than lightning over even the littlest thing.  I am thankful that God blessed me with a more even-tempered husband because he's a wonderful model for me.  He's used in God's sanctification of me in this area regularly.  I used to just dismiss my temper as a part of my personality that didn't really matter much & certainly wasn't sin. Typically, I believed that the fault lay with the person whose behavior angered me.  The only problem is that God's Word says differently. According to this very verse, I should be slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. I want to be righteous, I want to reflect my Lord. So, that means that I can't get angry at the drop of a hat. As a matter of fact, I shouldn't ever allow unrighteous anger to bubble up.  The problem for me is that I can't do anything but that; I'm absolutely helpless to do anything but that! I'm so grateful to God, though, because whereas I can't overcome my temper, God can & is sanctifying me so that progressively fewer things elicit an angry response from me. There is no way that I could possibly white-knuckle it & change. So, I'm exceedingly thankful that He's doing that work in me, & I really look forward to the day when He's perfected me & I am finally cleansed from all my sin, including anger!

As always, I want to be very clear here, that in no way, shape, or form does adhering to this verse - or any verse - earn my favor with God. There is nothing that I could ever do apart from Christ that would please God & save me from His wrath toward my sin. Even if I never failed to listen & was always slow to speak & anger, God would not be pleased with me if I strove to do this apart from Christ. The only way that I am saved is through the perfect life, propitiating death, & bodily resurrection of my Lord Jesus Christ. He earned my salvation & granted me faith. . .& He will keep me in that faith. "For those whom He predestined He also called, & those whom He called He also justified, & those whom He justified He also glorified"! (Romans 8:30)

*Our most gracious heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word. Thank You that You've given us a way to know You -- to know who You are, to know what You're like, to know how You relate to us, to know Your Son whom You sent to redeem us from our sin so we could be Your children. Thank You for the gift of Your Word, the gift of Your Son, the gift of You. Conform us into Your image. Help us to cherish & wield the Sword of the Spirit to kill sin in our lives. We love You, Lord. Help us to love You more. In Christ's holy name we pray, Amen.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Recipe of the "Week"

Okay, so, this recipe's name is misleading. In my family, we call it "BBQ Hamburger", even though there's no BBQ sauce involved. It's really more like a Sloppy Joe, but I guess we had to get all cutesy & original. Blame it on Granny; it's her recipe.

BBQ Hamburger


-1 lb. ground meat
-1 small chopped onion
-1/2 c. ketchup
-2 T Worcestershire
-2 T prepared mustard
-1 tsp. sugar
-1 c. boiling water


- In a large skillet, cook meat thoroughly until it turns a nice brown & is very crumbly. (I don't like big gobs of meat, so I chop mine up finely while it's cooking. It's a personal preference, but it does make the meat go further, as well.)
-Add the chopped onions & cook until they are clear. (I chop these up finely in my little hand-held Cuisinart chopper; I don't like big gobs of vegetables any more than meat!)
-Add all other ingredients to the meat & onions & combine thoroughly.
-Simmer with lid on until done to a spooning consistency. It will darken & firm up while it's cooking. (As a side note, if you don't have a lid - like me - a splatter guard works beautifully.) Remember to stir occasionally as it's "drying out" to prevent sticking.
-Toast your bread or buns & serve open-faced or like a hamburger.
-Don't forget your fries!

This is a wonderful summer-time meal, especially if you make home-made ice cream for dessert. Just remember to invite us, too! ;-)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Kate Rusby - Who Will Sing Me Lullabies

This was my very first exposure to Kate Rusby, & I fell instantly in love.  Her songs either make me sigh with contentment, cry from the sad story, laugh at the silliness, or gush over how adorable she is.  She has such a pure, sweet voice, & I love her vibrato & the way she trills her notes.  And have I mentioned her accent?!  I positively love her!

Now that you've heard this song, check out a few of my other favorites from Kate:  Fare Thee Well (live), Blooming Heather (the 7-minute-long version), Falling, Canaan's Land, The Yorkshire Couple (live), & Let Me Be (below). 

