by Cornel Warren
Christy Wright was panicking. After years of preparation, she was about to take the stage at the first Business Boutique event, hosted in Nashville, as part of a new Dave Ramsey initiative to equip and encourage women entrepreneurs. There were 1200 registered attendees, and her mind was racing with doubt.
“I would have to be on stage for two days teaching all content I had written myself,” she remembers. “Those voices of fear in my head were saying, ‘who are you to do this? You’re not qualified! No one is going to show up.’” As is true of the enemy’s attacks, the accusations didn’t even make sense: “No one’s going to come, yet they are somehow all going to leave disappointed… I’m not even sure how that’s possible,” Christy now laughs. “I felt God saying: ‘Christy, you are freaking out because you think this is your event. But it’s not your event, it’s My event.’ The One who calls you is faithful. He will do it.”
Christy Wright started with the Dave Ramsey organization seven years ago. Almost immediately her talent and passion for public speaking was soon noticed, and she was selected to be a part of what would later become the Ramsey Personality Group, which consists of Rachel Cruze, Chris Hogan, Chris Brown and Anthony O’Neal. “Each of the speakers had a specific, targeted message they focused on. But I was sort of a catch-all. If we had a client call in requesting a speaker on work-life balance, I would write a talk on that, even though I had never spoken on the topic before.
“I spent several years preparing talks on a variety of different topics. I wrote a new talk for a new audience on a new topic every single time that I spoke,” she recalls. During those years, Christy was speaking over forty times per year! “It was this unbelievable training ground as a speaker, thought leader and trainer to learn how to communicate with different audiences, different age groups and different demographics,” she remembers.
As she wrote, her talks continued to involve different elements of work-life balance, and she found the talks to connect deeply with the concerns women faced: “I received a lot of affirmation in the form of women coming up to me and sharing how much my content had impacted them and how they would be able to take steps to improve their own lives and that of their families.”
As the team at the Ramsey Organization worked to put together the Personality Group, Dave Ramsey identified a need in the market: entrepreneurial women were not being served and equipped properly. “It was a total overlap with the work I had done on life balance because many women are involved in home-based business, lifestyle business or other types of flexible working structures to accommodate their other roles,” Christy shared with excitement.
“I felt like God was showing me: I have gifted you as a speaker. So it was really through God prompting me to do something and then receiving confirmation as I walked it out that I was able to find the path He had for me.” Although her work had prepared her well, the next step was to validate Dave Ramsey’s hypothesis. Christy and her team conducted two years of research and established that there was, indeed, a gap in leadership and business development for women.
“The research reaffirmed to me that things that were so obvious to me, as a business coach, about running a business were blowing women’s minds because they had never been taught those things,” she explains. Not only is her education and experience in business, but Christy was raised by entrepreneurs. “It was really my mom who started a cake shop when I was six months old to raise me and support me as a single mother, that inspired my love for business.
“Now I’m on a crusade to help women start businesses. There’s already a movement happening with the Etsy generation and Pinterest, and the 30 million ‘solopreneurs’. I just want to help women make money doing what they love, and that’s why I created Business Boutique. We started just over a year ago, and have since hosted four events and launched a podcast. We also have a book coming out in April.
“We have definitely hit a pain point in the market because there is a need for help in this area. Many women who are starting businesses are not knowledgeable in business, and they think that disqualifies them from having a business. But that simply isn’t true. I help women with the business side of things so they can spend more time doing what they love and less time on the things they don’t.”
The Business Boutique conference, now in its second year, has reached women where they are, offering guidance in five key areas, while allowing women to dive deeper into key topics of their own choosing through a series of breakout sessions. “I understand what it’s like to be a mom and run a business, wearing so many different hats so I try to be very encouraging, coming alongside them to inspire them but also give them the practical skills they need to run their businesses well.
“I am still relatable to them because I’m not this Sheryl Sandberg, cover of Forbes, high-power CEO. I’m a mom and I work and yet I have this depth of business knowledge,” Christy humbly explains. Her renown as a business thought leader is growing at a rapid, much deserved rate. In addition to speaking on life balance and time management, Christy and the other main stage speakers cover creating a proper business plan, marketing and selling, pricing and profit (and other financial topics) and high-level legal issues that surround entrepreneurship. Christy also coaches women on taking the entrepreneurial leap.
