Stop and Smell the ……… Garbage?!


Isn't this the sweetest puppy you have ever seen? That is our 6 month old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Dottie. She has won the hearts of our entire family and just about everyone who has met her. We could not be happier that she is now part of our family.

Every morning I take Dottie for a walk around our neighborhood. I think I enjoy the fresh air and exercise just about as much as she does. Since she is a just a puppy, she is interested in everything we encounter. Especially the fire hydrants! A friend of mine told me she just checking her “pee mail”. Hahaha!

 

I love our morning walks. Except on Tuesdays. Tuesday is garbage day here in our little town and Dottie feels the need to stop at each and every garbage can that we pass. It takes us forever just to get around the block!

In the midst of my irritation with this cute little puppy, I felt God speak to my heart. It went something like this:
“Rachelle, how much garbage do you stop at each and every day? How much time do you waste with the trash of this world when you could be spending your valuable time focusing on the things that draw you closer to me.”
Ouch. Self examination is never a comfortable thing. But I realize that it is a necessary thing in order to further my relationship with God. So I dove a little deeper into this “trashy” subject. The first thing I did was go to my favorite online Bible tool and searched for how garbage is talked about in scripture. I discovered this passage in the book of Philipians:
Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ. Philipians 3:8 (NLT)
Did you catch that? “Everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.” That's a whole lot of garbage!
So does this mean that we need to throw everything in the garbage in order to know Jesus? I don't think so. But I think we do need to frequently examine ourselves to make sure we aren't focusing on the wrong things. When we focus on Christ, everything else will fall into its rightful place. Just like this beautiful passage illustrates:
So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life. James 1:21 (MSG)
I believe the key is to listen to that small still voice that gently guides each of us. I would much rather have a beautiful garden than a pile of stinky garbage!

 

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Pooh Stick Prayers


Yesterday I came across a website that was full of A.A. Milne quotes. While that name may not ring a bell for you, you are most likely very familiar with his books about a teddy bear named Winnie-the-Pooh. One of my sons was a huge Pooh fan as a young boy and we read the stories and watched the movies quite often. My children loved imitating the game of “Pooh Sticks” that was played by the characters in the books. At one of our local parks there was a walking bridge that crossed a small stream. One child would challenge another and the game would begin. This simple game involves each player dropping a stick into the upstream side of a bridge and the one whose stick first appears on the downstream side is the winner. I have wonderful memories of my children hanging over the bridge railing, dropping their selected sticks into the water, and racing to the opposite railing all the while cheering and shouting as each one made it’s reappearance on the other side. But occasionally there would be that stick that never reappeared. The owner of the stick would wait, usually impatiently, and I would have to explain that the stick probably just got caught up on something under the bridge. I would then redirect the disappointed child to something much better than the Pooh stick game such as an extra high “under dog” push on the swings.

This little trip down memory lane got me thinking about how sometimes our prayers can seem like that disappearing Pooh stick. We send up our prayers to God with anticipation and hope that we will see the answer on the other side of the bridge. Which by the way, is a pretty short distance for a big God and shouldn’t require an excessive amount of time right? So we wait and watch, hanging over the bridge rail with childlike expectancy and high hopes of what God is about to do. But sometimes the stick never emerges and we don’t see an answer to our prayer. And the swings just can’t seem to curb our disappointment.

It seems like scripture is full of verses that show us that God hears every single one of our prayers. 1 Peter 3:12 tells us that “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are open to their prayer.” So if God sees us and hears us, why doesn’t He always answer us? I know in my case, I usually have an idea of how I would like God to answer my prayer. And when things don’t go according to my plan, I stop looking for an answer. Now it could very well be, more likely than not, that God has a better plan than I do. As my kids would say, “Ya think?” As simple as it sounds, that can be a hard thing to accept. While it seems like our prayer is not heard and definitely not answered, God is doing something under the bridge that we cannot see or understand. And at just the right moment, our Pooh stick prayer will be released from whatever was holding it back, and we will see the answer God has designed uniquely for our situation. In Hebrews 11:1 Paul says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Even though we can’t always see what God is up to, we can have faith that He working on behalf of our ultimate good. That builds my faith and gets me back at that bridge railing, waiting and watching for how my Heavenly Father is going to answer my Pooh stick prayer.