Kate Rusby - Let Me Be

I go around the house "la-la-la"ing constantly when I've listened to this song.  Careful, or you will, too!  (It's okay, though, it's a good thing!)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A Proverbs 31 Woman

I love my mama. Seriously. She's one of my favorite people in all the world. Which, if you know her, you find completely understandable. My mama is:

     -funny (she makes me laugh all the time)
     -beautiful (I mean, just look at the picture!)
     -loving (she loves fiercely, not only emotionally, but in action as well)
     -smart (this speaks for itself)
     -wise (she knows how to handle situations & people in the most amazing way!)
     -sacrificial (she'll give anything she has to in order to meet the needs of others)
     -fun (she's just fun to be around, even when we're doing nothing in particular)
     -godly (she loves God & raised me to love Him as well, something for which I am deeply grateful)
     -hardworking (she always has something going on)
     -protective (mama bears have nothing on her!)

When I first moved to GA, people would say to her, "But you & Chrissy are so close!" - implying that I should therefore be unable to move so far away. Her response: "We're still close." It hasn't always been that way. I was very difficult from 11-14. Very. VERY. She says the day I turned 14, I did a total reversal & was her Chrissy again. I actually remember that day. Suddenly the anger was gone. Simply gone. And I could enjoy my family once more. I also remember the day that it dawned on me that Mama knew more than I did about life, & perhaps I should listen to her. It was around the same time I came out of my "difficult" (again, that's putting it mildly) stage. From then on, our relationship just simply blossomed. I loved to be with her so much that I would follow her from room to room like a puppy dog - something I still will do when we visit.

Now, I'm living closer to home than I did when I lived in GA, but it's still a 6 hour trip. I don't get to see Mama as much as I'd like, but we talk - sometimes for hours - every day. We share our struggles with each other, laugh over some funny tale, reminisce about the past & loved ones who are gone, & talk about God's endlessly beautiful character. I got to spend Mother's Day weekend with her this year. We met halfway in Pearl, MS. We didn't do much of anything other than talk, but we had a great time. We ate out together. We worshipped God together. We cried together. We hunted for a Wal-Mart together, which you wouldn't think would be so difficult to find. Of course, we laughed together.

I prayed over our lunch on Mother's Day & cried as I thanked God for making me her daughter. As I was talking with a friend one day, I mourned over the fact that I don't have as close a relationship with one of my family members as she has with her corresponding family member. She gently reminded me that she doesn't have the relationship with her mother like I have with mine. It's rare, I think, for mothers & daughters to be as close as Mama & I are. I'm not sure why that is. Mothers are God's gift to us. I'm grateful beyond measure that God gifted me with my Mama. She's my best friend.  She's the best Mama ever. And I love her more than words can say.
Note the 2 fingers that she's holding up behind my head while sporting a completely innocent look on her face.  Bad Mama!  ;-)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Recipe of the "Week"

Have I confessed my inexperience with cooking before? That's probably not the best confession to make prior to sharing a recipe, but they say that honesty is the best policy. The unvarnished truth is that before I became a wife, I knew how to make only 2 things really well: cheese enchiladas & lemon ice box pie. Since then, I've expanded my repertoire, while keeping these 2 favorites, of course. I'll have to remember to fix them soon so they can be featured here. That day is not today, though. Today is another of both Michael's & my favorites. And today, you get 3 for 1! Drum roll, please, for. . .
BBQ Chicken Sandwiches with Home-made Fries & Grilled Corn on the Cob

Ingredients for BBQ Chicken Sandwich:

-2 lb. chicken breasts
-18 oz. favorite BBQ sauce (I used Cattlemen's Golden Honey, which was basically divine)
-hamburger buns

Directions for BBQ Chicken Sandwich:

-Spray the bottom & sides of a 9" x 13" casserole dish with cooking spray.
-Pour just enough BBQ sauce to cover the bottom of the dish.
-Lay out the chicken breasts side by side & slightly overlapping, using a fork to poke holes all over the breasts.
-Pour the entire bottle of BBQ sauce over the chicken breasts & spread it out with the fork so that they are covered.
-Preheat the oven to 400 degrees; while the oven is preheating, the chicken has time to marinate in the BBQ sauce.
-Bake at 400 degrees until the chicken is a reddish brown, turning the chicken every now & then so both sides are browned.
-Once chicken is done, cut the undesirable parts off of each piece & discard.
-Using 2 forks (1 to hold the chicken in place & one to tear with) shred the chicken & then mix it with the BBQ sauce that is in the bottom of the dish.
-Serve over hamburger buns (which are great toasted slightly on the grill).

