Monday, September 28, 2009

Comforts of fall

I think fall could quite possibly be one of my favorite times of year. I love fall colors, especially if it means adorning my house with them. I love the smell of pumpkin pie, be it in candles or pies. I love the crisp, cool mornings that are so refreshingly light after a hot repressing summer. And I really love bringing out the sweaters baby! It's not that long sleeves are appealing to me, but sweaters in themselves are very comforting for some reason.

Now, the one thing I don't like about fall is the fact that I live in Buckeye, Arizona where it just happened to be 108 degrees today. Yep, far above average officially one week after the start of fall. What's up with that? My one comfort at this point is to look forward to this coming weekend's visit to my mom and dad's where I will joyfully wear my sweaters!

I hope you're enjoying this season's first week of fall! Want to celebrate the season and win something in a fall giveaway contest? Check out the Thoughts and Whatnots blog!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Week 3: speed=danger

Yep, that's right. It is officially the conclusion of week three in my bible study. I have to be honest though before I really delve into the heart of things; speed and danger aren't really the topic from my study but I do have a comical story to start off with. Remember last week? I locked myself out of my house before bible study. Well, the devil is playing a few games with me because as I quickly tried to re-heat dinner tonight so I could make it to bible study on time I accidentally created this:

Yep, that's right. There is a whole pile of spaghetti sitting on my floor. Here's what happened--I dumped the said spaghetti out of a tupperware onto a plate to re-heat in the microwave. As I spun around and opened the microwave I realized I no longer had any spaghetti on my plate! I didn't realize how quick my cat-like reaction was and in the process of dodging and weaving in my kitchen to get to the microwave, the spaghetti pretty much slid off my plate. And here's where the story gets really good. I definitely salvaged what I could off the top of the mound and reheated that. I said I was in a hurry so please don't judge me. I was 2.5 seconds from being late, so salvaging was my only option.

Okay, onto the real meat of tonight's blog. Our study was primarily about chapter one of Hebrews. After we de-briefed we were asked to share how we applied this. As a teacher myself, I know that application is everything; without it, there is no personal connection to the content. It really hit me tonight though--chapter one is all about the majesty and superiority of Jesus. God says He (Jesus) is the heir of all things, the world was made through Him and he is the exact representation of God (1:2-3). Knowing this then, how have I managed to "humanize" Jesus so much so that he seems like a dusty mid-Eastern man who's main purpose is teaching us how to love our neighbor better? Doesn't that seem way oversimplified? YES!! Listen to what the author of Hebrews says about Jesus in verses 10 through 12:

And, "You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; and they all will become old like a garment, and like a mantle (outer coat) you will roll them up; like a garment they will also be changed; but you are the same, and your years will not come to an end."

Wow, breath that in. Can you imagine grabbing the sky and rolling it up as if it were a piece of paper? That blows my mind--the author is saying that the heavens, made by Jesus himself, will cease to exist while Jesus will remain. Even the heavens will become old, and just like old clothes, the heavens will be changed. Jesus though, no not Jesus. Jesus will be the same. Jesus' years will never come to an end. The imagery in chapter one really captured the bigness, the hugeness of Jesus and how superior He truly is. Jesus humbled himself to the point of allowing himself to become a dusty mid-eastern man who was purely committed to love and service of our neighbors. His example is beyond my ability to describe.

If you want to know who Jesus is, think about Him in both ways. Heir of all things yet human enough to become dusty and dirty in His service to other humans. Powerful enough to roll the heavens up at the end of time, yet tender enough to love the those who wronged him. Wow. And that's the note I'll end on tonight, as un-eloquent as it is, Wow.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

My prayer this week

As I was driving to church this morning I prayed that God would prepare my eyes, ears and heart for His word as delivered by my pastor. Little did I know what God would do. I will tell you more later, but suffice it to say now that the Lord got right down to the root of a huge issue in my life. More to come later....

For now though, I want to share the lyrics with you from the song titled "Speak O Lord" (emphasis below is mine). It was written by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty. I love the truth that is captured below and desire to make this my prayer this week.

Speak, O Lord, as we come to You
To receive the food of Your holy word.
Take Your truth, plant it deep in us;
Shape and fashion us in Your likeness,
That the light of Christ might be seen today,
In our acts of love and our deeds of faith.
Speak, O Lord, and fulfill in us all your purposes,
For Your glory.