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Blogging once again


Well, friends, as most of you have noticed I have recently taken a major respite from blogging. Well, with much persuasion, mostly from my wonderful husband, but also from some of you, I am now back at the preverbal blogging wheel. I have much to share with all of you, because even though I have not been dishing out my insignificant thoughts with all of cyberspace, I have been filling journals and notebooks with my scribbling and scrawling. I hope in the coming days to offer some inspiration and encouragement along with a few yummy recipes, a book review or two, and hopefully some smiles as well!

As I have mentioned previously, God has been taking me on a spiritual journey or as I like to refer to it: My Quest. It is a quest for truth that has led me to dig deeper into His Word, seek His face more fervently, and ultimately to have a more intimate relationship with my Lord and Savior. Just today I was listening to a podcast and the speaker pointed out that the scripture says we are to work OUT our salvation with fear and trembling (Phillipians 2:12b) not work AT our salvation. This has been a very personal time between me and my God in which I have tried my best to allow Him to guide and direct me and that is why I haven’t blogged for several months. But I believe I am now ready to share what I have learned and continue to learn about this amazing God we serve. As always, I would love your feedback. I’m looking forward to hearing from all of you again!

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Failing While at Your Spiritual Best


Failing While at Your Spiritual Best.

The above link is to a blog I subscribe to written by someone that I sincerely respect. Check it out!

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Grace and Mercy, Mercy and Grace


The grey, rainy day outside her window reflected the condition of her heart. Colorless and cold, void of any emotion other than remorse. The rain hitting the window pane imitated the tears streaming down her face. Guilt and shame wrapped their heavy, black cloaks around her until their weight was more than she could bear. How could she have done such a thing? She desperately needed to hear from God, but how could He ever forgive her for such blatant sin? No wonder God was silent. She was unworthy of ever communing with God again. Hopelessness surged through her soul as the enemy kept replaying in her mind the awful things she had willfully partaken. Anguish consumed her innermost being as she cried out to God in desperation.

That’s when she heard it. Grace and Mercy. Mercy and Grace. First it was just a small, almost unidentifiable whisper. But slowly, almost painfully so, it became clearer. Mercy and Grace. Grace and Mercy. Did she dare to believe it? Could it be possible? How could she conceivably claim these coveted things when she clearly didn’t deserve them? The darkness threatened to crush her spirit forever as lies attempted to rise above the truth. But like a beacon of light in the midst of a storm, God continued to gently speak those words that were like a soothing balm for her soul. Grace and Mercy. Mercy and Grace. The realization that these two key elements were hers for the taking overwhelmed her to the point of dizziness. Mercy and Grace. Grace and Mercy. As she allowed these truths to take over her thoughts, her spirit began to renew itself from the inside out. She felt a glimmer of hope as the heaviness of condemnation left her. A buoyancy took over and left her feeling as light as air as she rose from her prostrate position on the tear stained floor. She was drawn to the window that had previously been battered by wind and rain just moments before. As she glanced toward the heavens, she noticed the sun parting the clouds and driving the darkness to the edge of the horizon until nothing but blue sky remained. A peace settled upon her and joy poured from her heart as she began to praise God as only a redeemed soul can.

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

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Spiritual munchies


I have been experiencing something lately that I tried to put into words yesterday. Have you ever been hungry but you don’t know what it is that you are craving? You can scrounge through the refrigerator and dig through the pantry, but you can’t find anything that satisfies your hunger. In my family this is commonly known as “the munchies”. But recently, I have been experiencing something I would like to call Spiritual Munchies.

I have a routine each morning. Before I even get out of bed, the first thing I do is I spend some devotional time with God. This is my favorite part of the day. I have many different resources that I use during this time. I am subscribed to several email devotionals. I also enjoy reading Joyce Meyer’s daily meditations. And on occasion I use the Message Solo: An Uncommon Devotion. And of course I keep my handy dandy parallel Bible close at hand to look up whatever scriptures happen to be presented. No matter what I happen to read on any given day, I have made it a point to get something from God before I start my day. This has worked just fine for me. Until my recent case of Spiritual Munchies.

This has been more than a little disturbing. I can’t seem to satisfy some sort of spiritual hunger that is deep within my soul. It’s very unnerving. And for days I have been trying to figure out what will do the trick. What can I do to satisfy this seemingly irrepressible desire for the things of God? Even though I glean insights from almost everything I read or listen to, I just couldn’t get away from the feeling that there needed to be something more.

I was explaining this to a friend of mine yesterday morning. Ok, to be honest, I was whining about it. In retrospect, how silly is that? Well, this very wise friend of mine said something that struck chord with me. She said, “God is wanting a deeper relationship with you. That is so amazing.” I have spent the day mulling this over and have come to the conclusion that she just might be on to something.