Ingredients for Home-made Fries:

-6-8 golden potatoes
-cooking oil

Directions for Home-made Fries:

-Under lukewarm water, scrub the potatoes thoroughly.
-Cut off any bad spots on the potatoes.
-Slice each potato in half lengthwise. Place the potato on its flat side & cut lengthwise again. You should now have 4 quarters of a potato.
-Now place the potato on one of its flat sides & cut it into wedges.
-Turn the potato as one onto its other flat side & slice the wedges in half. (optional - this gives you fries instead of wedges, but it's a personal preference)
-Pour enough oil into your skillet to almost cover the fries, then lay the fries out in the skillet (I like to put them in when the oil is not hot so that I don't get splashed with hot oil.)
-Cook the fries between medium high & medium until they are a golden brown.
-Lay them out, batch by batch, on a plate covered in paper towels & sprinkle with salt. (A slotted serving spoon works very well for scooping them out of the hot oil & for putting your next batch into the hot oil.)

Ingredients for Grilled Corn on the Cob:

-fresh sweet corn on the cob
-stick of butter

Directions for Grilled Corn on the Cob:

-Shuck the corn cobs (including breaking off the bottom end of the cob) & use a scrubber under lukewarm water to get off as many of the remaining strings as possible.
-Tear off square pieces of aluminum foil large enough to wrap each corn cob in & place each cob on its own foil square.
-Unwrap the stick of butter about half way & rub butter all over each corn cob. (It will get softer with each cob & the wrapper will protect your hand from getting all buttery along with the corn.)
-Sprinkle each cob with a little bit of pepper & salt.
-Wrap up the corn in the foil & then grill it in the top of the grill for about 7 minutes on each side.

This meal is so good (in our opinion), "it'll make ya wanna slap yo' Mama"!  Although I wouldn't recommend doing it.  Maybe you shouldn't invite her to dinner. . .

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Recipe of the "Week"

Mama used to make this when I was growing up. The easiest way is to cook it in the crock-pot on low for the day. I cooked it this time in the crock-pot for ~2 1/2 hours on high, which worked beautifully. The best part? Michael raving about it while we ate. . .& then getting seconds! I hope you enjoy it just as much!

Chicken Spaghetti


-4-5 chicken breasts (you can use more or less depending on how "chickeny" you want it. We buy frozen chicken breasts in 2 lb. bags, which comes out to about 8 breasts, & I put all of them in)
-dry minced garlic
-2 cans pasta sauce (I used two 32-oz. jars of Classico Tomato & Basil because Michael likes a lot of sauce. One jar definitely would have sufficed to make it more "chickeny".)
-Italian seasoning
-1 T sugar


-If you're not cooking this in a crock-pot, you need to bake or sauté the chicken. This step isn't necessary if you are cooking it in the crock-pot. I'm going to write the directions as if the crock-pot is being used, & you can tweak them for yourself if you're not using this method.
-Empty the sauce into the crock-pot. A trick to opening the jars is to slide the blade of a dinner knife under the edge of the top & slightly twist the knife. Sometimes it takes a couple of twists, but you will hear it pop, letting you know the vacuum seal has been broken. It's super easy to twist the top off now! (Michael taught me this trick; isn't he great?!)
-Sprinkle the garlic & Italian seasoning over the top of the sauce & add the sugar, then stir it all together.
-Turn the crock-pot on low if you're going to cook it all day or high if you're going to be ready to eat in 2-3 hours.
-Trim the fat off of the chicken breasts & then cut them into pieces & drop them into the sauce.
-Stir the sauce so that the chicken is completely covered & let the crock-pot do the rest. Every now & then, stir the sauce, particularly if you're cooking it on high. It's ready when the chicken is done. The longer you cook it, the more tender the chicken becomes, even to the point of just falling apart.
-Serve over the pasta of your choice. Spaghetti works well; last night we used rotini, & it was wonderful! Of course, parmesan cheese & a side of garlic bread are a must!


Sunday, May 2, 2010

From a Ransomed Sinner, With Love - Part 2

In this post, I would like to address some of the responses that I received from my first letter.  I have addressed them privately already, but know that some others may have the same views, so I am addressing them here, too.  The responses are in bold italics, & my answers to them follow.