“I understand the vulnerability of putting yourself out there and starting a business. I’m a woman and a mom, and I have run several businesses of my own in the past. So I get it. I can relate to women’s unique struggles that they bring to the business world.” Although Christy has the coaching and mentoring of Dave Ramsey and other tremendously gifted leaders, she has found the strength for her journey in Christ: “There are several verses that I use over and over again. I always go back to 1 Thessalonians 5:24 ‘Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.’”
The other one is “let your light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven.” A lot of times women take a view of their talent that it is just ornamental, something they can pursue if they get around to it saying ‘if I have time to paint, or sew that’s fine. But if not it’s just a luxury anyway.’ But God created you with those gifts and when you neglect them you are missing out on a part of who God created you to be. But not only are you missing out, but others around you are missing out on the blessing of that gift.
When you let your light shine, people see God. When you are walking in your strengths, people see God through that. Your work is a ministry. You don’t have to work in a church to work in a ministry. Your calling from God is your ministry and it points people to God. “It has been cool to see how God has woven together the pieces of my story that I never knew were connected for a moment such as this,” she shares. “I have seen firsthand the life change that happens, so I am really excited about how proven the events are now. I am so confident that the women who show up are going to have their lives changed. Not just their businesses, but their lives.”
by Patty Morwood
A few weeks ago I sat in the foyer at church, listening to children recite Scriptures. Some spit them out in seconds, others were uncertain and shy. All had lived with their assigned verses for weeks and their mamas stood by, so supporting and encouraging as their young voices spoke the greatest Truth that has ever captivated the human mind.
Jim Berg wrote in Changed into His Image that the Bible’s “imagery of planting, watering, fertilizing, pruning, and harvesting was not chosen … because of the nature of the people [or their agrarian culture] but because of the nature of the truth …”
Even if we aren’t farmers in the real sense – though we may preside over a collection of container veggies – we grow and disciple others spiritually in ways similar to the nurturing of our summer tomatoes.
But first we must become a follower of His Word ourselves.
We must pour over His explanations of Himself, memorize His sentences, cultivate a desire to obey Him. The Bible’s perspicuity guarantees that we will slowly and remarkably understand the revealed mind of God as we walk His path through life, tucking the Word in our hearts and minds.
That’s why we have this rich Book in our hands, why thousands have died to have this Book in their language, why we teach our little ones to hide its truths in their hearts.
Even a child can understand its sentences … with a bit of mommy-help.
One of my sons memorized an incredible collection of Scriptures from a Bible Memory Association booklet when he was three years old. He stood there with darling little fat cheeks and deep brown eyes reciting sentences he could actually understand.
“A- all we like sheep have gone astray.” I just had to explain a tiny bit and define one word, but it wasn’t hard to find a practical application. Teasing and baiting his twin brothers mercilessly deserved consequences.
“B- but He was wounded for our transgressions.” Jesus died for this sin, son; why are you doing it?
“C- children, obey your parents in the Lord.”
“D- draw near to God and He will draw near to you,”
“E- even a child is known by his doings.”
There was a scripture for every letter of the alphabet in that little booklet. And each was chosen because three year olds could understand them; and mommies could teach and pray them.
When my brown eyed toddler grew up and had his own two year old, he asked if I still had his little memorization book … the ABCs of Truth for Children.
Yes, I’d been waiting.
For I knew that one day there would be another toddler, one that would live in his house.
And yes, she has deep brown eyes and fat little cheeks too.
by Nancy Admiraal
Jeff and I got married on one of the hottest days in Chicago history. We were in the midst of a five-day heat wave that killed 750 people in the city limits. The service was beautiful and my Dad’s message made everyone cry, but during the photos, my maid of honor kept running the bouquets to the refrigerator to keep them from wilting and the kitchen crew ran out of punch at the reception even before Jeff and I arrived. We finally escaped that night in a violent thunderstorm.
After the honeymoon, Jeff and I moved to a 710 square foot apartment on the edge of Washington, D.C., which was barely the right size for two people, but got really tight when we hosted overnight guests 43 nights that year. After about two days of marriage, Jeff told me I made the apartment look like a hotel, which was a compliment, and I’ll never forget it. Calculating the cost of every meal seemed romantic and noble, and we saved coupons for Pizza Uno so we could go out once every two months. How we looked forward to those dates! Those are the happy memories.