I decided that the best way to get an answer on this would be to talk to God about it. So I took it to Him in prayer. And as I was telling God pretty much what I have just previously written, I felt him speak to my heart. And what was brought to my attention was this. Each morning my main goal has been to GET something from God. That’s pretty one-sided, almost selfish even. What if my husband and children woke up each morning and just wanted to GET something from me? That would get pretty old pretty quick. Relationships must have a give and take factor. So if God is wanting a deeper relationship with me, maybe I need to do some giving and not just taking.

So the next question naturally became, what do I have to give to God? What could He possibly need from me? After all, He is the God of the entire universe! I have absolutely nothing to offer. The moment this thought zipped through my brain, Revelation 3:20 came to mind.

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

This is the King James version that I memorized as a child. I have always focused on the first part of this verse. The mental picture is that of Jesus knocking on the door of my heart and waiting patiently until I let him in. But I was drawn to the latter portion of the verse, “and will sup with him and he with me”. Other versions say things like, “eat with him”, “dine with him”, or my favorite, “we will share a meal together as friends.” (NLT) It dawned on me that what God wanted from me was some time spent together. Just Him and me. He desires me to share my heart with him, my truest self, even though He knows me to the very core of my being. He waits everyday for me to just come to Him and “talk together as friends”.

The only way I will satisfy my spiritual hunger is to take time to “sup” with God each and every day. He wants to feed me a healthy and nutritious meal that will sustain me. I will not be able find these things in any man made resource. This goes beyond lifting up my ever growing list of prayers and petitions to God. I believe what He has been trying to tell me is that I need to stop striving and just take time to sit quietly and commune with Him. And He will satisfy all future cases of Spiritual Munchies.

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Long name for a simple dish


Tonight I was craving pasta. Not that this is really a surprise. I am carb girl. The Atkins or any other low carb diet would be a fate worse than death for me. I must have my daily dose of pasta, bread, pasta, potatoes, pasta, rice, or pasta. Did I mention pasta? And speaking of pasta, I would love to share with you the dish I created tonight. And guess what? It’s pasta!

I don’t normally get that creative in the kitchen. The only thing I do without a recipe is boil water. So I’m not used to naming things. But this dish needs a name so I am officially calling it “Bow Tie Pasta with Pesto Vodka Cream Sauce.” Yes, that’s a mouthful. But when you don’t get to name things very often one must use as many words as one can.

My first disclaimer is that I used a jarred sauce. Come on people, it’s a Monday night, I have 1427 loads of laundry to fold, making sauce from scratch just wasn’t in the realm of reality. My second disclaimer is the amount of sugar I added to the previously mentioned jarred sauce. My Italian mother-in-law preferred a sweet sauce and always added a ridiculous amount of sugar to hers. I guess this has rubbed off on me over the years. I am hoping to become Italian enough by the time I die so when I see Joan in Heaven she won’t call me “that skinny Croatian girl” anymore. The way I have been eating lately, the skinny part is taking care of itself. 😉

One last note. I used my homemade pesto that was conveniently in my freezer. You can go ahead and use a store bought brand; it shouldn’t make much difference. Plus, the jar of pesto will make the jar of vodka sauce not feel so bad about its commercialized self. If you are interested in making your own here is my super simple pesto recipe

So here we go. Let’s make Bow Tie Pasta with Pesto Vodka Cream Sauce!

1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage
1 onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 jar of vodka sauce
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon basil
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Fresh ground pepper and salt to taste
12 oz bow tie pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup pesto
Fresh parmesan cheese
(For the love of all things good and right do NOT use the stuff in the green can!)

Fry ground beef and sausage until almost done. Add the onion and garlic and stir until meat is cooked through. Pour in vodka sauce. Add the sugar and cook until it is dissolved in the sauce. Add sour cream and spices. Heat through and allow to simmer on a very low heat. Meanwhile cook pasta according to package. Drain and rinse the pasta, and drizzle with olive oil. While pasta is still hot, toss with the pesto until it is completely covered. Pour sauce over the pasta and toss gently again. Serve with a sprinkle of fresh parmesan and more ground pepper.

This was so good with the different layers of flavor on the pasta. You could really taste the pesto but it didn’t overpower the vodka sauce. They complimented each other very well. And the sausage added just the right amount of sweetness. Or was that just the sugar? I guess it doesn’t matter but because it was just plain yummy. Buon appetito!

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