Teach us Lord full obedience,
Holy reverence, true humility.
Test our thoughts and our attitudes,
In the radiance of Your purity.
Cause our faith to rise,
Cause our eyes to see,
Your majestic love and authority.
Words of power that can never fail;
Let their truth prevail over unbelief.

Speak, O Lord, and renew our minds;
Help us grasp the heights of Your plans for us.
Truths unchanged from the dawn of time,
That will echo down through eternity.
And by grace we’ll stand on Your promises;
And by faith we’ll walk as You walk with us.
Speak, O Lord, till Your church is built,
And the earth is filled with Your glory.

Friday, September 18, 2009


Good (early) morning! I would have posted my thoughts regarding last night's bible study but I locked myself out of my house and had to sleep in my truck. The locksmith finally made it out and I'm in. Just kidding, well at least about sleeping in my truck. I did lock myself out of my house last night but thankfully some friends of mine had a spare key and brought it over (thanks Sarah and Bryan!).

Last night we recapped week two of our study which was a continuation of the overview we started on the entire book of Hebrews the week prior. While describing the priesthood of Jesus in chapter five, an individual named Melchizedek is introduced in verse 10. The following attributes of his are listed in 7:3:
  • Without father or mother
  • Having no geneaology
  • He did not have a "beginning of days" or "end of life"
  • He is made like the Son of God
  • He will remain a priest perpetually

I am so curious about him--chapter seven even says that after returning from battle, Abraham gave him a tenth of the spoils, a practice reserved for the priests. That wouldn't be that interesting if we also didn't know that he WASN'T from the tribe of Levi, the tribe that had been chosen to care for the temple and have priests selected from.

Here are some questions that I have regarding Melchizedek that I hope to pursue the answers to during the course of the study. Feel free to leave a comment with questions of your own regarding this interesting character.

  1. Who is he and where did he come from? (6:20)
  2. How can an individual have no mother/father/genealogy? (7:3)
  3. When was the Levitical priesthood established?
  4. How did the Israelites view Melchizedek then since the Levitical priesthood had not been established at that time when Abraham gave him a tenth of all spoils? (7:2)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Week 1: Endurance & Strength

After a summer sabbatical from bible study, my church resumed our Growth Groups this week. The women's study I have joined will be studying the book of Hebrews in entirety over the next year. I am very interested in learning about this book because there are many things that remain unknown to me at the outset of our study, even though I've read the book before. The first few weeks of our study will revolve around learning about the context of the book. Who was the author? Who are the recipients? What was the author's purpose in writing this book? Our discussion tonight revolved around these exact questions.

The majority of our discussion focused on the recipients of Hebrews--after jotting down many notes this is what I would summarize. The author was writing to Jewish Christians; individuals who had been persecuted and challenged about their faith in Jesus Christ as the messiah and were growing weary (10:32-35). They had been made public spectacles, their property was siezed and some were even prisoners (13:3). It seems they have been believers for some time because the author admonishes that they should be teachers at this point but still remain infantile in their faith (5:12-14). Despite their current state though, the author is exhorting them to love and encourage each other (10:24-25), and reminding them of the value of discipline (12:7-11).

Okay, so I've learned something about the recipients of the book of Hebrews. Big deal, right? What does that mean to you? Me? I may be a Christian but I'm not a Jewish Christian. My faith has been questioned by some, but I have not been persecuted to the point of being imprisoned or having my property taken by family or friends. But I've been there, in that same weary state. To a point where I'm tired, grumpy and nearing the point where I'm tired of waiting on God's timing. Confused, overwhelmed, perplexed on God's purpose in something.

Don't you sense the love with which the author of Hebrews writes though? He wrote 13 chapters building an amazing argument of why these Jewish Christians should remain strong and steadfast in their faith. The prize that awaits them (and us) is far more valuable than anything else in this world.

"Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire." (12: 28-29)

Regardless of the persecution or challenge, he says to lay aside everything that hinders us and to run with endurance.

"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." (12:1)

I appreciate the direct, uncompromising nature that the Hebrews author uses. I am strengthened by his message of exhortation and admonishment. I pray that as I continue to learn about the context of Hebrews and the situation of the original recipients, that I may apply these timeless principles to my own life. I already have been encouraged in week one and I anxiously await week two, three and many more in the year to come. I hope to share my walk through Hebrews with you....feel free to contribute your own thoughts, questions and insights as I share mine.