"I am on my spirtiual journey, & no two are alike, so I cannot & don't want to travel anyone else's but mine."  It is absolutely correct that no one's journey is exactly the same as anyone else's.  That's very true. God leads all of His children through different circumstances because we all have different areas in need of sanctification. A very important question to ask ourselves here is who's leading my journey? All journeys have an ending, a destination. So, another question to ask ourselves is where's my journey leading? There are only 2 options -- heaven or hell. Only 1 way leads to heaven, & all other ways lead to hell. Think of it like this: God's Word says that the way to salvation is a narrow path that few people find. Each of God's children journey down that same path, but there are different obstacles that each person will overcome by God's grace & in His strength. Only God's children travel this path, though.  Those who don't belong to God travel the other path, & the fact that it's wide is an indication that more people travel this path leading to hell than the narrow one leading to God.  All paths don't lead to God; rather, each person on that one narrow path is going to God but will experience different things along that path. (Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan perfectly illustrates this, & it is such an enjoyable book!) Even with our different experiences, there are marks of true believers, characteristics that all true followers of Christ have in their lives that show them to be true followers. I spoke of these in my first letter. In our culture, in our world, it is commonly believed that there are many ways to God. My road may lead through riches & indulging in the things of this world, my neighbor's road may lead through numerous sexual relationships, & that stranger standing in front of me in the grocery store may have a road that leads to God through Buddha (or any other false religion or god), but they all eventually lead to God. It sounds lovely, that everyone can be right & no one is wrong, but that's just not true. Jesus explicitly says that no one can come to God the Father apart from Him, apart from His sacrificial death. To be perfectly straightforward here - & please know I say this in love - if your journey is not based on an accurate interpretation & application of Scripture, then it does not include, nor is it leading to, God. He says so in His Word, & we must believe what He says. If we don't, it's at our own peril.

"The rules of God are pretty basic." They are, but not in the way people mean. They are basic in that they are laid out in His Word. We keep coming back to this point, because without an acknowledgment that His Word is the basis for our understanding of Him & for how we live our lives, then both are skewed. Without this basis, we have no true understanding of Him, no true relationship with Him, & we're simply living our lives by our own rules, even if we claim to follow God. Some people do it with man-made rules in the name of Christianity, while others do it by discarding all rules in the name of tolerance. Without sounding too "hell-fire & damnation" here, this leads to nowhere but. . .well. . .hell. Here's an example of how not acknowledging God's Word in our lives plays out & hurts us in the end: "I have learned if I live by the positive things I have been taught & not so into what is expected of me & do what feels natural & right then I am living what God wants me to."  But living your life this way means that you're basing your relationship with God - & therefore your standing before Him - on how you feel & what your experiences are, rather than what Scripture says. And what does Scripture say?  That Jesus Christ is the only way to have a right relationship with God, that only trusting in His sacrifice for us redeems us from our sin & exhausts God's wrath toward that sin.  It may seem like an acceptable way of approaching God, to just do what feels right & comes naturally, except that Scripture bears out that "what feels natural & right" to us is sin. It feels natural to have anger when someone wrongs us, but the Bible says that God sees anger as tantamount to murder. It feels good for us to look at a man's body with appreciation (lust), but the Bible says that looking at someone in lust is the same as adultery. It feels right to tell someone what they want to hear so that we don't upset them with the truth, but the Bible says that's lying. The Bible also says that it is innate (natural) in man to sin. Not here & there, but all the time. Even the things we do right are tainted with sin. The Bible says that even our "righteousness" is as filthy rags (used tampons is a modern-day comparison) before God. Bottom line here is that we can't trust what feels right to us, because it will lead us to sin.