The bad memories go like this: I didn’t like the way he played games, especially Scrabble, because he didn’t let me look for words in the dictionary on my turn. I didn’t like the way I had to go to work early and he came home from the library late. I didn’t, and still don’t, like the way he eats bananas. I didn’t like the way he nagged me on Sunday morning to get ready faster so we could get to church on time.
The straw that broke the camel’s back, though, was the fact that he wouldn’t let us get a TV. He insisted that since he never had a TV growing up, that the radio was perfectly enchanting entertainment, especially TALK radio. I was so lonely in the evenings because Jeff was at the library that I listened to the Bruce Williams radio show every night for nine months until one day I just couldn’t take it anymore. I got home from work and I drove our car to Best Buy and I bought myself a little TV. I never asked permission and I don’t recommend this approach because I probably broke every single Biblical marriage commandment, but it worked in the sense that he let me keep the TV.
There have been so many other disagreements, many of them much more serious, but we laugh about most of them now, and I think the way that Jeff learned to love me in spite of myself and the way I learned to love him in spite of the way he eats bananas, is a perfect picture of God’s love and forgiveness for us. I say, “learned to love” on purpose, because even though I loved Jeff when I made my wedding vows, I didn’t love him like I do now. If I think about it, it’s really no different than the way I’ve learned to love and serve the Lord. When I was a few weeks old, I was baptized, and when I was 12, I made my profession of faith, but I didn’t love God then the way that I do now. It took years of practice on my part and loads of forgiveness on God’s part.
How do we practice love? Ideally, we are always looking for ways to do good to our husbands. Does he love a cup of tea before bed? Offer to prepare it before he gets to the kitchen to do it himself. Honestly, my husband is much better at serving me than I am at serving him. He’s a “doer” and I’m more of a “talker,” so I try to encourage him in other ways. Of course it’s always impressive to him when I do things that are a priority for him, like remembering to enter the numbers in our budget spreadsheet.
Loving marriages are filled with laughter too. We were blessed to grow up in homes where we spent time at the dinner table at night sharing funny stories about our day and we still try to do that with the kids. When we are tired and overwhelmed and nothing in our life seems particularly humorous, though, we cue up a favorite comedy on the DVR or read out loud to each other from a funny book. One time when I was in the hospital for a couple of days, Jeff opened a favorite Dave Barry book and we read out loud to each other until we laughed so hard that we cried. My point is that you need to manufacture laughter sometimes!
Focusing on each other’s needs, having fun, and spending time together are not ends in themselves. When our marriages are healthy, we emanate Christ’s joy and peace to other people. A friend of mine once told me that one of the goals of good parenting is to parent in such a way that your children are always a blessing to other people and not a curse. She meant that when she sent her children to school and friends’ houses, she didn’t want to think any teacher or parent dreaded interaction with her child. Perhaps the same idea can be applied to married people. I’m sure you can think of couples that you love to spend time with because they are always encouraging, forgiving, and helpful even when life is going so badly for them you can’t imagine a day in their shoes. These are marriages that are used by God to restore this fallen world and bring it closer to eternity.
Honestly, I’m glad that Jeff and I are done with our first year of marriage. I had a hard time learning to serve and compromise and he’s said more than once that I’m not exactly the girl he had in mind when we sat next to each other in English class, but God gives grace. I’m increasingly sure with every passing year that he’s brought us together to bring life to our children and, Lord willing, to serve the community where we live.
- About Nancy -
Nancy Admiraal is one of my most beloved friends. She always stimulates my mind and encourages my heart. I hear her responses during Sunday School, her conversations in the church hallways, her ideas and insights over my lunch table. I think of her most during the days leading up to one of our Literary Club discussions [more on Literary Clubs in February 2017]. I want to know what she thinks because she always has an angle.
Sometimes she has a genuine dislike of a book or author or storyline, other times she is an enthusiastic as I am. All the time her insight teaches me another thing or two, which is saying something since I’m a former literature teacher in a classical school.
