by Patty Morwood
Do you plan spiritually for your new year; do you give thought to what could be your spiritual focus?
I do, and I begin by searching Scripture for a passage that says to me “spend time here”. Though none of us knows what the New Year brings, we can prepare for the work the Lord Jesus will inevitably do in us by cultivating a submissive heart.
My Scripture choice illustrates where I want to grow in the coming months; they are lines I can meditate on and pray about … and then walk with the Lord learning to become.
Below is a cascading thought-sentence that augments Galatians 5:22 - 23, my spiritual focus for 2017. Every day I will meditate and pray and cooperate with the Holy Spirit… so these character qualities can be grown in me.
Beginning January 1 and every morning following, I will rise early-early, when the sky is still deep and black, and make a cup of tea. My Bible and prayer journal will be where I left them the day before… open and ready.
And I will submit myself to the Lord and prayerfully choose ...
No occasion justifies hatred
No injustice warrants bitterness
I choose love because today I will live for God and love what He loves
I refuse to nurture a critical spirit
I refuse to blame or hurt
I choose joy because today I will remember who I am in Christ
Living every day cognizant that I am a forgiven woman changes everything
Extending that same reconciliation and grace to others honors God’s name
I choose to forgive so I may show what peace actually and truly is
No failure is beyond God’s grace
His patience with me shows me how to serve others
I choose patience, for God has blessed me with His Holy Spirit
Cynicism and unkindness deny God’s desires for me, a woman of His own choosing
Hypocrisy destroys my witness
I will be kind for such is God’s treatment of me, His former bitter foe
I will be overlooked and even denigrated before I will boast
I will confess before I accuse
I choose the Godly strength of goodness
My husband will not question my love
My family never fear I will not listen
I choose faithfulness to this very household God has given me
If I raise my voice may it be only in praise
If I clench my fist may it be only in prayer
If I make a demand may it be only of myself
I choose God’s gentle way to grow Christlikeness in me
I am a spiritual being, thus one day my spirit will soar heavenward
But while on this earth, I refuse to let self-indulgence rule
I choose self-control physically, mentally and spiritually
LOVE, JOY, PEACE
To these Fruits of the Spirit I commit my day
If my life exhibits them, I will give thanks
If not, I will seek His grace
And then, when the day is done, I will thank the Lord for the strength to give the good days and the more difficult days into His hand
Won’t you come along with me?
by Jodean Jones, foreword by Patty Morwood
The Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622 AD
Jodean Jones is an amazing woman. She always spurs me to be strong, to bow the knee to God’s will, to
ask for prayer. Now she is at a crossroads in life; her two children are grown and attending universities
on the West coast; she and her former husband have sold their stunning showcase farm. And now
Jodean is moving to the big city!
Her giftedness is reflected in seemingly disparate concentrations: culinary excellence, a just-completed
MBA, and her faithful hard-working servanthood to her church family. I am one of the recipients of her
grace. I love her.
Jodean wrote this Christmas article in 2010; it was birthed in hard times. She was still married then but
things were pretty bad. In God’s people, sanctification is always birthed in hard times, and Jodean
learned her lessons well: trust God no matter what, adore Him at all times, lean completely into the Lord
Jesus Christ Himself … and follow wherever He leads.
Reflections on the Savior in a Stable
by Patty Morwood
There must be millions of foodies wandering this earth waiting for a special gift this season. Have you noticed the cookbooks shadowing you through gift stores, book stores, and kitchenware stores? The best cooks in countries spanning the globe publish something new this time of year; thrown in for good measure are even recipes featuring the weird and the rare.
Once I gave my daughter a darling little book, The Flummery of Food: Feasts for Epicures, by Andrea Simon, a noted gastronome. His opening lines are “Gastronomy is the hallmark and the most rewarding achievement of our Western civilization. Sheer self-gratification is all that gluttons and hedonists care for; not so the gastronomes.”
