Monthly Archives: August 2015

Apple Pie with a Scoop of Discontent

As I wash the copper-bottomed saucepan in the warm, soapy water in the kitchen sink, I gaze out the window at the apple trees in the back yard. The branches are bent low, nine-months-pregnant heavy, full of crimson fruit. I sigh, thinking of all the work those bushels of apples will be. How should I prepare and preserve them?

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As the dishes dry, I search cookbooks with worn spines and splattered pages:

     Apple pie, baked apples, apple juice, apple dumplings;

faded, dog-eared, recipes on 3″ x 5″ index cards:

  apple cake, apple roll, apple bread, dried apples, apple bars, pickled apples;

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canning and freezing instruction booklets, bookmarked to favorites:

     apple sauce, apple jam, apple jelly, apple butter;

and recipes, only a click away on the internet:

     apple cider, caramel apples, apple fritters.

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Should I freeze or can or dry or bake? There are so many apples . . .

What I should do is be content and thankful for the bounty God has provided. Usually I am discontented when I lack something, but today I am complaining about abundance. Paul experienced these extremes, too, and learned how to deal with them.

 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:12,13   NIV

I sigh again, this time with whispers of “Thank you” and “Give me strength.”

I know what it is to have plenty.

I think I’ll bake an apple pie, and while it’s still warm I’ll get the vanilla ice cream out of the freezer for those who like it à la mode.

But my slice? I’ll have a scoop of contentment, please, maybe two.

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post first published September, 2013
    

The Teeth (and Claws) of the Lion

“May we dig up dandelions in your yard?”

 “Please?”

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My grandmother always asked permission, and, of course, we always said, “Yes.”  Who wouldn’t be happy to have someone uproot weeds from your yard?

Grandma and Grandpa weren’t offering to help because they were embarrassed by the weedy condition of our lawn–they planned to cook and eat the dandelion greens. I assume they acquired a taste for them from their parents and grandparents. I, however, found it hard to believe any part of a dandelion could be flavorful until I read Euell Gibbons’ Stalking the Wild Asparagus and experimented with a spring salad of dandelion greens, lambs’ quarters, and violet leaves.*

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The secret is to gather the dandelion greens before the plant blossoms (before the leaves turn bitter), so you need to be able to identify the dandelion by its jagged, incisor-tooth-shaped leaves. The French phrase dent de lion, tooth of (a) lion” is the source of our English word “dandelion.”

So is the dandelion a weed or desirable plant? Do you consider it a nuisance in your grassy lawn or see it as a nutritious food source?

The dandelion was certainly more highly thought of in the past. It was so prized that Europeans intentionally brought it to the New World. Imagine a time before neighborhood grocery stores were stocked with spinach and kale, when there were no bottled vitamin supplements. Those who were feeling ill in late winter due to vitamin deficiencies were advised to eat the vitamin-rich dandelion and often improved. Europeans also used the plant to treat a wide variety of ailments, from fevers to fluid retention, from warts to the plague, and so the common dandelion was given the botanical name taraxacum offincinale, meaning “the official remedy for disorders.”

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We live in a world today that has rejected the dandelion and considers it a wild and unwanted weed.

We live in a world that has rejected more than just dandelions. It dismisses Jesus as an unwanted weed. Our post-Christian world has rejected the God who is Himself “the official remedy for disorders” and who has the ultimate healing power over our sin sickness.

The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;  Mark 12:10   NIV

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We live in a world that has (in part) rejected God because He comes with “teeth.” We cannot contain or always explain Him. He is not a “tame lion.”

 God is the lion of Judah.

Look—the Lion from Tribe Judah, the Root of David’s Tree, has conquered. Rev. 5:5   MSG

In the C.S. Lewis’ Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the tiresome, dragon/boy Eustace tells Edmund about his encounter with the huge lion,  Aslan.

I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. . . . The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the [dragon] skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know — if you’ve ever picked the scab off a sore place. It hurts like billy — oh but it is such fun to see it coming away. . .

Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off. . . And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me — I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on — and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again.

Our God, like Aslan, is the lion who roars, the lion with sharp teeth and claws. And he is the Lion who heals.

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He forgives your sins—every one.
    He heals your diseases—every one.
    He redeems you from hell—saves your life!
    He crowns you with love and mercy—a paradise crown.
    He wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal.
    He renews your youth—you’re always young in his presence.

Psalm 103:3-5   MSG

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* If you decide to try a new-to-you food like dandelion, be careful of allergies and drug interactions. Be sure to correctly identify plants and find out whether the area has been sprayed with chemicals. Wash greens thoroughly.

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also linked with Words With Winter at Me,Coffee and Jesus

Ragweed, Thistles, and Onions

Most people might feel a little depressed on a gray, rainy day. But me? Give me brilliant blue skies, emerald grasses, snowy clouds, and I throw myself a pity party.

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Tuesday was a “10” on-a-scale-of-10 kind of day, but I grumbled.

I complained.

I envied those who could walk outside on such a day without fear of bee and wasp stings and allergic reactions. I decided to get my dissatisfied self out of the house and try to enjoy the scenery through the windshield of my car. I drove a couple miles north of our farm, then west, and continued to meander around our part of the county. I wasn’t done with my discontented murmuring yet, though.

