Monday, October 14, 2013

pumpkin bread

Today, I made my most favorite seasonal pumpkin bread (from Pioneer Woman). It is the best intro to the fall. Perfect for breakfast, afternoon snack or dessert (or anytime, really).

3 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon 
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3 whole eggs 
3 1/2 cups sugar 
1 1/4 cup vegetable oil 
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
29 oz. pumpkin puree 
1 bag semi-sweet choc. chips

-large bowl: combine flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking powder
-separate large bowl: combine eggs, sugar, oil, vanilla, and pumpkin puree
-stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients 
-add chocolate chips
-transfer mix to greased bundt pan
-cook on 350 degrees 45-55 min

Sunday, October 13, 2013

[The following is an incredible word I read today in "Experiencing God's Presence" by Chris Tiegreen. I hope this beautiful story encourages you as it did me]

"This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break." Genesis 32:24 

"Jacob had issues, particularly that nasty episode with his brother that had never been resolved. Years earlier, he had tricked his father into proclaiming Esau's blessing over him instead. Then Jacob fled in fear that Esau would kill him. Now, after marriage, children, and years in a far country, Jacob was returning home. He would soon see his brother face-to-face. And he feared the prospect of his past catching up with him.

Jacob was left alone in the camp, and God (as a man) came and wrestled with him all night. It's one of Scripture's strangest stories -- until we reflect on the picture and realize we've been there. There are times when we are left alone to wrestle with God, when past issues loom over our psyche and threaten to burden us with consequences and conflicts we don't want to confront. At such times, God's Presence is painful but purposeful, provoking a catharsis or cleaning from ole wounds. It can be an intense, exhausting struggle, but eventually dawn comes and we receive a blessing for having contended with God- and ourselves - face-to-face.

For your relationship with God to arrive at any depth, it has to include some sort of these wrestling matches. Old wounds must be healed, and it's sometimes a messy process. When your past and your God come face-to-face, it can sometimes be an intense encounter. But it's a necessary one, and it leads to blessing - sometimes even a new a name. The struggle lasts until dawn, but only until dawn. And with it comes a new day.

"Then the man said, 'Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!' But Jacob said, 'I will not let you go unless you bless me.'" Genesis 32:26

Some people see surrender as the purpose of Jacob's wrestling match with God - that Jacob had to come to the end of himself and submit to God's lordship. But there seems to be no surrender in this episode, or even a need for it. Jacob had already arrived at the end of himself, unable to face his brother in his own strength and willfulness. No, the "man" who wrestled with Jacob "saw that he would not win the match" (Genesis 32:25), and Jacob refused to let go until he was blessed... No, this wasn't about surrender; this was about contending with God and knowing His heart even in the intensity of a battle. 

God honors spiritual tenacity. His Presence can provoke turmoil within you for a time, but those who press through the struggles and hang on to faith in Him will be blessed. God has many sides to His face, and sometimes He seems to show a harsh one. But what do you really see - a harsh face or a tender heart? Whichever you see more clearly determines whether you can endure being on your back for a while, as well as what blessing you see at the dawning of the next day. Only the tenacious hold on to God in the midst of a wrestling match with Him and the relentless issues of life.

Hold on. Go ahead and wrestle; God doesn't mind. But if you've been flat on your back, keep holding on anyway. Stay in close contact with God, no matter how intense, and see into His heart. He wants to bless. He's waiting for the dawn. And He wants you to wait for it too.    "

The following is further commentary on this passage by Matthew Henry:

"A great while before day, Jacob being alone, more fully spread his fears before God in prayer. While thus employed, One in the likeness of a man wrestled with him. When the spirit helpeth our infirmities, and our earnest and vast desires can scarcely find words to utter them, and we still mean more than we can express, then prayer is indeed wrestling with God. However tried or discouraged, we shall prevail; and prevailing with Him in prayer, we shall prevail against all enemies that strive with us. Nothing requires more vigour and unceasing exertion than wrestling. It is an emblem of the true spirit of faith and prayer. Jacob kept his ground; though the struggle continued long, this did not shake his faith, nor silence his prayer. He will have a blessing, and had rather have all his bone put out of joint than go away without one. Those who would have the blessing of Christ, must resolve to take no denial. The fervent prayer is the effectual prayer."

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Often times we forget or lose sight of our initial prayer. 

I am immediately reminded of the Israelites in the desert, and immediately reminded of how similar I can be to them. They had been praying for years and years for deliverance from the oppression and rule of the Egyptians. Simultaneously during those years the Lords provision had already been set in motion, which is one of the coolest things to me. He had been raising up someone, Moses, through whom He was going to bring about that very deliverance. It's amazing to me looking at the details of Moses life in retrospect and being prepared for this instance. God is Provider. He was absolutely hearing them and working on their behalf, even in advance, without them even being aware of their prayer. He goes before, always. Even before what they are about to endure in the desert.

After the Israelites left Egypt before they even cross the Red Sea, Pharaoh and his army are quickly approaching. Their whole idea of deliverance is threatened, and they are becoming doubtful and fearful by the second. 

10 When Pharaoh drew near, the people of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they feared greatly. And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” 13 And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of theLord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again.14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent. 15 The Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward.” Exodus  14:10-15

Wow. Humbly, how many times is this us? This is shockingly me far too often. Things maybe don't go as we expected and we oh so quickly cry out, why Lord did you even bring us here if this was going to be how it ended? We want to jump ship. This isn't what we were imagining, why didn't you just leave us where we were? I didn't ask for this. I know so many can empathize with those thoughts and questions. However, and I love saying however here. This is not the end. This was and never is how He set it up to end. I love how He sets the atmosphere here for entering the desert. "The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent...Tell the people of Israel to go forward."  

Sometimes when unexpected things come at us or deserts are asked of us to walk through, the Lord simply just asks us to rest, trust Him, and go forward. Forward to what? That may be unsure, but what we do know is, forward IN His perfect provision and sovereignty, knowing that He will be faithful and it will come to fruition. There is reason for the desert, always. Nothing is wasted in the sovereignty of God, Hallelujah! We often want to DO something to make the uncomfortableness of the desert go away, but that's not what gets you through. God is constantly trying to instruct the Israelites (and us) to rest in the beauty of surrender, and trust and understand the perfect mesh of our weakness and His amazing strength.

The past year of my life has been some desert area, but amidst the struggle I forgot my initial prayer before the desert was even in sight, was for the Lord to give me deep roots of faith. I hungered for this deeply. I am not exactly sure if I thought it was going to be this magical movement and poof there I was deep rooted, faithful and strong, but roots don't grow deep and strong without the weather and storm. I at times because of the pain of the moment became so focused on the struggle that I lost sight that the Lord was working & accomplishing what I asked Him to do, which is so sweet to me now. I can look back through and see threads of His grace & provision the entire way.

Here's the beautiful thing to me - regardless of the Israelites doubt, forgetfulness, or maybe at times extreme stubborness (guilty); it did not disqualify them for the redemption and promise the Lord set out to fulfill and accomplish from the very beginning. He never wavered. He did and will bring it to fruition. It is a promise. He works all things for good. Like the Israelites, we so often forget our initial prayer when the steps in desert aren't what we expected. But the desert is the process. The promised land is our destination. He will bring whatever He is working in you to fulfillment.

Hold the vision, trust the process.
It's a daring adventure that is incredibly worth it. Every step.