In fact, during my teaching years Nancy was in my life primarily because of literary discussions, our lives didn’t intersect much in those days. But she still enriched my perspective on lots of things having to do with conflict, theme, resolution, setting, writing style, and characterization.
Nancy is happily married (as you will see in the essay below) to Jeff and has been for twenty-one (21) years. Together they have four darlings: a Wheaton freshman who was born in Japan because she and Jeff lived and worked there for a time, a high school Junior who is her spitting image (I was noticing the identical profiles in church just two days ago), and two little dark-eyed dark-haired beauties brought home from China.
In the daytime she is a behavioral health specialist for children in foster care, but all the time a beautiful Christian woman whom I thank God is concerned about kids in need and distress.
I asked Nancy what she wanted her readers to know about her and she responded with this, “I was once in good enough shape to run a marathon”!
by Taylor Abigail
In June, four major Hollywood studios, Lucasfilm, Disney, Warner Brother, and 20th Century Fox, sued VidAngel for supposed illegal activity. VidAngel is a movie content filtering company. Their mission is to provide a service for people to choose how they watch movies at home.
"As content creators, we love movies and TV shows that are compelling and well-crafted. Not only do such movies entertain, they also change behaviors and minds of people — we believe movies help change lives. That’s why we provide movies and TV shows to our customers in a personalized and inexpensive format." - from VidAngel website
(see video of VidAngel's business model below)
The supposed illegal activity centers around the relationship between two laws: 1. The Family Movies Act (2005), 2. the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, and VidAngels suspected infringemnet.
(see video about the battle below)
While the legal battle continues, VidAgel has been required to discontinue their services until further notice. A family in Flordia began a petition to save VidAngel and the movie filtering pracitce (see http://savefiltering.nationbuilder.com).
VidAngel is not the only movie filtering service available. Clearplay is a smaller company than VidAngel but also helps families filter inappropriate movie content. Historically, all movie filtering companies and products have been under attack from Hollywood despite Congressional acts legalizing the practice.
While the lawyers talk federal regulations and legalities, the threat to movie filtering raises an important conversation for Christian women. As media becomes increasingly more risque, especially for families, how can believers continue to think on all that is good, noble, lovely, and true (Philippians 4:8)?
This battle is much larger than it may appear: the beautiful and holy has always been at war with the ugly and profane. Ephesians 6:12, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
As women who strive to live with a pure heart and a pure soul, it is important to always let the beautiful penetrate our world and act as a shield against darkness. May we continue to pray that good reigns over evil so that we may live up to our holy calling.
by Taylor Abigail (originally published on tabbybe.wix.com/beginnings)
I'm scared to write these days. The thing I know I'm made for seems too big for me to hold. And it is. It's all so terrifying, not because I'm so small, but, because it's so good. I don't understand why I've been asked by two people to help write a book and why my own book is so easily flowing out. I don't understand grace and I don't understand how deeply God's eyes can see the desires of my heart, "Abba I just want to write." And He gives it to me in overwhelming abundance.
I was at an outreach event where we passed out snacks to students during finals week. One guy responded, "I'm sorry, I'm just not used to unsolicited kindness." Same.
Being completely overwhelmed by love or goodness is something that's available to everyone but something very few actually step into. It's the feeling that if you start to cry you might not stop. It's like confessing what's been inside for years. It's the feeling of finding yourself under a light that you didn't ask for. But you secretly love all of it. And it takes strength to admit it's what your soul craves.
It feels like being free and having no idea what to do with such a gift.
I write in my journal, "God, I have no idea what to pray about right now." He says, "Anything you want!" I couldn't pray for a day because I knew I would receive. And I thought that was too much love for my human heart to handle.
I start to write back and He says, "I trust your heart."
And I'm siting here trying to write about the feeling that comes when the Creator and King of the Universe says He trusts my heart...and my heart is running circles because of joy, hope, love and it doesn't care how heavy it's breathing. Freedom is sweet.
I trust Him more now too. This intimacy is my freedom. The prayer that got me here was, "Show me what it means to be Your daughter" and "God please just hold my heart and make it warm." I felt His pride for me swell and His excitement grow. I have a confession, I don't always want to be on a mission for Jesus and sparring in warfare for The Kingdom. Sometimes, I just want to sit in His lap. And it's beautiful because that is a kind of fighting...and a kind of surrender.