It’s full of intelligent observations about experiencing the table and good food (or not-such-good food), no matter where and under what circumstances; it’s entertaining for any of us who have even a remote interest in food and dining.
The already decent cook, those who aspire to be so, the few who like to laugh at dining escapades, and especially those interested in the culinary history of western civilization would enjoy Flummery. And don’t forget that person who just likes cleverly constructed anecdotes.
What makes this book interesting to me in the very first moments of thumbing through it is the obvious humor oozing from author to reader. One homesick American commented while traveling in foreign countries, “Nothing helps scenery like ham and eggs.” Home food is home, even the revered haggis, apparently creepy to almost everyone, would be a Scot’s culinary comfort if he were stranded in the Gobi.
Though Simon uses poems and quotable quotes, I especially like the unique stories excerpted from longer essays. Sir Edmund Hillary wrote that when he and his native guide finally reached the summit of Mt. Everest, they buried in snow a bar of chocolate and a packet of biscuits to appease the gods. Alongside, Hillary also left a crucifix.
Knud Rasmussen, an explorer of artic lands in early 20th century and ‘Father of Eskimology,’ described one of his dinners in the arctic tundra. After it was consumed, a special treat was given to each guest: a head of caribou to eat lingeringly in their own tents … “on condition that none of the leavings should under any circumstances be touched by women or dogs.”
I also like Simon’s use of gifted writers’ works to express their views on a range of gastronomic interests. Mark Twain is quoted from The Innocents Abroad about eating in Marseilles: “We have learned to go through the lingering routine of the table d’hote … we take soup; then wait a few minutes for the fish; a few minutes more and the plates are changed, and the roast beef comes; another change and we take peas; change again and take lentils; change and take roast chicken and salad; then strawberry pie and ice cream; then green figs, pears, oranges, green almonds, etc.; finally coffee. Wine with every course, of course, being in France.”
Well, we’ve all heard of the unending courses served in Europe’s aristocratic courts and this one is probably typical. But hey, its Mark Twain’s repast; and I can imagine his white mustache opening and shutting, bite after bite, for hours … and the gravies dripped on the lapels of his famous white suit. And his fatigue when it was all over.
Seriously, this is something we should be aware of: great writers and their readers tend to like good food experiences and lingering table companionship.
Simon quotes not only Twain, but such people as James Boswell, Herman Melville, Jonathan Swift, and de Maupassant. What they have to say is often funny and enlightening, considering their experiences are so different from mine (and probably yours too).
Food is not only to be labored over, painstakingly served, and slowly enjoyed … but chuckled about too.
Andre Simon was a Frenchman who spent most of his adult life in Great Britain. He was one of the founders of the International Wine and Food Society, established in 1934 in London, also he wrote 104 books on a variety of subjects from wine and champagne to a Russian grammar. Interestingly, when he died in 1970, he left enough Chateau Latour for 400 friends and family to gather and drink to his memory, which they did at the Savoy in 1977.
Hmmm, I think I’d like to gift this little book again, but to whom this year?
Another Christmas, several seasons ago, I gave my daughter another book along this same line, but this one is a compilation of essays by current Christian writers, The Spirit of Food: Thirty-four Writers on Feasting and Fasting toward God.
She saw it and wanted it, and I saw it and wanted to give it to her, and then she asked for it. It’s copacetic when mother and daughter actually think along the same lines every once in a while, don’t you agree?
There are some voices here you know – such as Ann Voskamp and Wendell Berry – and others of lesser popular fame you probably don’t know. They write on such things as table blessings, the joy of fasting, subsistence feasting (wow!), the pleasures of eating and the perfect loaf of bread.
Each of the thirty-four authors has written a short essay and provided a recipe to complement it.
So, Brian Volck writes on late October tomatoes and provides his “Spicy Tomato Soup” recipe. Jacqueline Rhodes’ “Soul of Soul Food” features cornbread. LaVonne Neff did a “six-week experiment in living on a food-stamp budget.” And yes, her recipe is a good one for those of us who love rich comfort food on the cheap: “Mac and Cheese for Grown-Ups.”