"The world just seems to put more into [religion] & makes it seem so rigid & unfun when it's really not that way.  I am having too much fun & feeling too much joy & happiness on my own journey.  I am adventuresome, positive, free, & living life to the fullest."  There are those who believe the focus of life is to be on having fun.  Their life is supposed to be joyful, positive, & devoid of anything serious or difficult.  It sounds like a wonderful way to live; the only problem is that these happy feelings aren't based on truth. Is this you?  If so, in believing the lie that you are free, you have been blinded to your bondage. Again, I don't say this with malice, but in love & with an almost overwhelming sadness. A lot of people, maybe even you, believe what this world says about God, about who He is & how we can relate to Him. And this world lies about God with each & every breath. The world is not a friend of God. I understand that so many people have been scarred by those who claim Christ & behave as anything but. I know that. I've been there, too. I had to finally realize that I can't judge God by - nor can I base my understanding of Him on - the words, actions, & lives of those who misrepresent & distort Him. So, I had to learn to ignore what the world is saying about God & ignore what those who misrepresent Him in the church say. I have to take Him at His own Word. He's told us everything about Him that we need to know. Who He is, who we are, what He's done for us, what He'll do at the end of time to His enemies, how we can be set free from our sin & be His children - even how to recognize true believers.  God doesn't try to squeeze you into an "unfun" & "rigid" mold. He created you with your personality. He doesn't want to change your personality, He wants to change your heart. Christianity is not about following some list of rigid rules where you can't dance or have a daiquiri or wear makeup. Some try to make it about that, but they're wrong. Christianity is about God showing mercy & undeserved love to rebellious enemies by sending His Son to die on a cross to rescue us from our sin & His wrath. In response, we love Him & joyfully serve Him. Did you catch that? Joyfully! Christianity - truly & faithfully serving God - is wonderfully freeing & infinitely joyful! Does God have expectations of His children? Doesn't every parent? He's our Father, & He lays down guidelines for how our lives work best just like any human parent does for their children. The bottom line for our lives is not about us & our fun, it's about Him & His glory. Incredibly, in loving Him & living for His glory, we are so blessed! He's glorified & we're blessed! It's amazing to think of! The thing is, God will be glorified in each person's life, whether by their salvation or by their damnation. That may sound harsh, but that's the truth. And I love you enough to tell you the truth, because I'd much rather that He be glorified in your salvation.

I want to pose a few questions to you. Give them some thought & answer them for yourself. These are questions that come from one of my favorite books, Stepping Heavenward. It's fictional, but accurate & very edifying. Every time I read it, God uses it to convict me, encourage me, & strengthen my faith. 1) Do you love God? Not the god of your own making (as is prevalent in the world, even among those who claim Christ), but the God who has revealed Himself to us in the Bible. I laid out a thorough description of the true God in my last letter. Do you love Him? 2) Do you love to be with God? To commune with Him in prayer & Bible reading? To fondly think of Him during the day? 3) Do you love to hear others speak about Him in an honoring, praising way? Do you love to talk about Him yourself in this same way? 4) Do you love to try to please Him with your thoughts, words, & deeds? Do you love to live your life in a way that pleases & reflects well on Him? Remember, as I said in my first letter, none of us will ever do this perfectly, nor will we earn His favor in living this way. His favor was earned for us at the cross. Saying yes to these questions does not earn us our salvation. If we love God, if we pray & read our Bibles, if we adore Him with our speech, & if we live holy lives -- these are the fruits of salvation, these are the evidences of our salvation, not the way to earn our salvation.

Why have I written this?  Model after model is given in Scripture of the saints earnestly defending the faith & correcting error. I want God to be glorified in the salvation of sinners; & I say that humbly, as a sinner who sees my need for Him every single day. I want you to know the truth about Him, & not just to know it, but to rejoice in it, to revel in it, to trust in it! There is such joy, freedom, & blessing to be found in Him! For years, I've seen people searching for joy & meaning. They've moved from one place to the next, from one job to the next, & from one relationship to the next in this quest. And each place, job, & relationship has left them empty & still searching. This positive-thinking, "let's just have fun" ideology that seems to be so rampant will do the same. You will not have true joy or true meaning - nor will you have a true relationship with God or true salvation - by following this path. I know it may make people angry for me to say this, but while y'all fume at me, please seriously consider what I'm saying. And think about what it takes for me to say it. I love you enough to tell you the hard truth, & I'm praying you will heed my words. I've been on the receiving end of truth that I didn't want to hear, & it can be hard to take. It's incredibly difficult to humble yourself & admit that you're wrong or misguided. It's very uncomfortable. But know this:  Know that I love you. Know that I don't want to hurt or anger you. Know that I want what is best for you, what will lead to your ultimate good. That's why I had to write this. I do love you, & I've tried to be as gentle & humble as possible without watering down God's truth. As before, I pray you receive it in the spirit in which it's written, & that God may somehow use this letter to reveal Himself to you. You're in my prayers, & I'm here for you if you want to talk.