Why don’t people take care of their weeds? All that ragweed pollen will make me miserable. And thistles! Did you ever see so many thistles? And they’re going to seed!

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As I continued the circuit of fields and farmsteads around our house, I started snapping photos. The scenes were aesthetically pleasing, I grudgingly admitted.

My self-pity began to erode as I stood in the middle of the gravel road with camera in hand, and I heard the beginning of a song on the radio: He Reigns by the Newsboys.

It’s all God’s children singing
Glory, glory, hallelujah
He reigns, He reigns

Ah, yes, Lord. Forgive me for being ungrateful.

Melt my stony heart.

Forgive me for being like the children of Israel who, after being delivered from Pharaoh, complained about what they missed, instead of being grateful for what they had.

The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat!  We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.  Numbers 11:4,5   NIV

As I drove and when I stopped to take photographs, I sang “Glory, glory, hallelujah. He reigns!” The act of singing transformed my mood from grumbling to thankfulness. I remembered that God was present in my praise.

But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.   Psalm 22:3   KJV

I saw the echoes of His glory in the beauty of creation: color, form, plants, and animals.

White puffs of cumulus floated across an azure sky, dragging shadows behind like a wedding dress train–Glory, Glory!

A pair of turkey vultures drifted over the timber, buoyant on warm updrafts–Hallelujah!

Venerable monarchs searched for sweetness in pink clover blossoms–He reigns!

Journey with me. This is what I saw, and this is what I heard, and below are the words I sang.

Press play to listen, and then watch the slide show.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“He Reigns” by the Newsboys:

It’s the song of the redeemed
Rising from the African plain
It’s the song of the forgiven
Drowning out the Amazon rain
The song of Asian believers
Filled with God’s holy fire
It’s every tribe, every tongue, every nation
A love song born of a grateful choir

It’s all God’s children singing
Glory, glory, hallelujah
He reigns, He reigns
It’s all God’s children singing
Glory, glory, hallelujah
He reigns, He reigns

And all the powers of darkness
Tremble at what they’ve just heard
‘Cause all the powers of darkness
Can’t drown out a single word

When all God’s children sing out
Glory, glory, hallelujah
He reigns, He reigns
All God’s people singing
Glory, glory, hallelujah
He reigns, He reigns

The children of Israel complained because they craved onions (among other foods), but the Lord was still protecting them and providing for their needs.

My prayer for us all: that we choose to dwell on what God has done for us, is doing for us, and will do for us instead of the “onions” we’re missing.

I Am Not

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Look Behind You

Check your mirrors.

Take a gander over your shoulder.

Reconnoiter the rear.

Be aware of what’s in your wake.

However you phrase it, it’s a good idea to look behind you, and this week I have–literally and chronologically.

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Last Sunday I was so engrossed in viewing the rosy sunset–hurriedly pulling on my boots, grabbing my camera, snatching a hoodie off the entryway peg–that I almost missed the spectacle in the eastern sky.

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The warm air of the humid, summer day had transformed into a thunderstorm.

The high tops of the clouds were dazzling white in reflected sunshine, while the lower sections were shadowed blue.

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I couldn’t see any lightning or hear any thunder because the storm was too far away. I was safely in a top-row “bleacher seat” where I could watch the cumulus bloom, the anvil-head form, and the rain pour down in gray sheets.

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Weather “events” (a meteorologist’s  euphemism) like this can yield destruction as well as beauty. This storm didn’t produce tornadoes, but thunderstorms that same evening in other parts of Iowa did.

Here are more storm photos from an Iowa news station.

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The stories of our lives (as individuals and, collectively, as churches and nations) are a similar compilation of contrasts. When we look behind chronologically, we see glowing beauty and destructiveness, benevolence and the ugliness of self-centered choices.

We examine our past and realize we are crowned with glory and honor and yet only dust. All parts of our past have something to teach us. We need to look back and remember.*

God told the Israelites to recall their story as a people, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, 1 Chronicles 16:12   NIV

God wanted them to remember the marvels of their past.

Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there Deuteronomy 5:15

remember well what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt. Deuteronomy 7:18

Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years Deuteronomy 8:2

Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb. Deuteronomy 4:10

The Lord also wanted to jog their memory of their unfaithful ways.

When our ancestors were in Egypt, they gave no thought to your miracles; they did not remember your many kindnesses, and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea. Psalm 106:7

Remember this and never forget how you aroused the anger of the Lord your God in the wilderness [worship of the golden calf]. Deuteronomy 9:7

They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them Nehemiah 9:17

the Israelites . . . did not remember the Lord their God, who had rescued them from the hands of all their enemies on every side. Judges 8:34

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Look behind you. Remember what God has done in the story that is your life.

I remember the teacher who assigned a book that led me to try to understand the motives of the first century Christian martyrs. I recall the intern pastor who prayed to Jesus as if He were a real person. I remember friends who introduced me to a church where people valued the Bible and respected its authority. I am inspired.

I look back and remember other times, even though I knew better, I was unfaithful and disobedient. I am thankful for God’s forgiveness.

I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. Psalm 77:11

I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done. Psalm 143:5

What do you remember about your faith journey?

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Of course, I am simply proposing an honest assessment of one’s life. If you are under care of a counselor for past trauma (or should be), follow their advice on how best to deal with those issues.

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