Let me give you a closer look at one of the articles that intrigued me. Denise Frame Harlan titles her chapter, “And She Took Flour: Cooking Lessons from Supper of the Lamb.”
Harlan grew up watching her grandma, THE pie maker of the region, cut in the butter and roll the crust just-so, to fill it with heaping slices of seasonal fruit. But she didn’t learn to cook from her grandma nor from her own mother nor from a cooking class. She learned by living with people who are hungry. She begins and ends her essay with Hank, a close friend loved by the entire family.
Hank is a man who revels in families gathered around the table just as much as the food itself. And Hank is coming for a long-overdue visit from several states away. Anticipation is high; the kids are excited and her husband is beside himself.
To prepare that first welcoming meal, she doesn’t do as you and I probably would, she doesn’t go to the market to buy fresh ingredients for a cookbook recipe. She pulls out Thanksgiving leftovers.
She slices fruit for a pie (she is now just as good a pie maker as her grandma was!), fills a second crust with veggies and turkey and freshened gravy, then kneads a big lump of dough, always on hand in the refrigerator, for a steaming hot loaf of hearth bread.
Each dish simmers and bakes, releasing aromas impossible to withstand. At last, she piles the sliced fruit, no doubt apples and raisins (given the season), into the pie shell and slides it into the oven. This luscious piping-hot bubbling dish will be her table centerpiece!
As they all stand holding hands for prayer, they take a few moments to look around the table into each other’s eyes. Savoring the love and joy of being together and sharing a bounty given and enjoyed in love.
Harlan closes with two recipes for that beloved American classic they served to Hank: “City Slicker’s First Pot Pie,” for the novice, and a second for the more advanced pie-maker, “Real Pot Pie.”
She sends us on to the next essay with a desire to lavish our loved ones with regular good food and good love, things God has bountifully provided for us to share on this earth, as we practice for the Lord’s celebratory wedding feast, the feast of the Lamb, when we all meet after time has fled away and sin is gone forevermore.
I truly enjoy Spirit of Food as well as Flummery; they are both very different from each other and fun to read for different reasons. Flummery for the literary-historical-cultural perspective and Spirit simply for the heart of it all.
Their message is somewhat similar: Whether one scales a mountain, visits an aristocratic court, or gathers at home … and whether you are on a crimped budget, or serving an army or maybe only two …
Each of us should plan with thought, cook with our hearts, serve with our hearts and always enjoy with all our hearts!
Have a merry steaming-hot communal table-feasting Christmas!
by Patty Morwood
Blessed is the woman whose heart is set on pilgrimage.
Psalm 84:5b paraphrase
It hurt when I was young. And it continued for years. The behavior finally slacked off but the disdainful looks and comments lingered. My heart broke. Over time I couldn’t see myself and didn’t even know myself. Pain does that.
I believed I forgave. I believed it for a long long time.
I would pray, searching the Scriptures for verses I could journal-pray from, in any attempt to climb out of rejection, someday. I wanted to be beautiful on the inside when God’s eyes swept by, not so barren.
Time passed. Children grew up, married and had their own children. I eventually shut down whole parts of my inside self. Because you see, bitterness had wrapped itself around my heart, and its root system was more complex than I was even aware of.
I didn’t see it at all.
Then, as I was teaching a Bible study just a few years ago, things changed. It wasn’t that years had worn away the imprint of rejection and pain. It was God’s viewfinder lens that did it.
It was the ancient people and that horrible desert. The Israelites wandered all over the face of Sinai, a forsaken land of red and black ground, crisscrossed with caravan trails but home to no settlement. The eye could scan 360 degrees from any given point and see no marked change of relief for miles and miles. No green. Just red and black, sand and rock everywhere.
Hot Kham-sin winds in spring and intense summer heat. Winters close to single digits. Sometimes water in trickling wadis, but mostly percolating here and there from deep underground reservoirs. No rivers or pools upon which to see the moon’s reflection rippling on a quiet night along the shore.