Note: All scripture references are from the book of Hebrews.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Destructive Doggies

Anna and I came home late Saturday afternoon after handing out samples of beef at the Phoenix Cooks! culinary event; we handed out well over 1,000 samples of a beef chimichurri. The event was awesome and I am so glad Anna asked me to help; not only was it fun to promote beef but on my breaks I got to sample other food and drink that was to die for. I will recount my two favorites before divulging my destructive dog story.

Favorite #1: Chilled Mango Soup
The chilled soup included strawberry, mint and basil (I think...correct me if I'm wrong Anna/Gretchen). Not a combination I would have put together but it was phenomenal. It was served in a plastic shot glass with a dollop of cream. So good in fact I had to go back for seconds. This was served by The Sanctuary at Camelback Mountain.

Favorite #2: Ahi Tuna-Avocado Appetizer
I'm not actually sure what the official name was but it was amazing. From a distance it looked like diced tomatoes with a scoop of chunky guacomole on top and garnished with a crispy cracker. When Gretchen and I bit into this we both knew it was not tomatoes--Gerti knew before I was marinated Ahi Tuna. A-maz-ing. This was served by Tommy Bahama restaruant.

Okay, onto another crazy Jonnie-Reb (JR) story. After we came home, Anna sat down at the table to eat and I was headed back into the garage to unload more stuff out of Anna's car. As I stepped outside, I heard Anna say "Oh, no." I immediately knew that the dogs had done something they shouldn't. When I say dogs, this includes JR's sister, Lucy, who is owned by Patrick. The picture below is what I saw when I looked outside. Please note that the debris is dead plants (3 hibiscus plants and my beautiful mexican petunia) and the planter was full when I left that morning.

I just don't get it. I honestly thought they would be less destructive because they had each other. Not true. Another thing I don't get:

Does anything look pleasant or appetizing about that spiky plant? I know it hurts like heck when it stabs me everytime I weed eat around it. I don't understand how my dog chews on this thing every day.

Here's a shot of the two yahoos playing tug-o-war with an uprooted hibiscus plant. Forgive its fuzzy nature, I took it through the screen on the window.

Despite being destructive, I adore these two dogs. Jonnie Reb is so fun and Lucy is very sweet. I am fully committed at this point though to NOT replace any plants in my backyard until JR grows up a bit. I figure I'll get a better return on my investment that way.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Giving Thanks

I tried talking myself into returning to school after dinner tonight to complete a new bulletin board and start a quiz that I will be giving my Animal Science class tomorrow. The idea sounded brilliant at 7pm but after cleaning up my kitchen at quarter 'til nine I thought otherwise.

Instead I thought I'd give thanks for a wonderful evening. I made Tamale Pie for dinner and invited a handful of friends over to share it with. Now don't get me wrong, dinner turned out great, especially considering it was the first time I had made this, but the part I am most thankful for is the time I had with new and old friends tonight. This may sound trivial to some, but let's briefly re-visit my first (and some of my second) year of teaching.

For about the first six months of teaching two years ago, my usual day looked like this:
4am-rise and shine
6am-head to school after devotion, hearty breakfast and getting ready
8:30am-school starts, the big rug rats arrive
3pm-the final bell rings, I collapse into my seat, and take a mental break for about 5 minutes
3:05pm-coach a team, grade papers, prepare lessons...etc.
5:30pm-break for dinner....this would be the second meal I have eaten at my desk today
8:30-9pmish-drive home, set automatic coffee pot and fall asleep instantly

I was working far too many hours and as far as I was concerned my social life was over. I was practically crawling to my truck at night so I could just get in bed and start the same overloaded schedule as the day before. I longed for the sweet days of graduate school where I had friends over for dinner frequently and they returned the favor at least once a week. Instead of evenings filled with satisfying food and friendships, I was trying to keep my head above water trying to prepare myself to teach parts of the cell to my freshmen Ag classes.

It's been a long time coming, and I have neglected far too many friendships and hobbies over the past two years. My third year of teaching has gotten off to a strong start and has included more time with friends than any other of my previous two years and for that I wish to give thanks tonight.

Note to other "foodies:" for a great recipe on tamale pie or other classic American dishes, check out The Cook's Country Cookbook: Rediscovering American Home Cooking. As my friend Sarah pointed out tonight, I know it's hard to believe that a dish with the word tamale in it is American, but it is. Believe me.