"It seemed her lungs could never be large enough to breathe in this much air, her eyes could never see this much space, nor could she hear the full extent of the rolling, roaring ocean. For the briefest moment, she had no edges." - The Light Between Oceans (slightly edited)
I'm trying to live like I'm trusted which makes me trust more; just like living loved makes me love more. I'm trying to call God my Abba more and soak in what it means to have His trust. I don't think it means I get extra adventures or more miracles done at my word, I think it means I have peace. I trust Him, He trusts me, we're good. I think it means someday I'll hear His heartbeat more loudly. I think it means I'm just trying to be the King's kid and run in the reign He's given me.
I think it means we are a team, a family, a couple. It means humility bursts from my heart because I know me and I'm glad I can trust God instead of me. And I'm glad He makes me new and wants to trust me too.
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.
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
2 Corinthians 6:21
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son …”
Romans 8:28, 29a
Do I really think that God plans good for Christians no matter what is happening to them? Perhaps you and I should ask ourselves that question periodically. Asking it out loud, no matter what I’m doing always stops me in my tracks. At least the tracks of my thinking.
I was well into my adult years when I realized that my brain was working on things constantly, without me even knowing it. When my children were young I’d go to bed exhausted – having six children running all over an acreage does that – but unable to sleep because my mind was seeing quilt designs and colors and fabrics.
I’ve since realized that my mind thinks all kinds of things, not just artistic designs. And it thinks without my permission. Easily it’s sinful thoughts living there, because I’m a sinner.
So I take care with what is in my mind; it’s one of my chief daily efforts. Memorizing Scripture and reciting it back to God, and singing hymns and praise songs when I’m busy around the house or chatting with friends are always the starting point for training my mind to think Truth.
Even so, that ole’ mind can still be pretty sloppy sometimes, when I’m not paying detailed attention to it. In Jerry Bridges’ book, Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts, various subjects having to do with trusting God’s sovereignty are discussed. Often he returns to Romans 8:28 and 29 as the best reason to trust and the best explanation for pain and trouble.
This is where I realized my sloppy thinking was circumventing the peace gained by trusting God. There is a ‘good’ that you and I can actually expect in our lives, even if our circumstances are horrible and continue to be horrible. I’m praising God for Bridges’ explanation because I had blindly begun to assume, without realizing it, He will work that good into my life which is copacetic to what my idea of good is.
Even though Scripture clearly shows it’s the grating pain of adversity, not comfort or ease or prosperity that is God’s instrument of choice for sanctifying His people. Even though since first century AD the Church – and the persecuted Church of today -- has gloriously impacted the world from the fires of suffering that God didn’t abateit wouldn’t apply to me. Even though somewhere Christians have always lived in want, without opportunity to better their families’ lives, and in physical sickness without remedy.
And even though the Church has suffered more in the 20th century than in all of history combined, I just slid into keeping myself unscathed.
God is God, so He doesn’t make mistakes, He knows what He is doing in usesing all things for the good of His people.
There is cosmic purpose in it all: That’s because of what ‘good’ really is. VGod predestined us to be conformed to the image of His Son. And that Son is good, actually the only good of all time, ever.
This is no glib feel-good statement. It is He Who knows what is necessary … and He works adversity and blessing to fashion Christlikeness in us hard resistant sinners.
Sinners with renegade minds of our own. Sinners with the propensity for refashioning reality in our own image. But think: our story is a God-given story because it’s a story of sanctification and is tailor-made for each of us. What a blessed and challenging life we who are loved-by-God are to have!
Therefore, in light of Romans 8:28 and 29, our prayers can be three-fold: One) that we would submit to Him in all things because His purpose is for our good; and Two) that we would watch over our minds’ thinking, for this readies us to meet Him in our sufferings and difficulties rather than fighting against Him; and Three) that we would cooperate by believing and trusting God’s Word. When we’re hemmed in, pressed down, and cornered in the hard things, remember God’s Word!
But more than remembering, go further: wrap this truth around your soul and use it to guard your susceptible mind because -- what heavenly joy this is! -- He is working all things for ‘good’ – His image in you.
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