Years ago I visited that land and wandered it myself. My backpack held a Bible and notebook, my thermos brimmed with water. As I surveyed, I imagined young Israelite children playing on the edges of the trudging thousands as they walked and camped. Their elders’ had refused to warrior into the Promised Land. Though He had said He would lead them just as He had been doing since they left Egypt.
There would be glorious victory and a permanent homeland after 400 years, nine or ten generations in a foreign place, with God Himself as their mighty general King.
But even when Joshua and Caleb insisted they follow God and go, and even with abundant evidence of the land’s abundant produce – the people refused. Their slave-hearts couldn’t go forward, they were rooted in that desert.
So, wandering outside the boundaries of home became their chosen destiny. For an entire generation, as they trudged and died off, children and grandchildren were born and trudged along with them.
The kids grew up hearing of massive building projects, inordinate birthing of male babies and Moses’ little arc in the river Nile, great petrifying plagues, God’s promises and the craven fear of their elders when they refused to follow Him into the land.
Regret-filled voices and blaming accusations probably colored every conversation they overheard every day of their childhood.
I imagined them grown and newly married in the same red-black setting where they had frolicked as a child. Then in time, their own children trudged at their side too. It must have been a hard mix for them all, those forty years: positive anticipation in the youngers and bitter grudges in the olders. Hope and failure and nowhere to go to escape it all, except into the boulders and rocks, crevices and ledges ever before their eyes.
I realized that day as I lectured on a portion of Deuteronomy that I had spent near forty years wandering a landscape just like Sinai: the landscape of my unforgiving heart.
Sinai perfectly describes my bitterness. God saw it every day, and even though He faithfully sustained me with manna, I was certainly a slave-minded ugly. I was rooted there.
Just think of the hardest plant to root out of the ground, a fierce unyielding thing with a complex root system. When you attempt to remove it, you invariably rip off or cut into the smaller roots, which ensures a nightmare: a fresh new generation of that plant next season.
Therefore, you can’t leave even a hair of a root anywhere.
How to root it out? Well, first prune. Prune all, branches and greenery down to the trunk root.
Next, water what’s left and water it well. So when you’re ready to pull it out, there will be less breakage and thus less chance of regrowth. Dig a very wide hole around it, perhaps three times wider than the plant itself and carefully water and loosen, water and loosen. Eventually it can be lifted out. You don’t want to leave anything behind, so get on your hands and knees and search through the dirt for even the tiniest roots.
It’s a drastic job. Some have even said you can cover the area with plastic and build a raised bed in the same place and that will end it all. If you want to be really sure, if you’re absolutely intent on wiping it out, just remove all the topsoil and have new soil delivered. That should do it!
Do you have bitter unforgiveness that needs this kind of treatment? Have you given house to this horrendous thing, all the while telling yourself it wasn’t there?
Have you nursed it and let it live in comfort? Is un-love, then, your new personality type?
I’m urging you: the war to conquer must be fought. Search the scriptures, journal your prayers for deliverance. Enlist prayer partners for the long trek out.
BUT, most important, be honest with yourself. Ask God to show you what your heart really truly seriously looks like.
Then dig deep and wide, and water well with the Word of God.
Remember that the power in a good war is the power of the Holy Spirit. He can lead you out.
I look back now and see purpose in the unjust pain inflicted and the years of wandering in unjust bitterness. It wasn’t a waste; it was what God used to grow a strong woman.
I don’t think I could have ever grown as He has grown me without my sojourn through the desert.
He has walked beside me, a pillar of smoke by day and of fire by night.
And, when unforgiveness tries to grow again I know what to do. I first look honestly at my own heart. Then I cooperate with the Holy Spirit: prune, water, loosen carefully, root out radically.
Come my friends, and warrior into the Promised Land!
It’s a warring pilgrimage to victory. And I promise, victory is your destiny.
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