Lent…and other parts of Christianity that shouldn’t be used as torture devices, Part 1

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Morning, my friends!  So today is the second day of Lent!  Here’s to hoping you haven’t given up yet!

A couple things about Lent, if you’re reading this and thinking: Lauren…you’re not Catholic.

Nope, I’m not.  But I do love Jesus, and I do want to take 40 days out my 365 to give up something I care a lot about to try to draw myself closer to His presence and the overall presence and Spirit of God.  So, what did I give up?  Calorie counting: meticulously planning, labeling, and recording every single calorie that comes into my body, and every single calorie that goes out.  The first reaction of anyone who asks me what I’m giving up is “Well, why would you do that?  It’s so good for you, look at all the weight you lost!”  Yes, it is true, I have lost quite a lot since meticulously counting, but I’ve been really guilty about it.  About mid-January, I started to realize: I was spending more time thinking about counting what I eat, planning what I’m going to eat, determining ways to increase calorie burn, and plotting how to get the most food for my calorie allowance than anything else.  I was (am) so obsessed with it that I thought more about calories than I did Jesus, or other people, or even schoolwork, to be honest.  And so, as I was reading an amazing article (that I’ll post if I can find it again) where people were discussing what they were giving up.  One woman posted she was giving up dieting, and I was convicted. I started to realize.  I walk around talking about how I trust God for grad school, for a husband, for a future, for finances.  If I trust Him for all that and He’s worthy to trust for all that (He is…by the way), than it should be nothing for me to trust Him with what I have available to put into and how I shape my body.  And no, I’m not going to eat chocolate cake every day, and then scream at God because I gained weight.  I’m going to smart about my food choices, logical, but I’m going to trust in God to lead my heart and mind in the right direction. So as a journey of focus, whenever my brain tries to start counting, I immediately revert mentally to Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

I think it’s important to know what you want to get out of Lent, rather than just knowing you’ll give something up.  Lent, like a lot of things, can get really dangerous spiritually if taken out of context.  It oftentimes can go one of two ways, from what I’ve seen: it’s either an attempt to see how miserable you can make yourself, or it becomes a contest to see who is giving up the “best” thing, i.e. who will be more miserable.  But that’s not what Lent, Christianity, is supposed to be!  We’re supposed to carry our crosses daily, not physically crucify ourselves on them (ok…I know “I’ve been crucified with Christ,” but I’m not torturing myself to prove to God that I love Him…that’s not what the message of the Cross is about!).  We are to sacrifice of our spirits, of our wills, but you see, what I believe is that when we do that, when we give up of ourselves for the sake of God, not our pride, not our determination to be the most pious, we will be happy.  Because our souls find delight in serving and praising God.

Lent is the time of our lives where we are most especially called to reflect on our own lives and ask ourselves, how much do we thirst for an intimate relationship with our loving Jesus who is just waiting for us to respond to His love? It is the time that we must deeply ponder how much do we thirst for a life that is life-giving to others?  (posted here)

Can’t you guys see I’m having some fun with html color coding?  I’m gonna try to have some more fun with coding, since that’s about to be part of job description at work, so this could be fun!  <3  Sorry for the recipe delay, but more will come.  Promise :)

Why didn’t God just tell me that paper was due today?

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So, being honest with yourself, how many of you have ever had a moment like that?  Where something goes totally wrong, and you’re first reaction is: well, since God is all-knowing, and He loves me, and He tells me other stuff, like important stuff, about relationships, and careers, and friends (no, I don’t hear voices…don’t get freaked out, yet…) why didn’t He just tell me: “Hey, Lauren!  You wrote that date wrong!  Better write that paper this weekend if you don’t want a zero!”

Or maybe that’s just me?

My mom’s answer was “Because it’s not His responsibility.”  Yeah…true…

But that was my morning yesterday.  I woke up, ready to go, and read my verse for the day:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” Philippians 4:4

I read that verse, you know, one of those verses that you hear over and over and over again at church, and just thought, “Cool, I’m doing alright!  Thanks God, peace out!” and I went about my morning.  (No, I didn’t actually say “peace out” to the Creator of the Universe, but you get my drift).

Little did I know that when I got to my wonderful 9am, on a snow day when classes should have been cancelled, that the music research paper I’d been preparing for all weekend was due that morning, at 9am.  Not Wednesday like I had written in my calendar.

And let the water-works begin.  I know I’m a baby sometimes, but I was totally convinced this was going to be a zero (praise God, my professor gave me an extension).  I went through a thousand-and-one thoughts about the implications: I’d get a zero, and then I’d get a C in the class, and then I wouldn’t get into grad school, and then I would miss meeting my future husband, and that would mean missing God’s call for my life!  Can you tell I have a swing towards being a little dramatic?

Only after a frantic call to my mom, sobbing hysterically, did I remember the key word in my verse for the day: rejoice.

Paul uses “rejoice” here, from what I can tell, as what  The Free Dictionary calls a “phrasal verb,” where it means to have or posses.  “Rejoice in the Lord always.”  Have, possess, delight in the Lord always!  Not what you want hear when you think you’ve ruined your life, huh?  But it’s a good reminder, and Paul makes a great point.  We have the Lord always.  When we fail a test, or when we have a really bad break-up, we still have the Lord.  That was the whole point of the veil being torn, when Jesus bridged that separation between God and man.  We have the ability, the opportunity, to have the Lord.  And when you think about it that way, all those little things don’t really have as lasting an effect as we’d like to let ourselves believe.  I’m not going to remember in two weeks that I didn’t turn that paper in on time, but I am going remember that the Lord is with me, and even when things suck, I can rejoice in the Lord, I can delight in Him, because He loved me enough to seek me out and bridge that gap.  We all can because He came for all of us.

I didn’t make this, but I love this little boy.  My mom posted this for me on Facebook a few weeks ago, and it makes me smile every time.  It’s a good reminder, when the Enemy starts trying to pull us away because we’re getting to close to God for his comfort, that Jesus already has everything under control.  Here is where I got this image from, but amazing props to whoever made it. <3

(P.S. I know I said I was going to talk about Jesus as God…but I think His will comes through better when I try not to plan things too much.  If you’re interested, it’ll still be coming!  As will a *potentially* Mardi Gras themed recipe!)

Coming Soon!

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Coming soon!  “Why didn’t Jesus just say ‘I am God’?” and creative adventures with garbanzo beans! I’ll be praying, cooking, and writing and hopefully it’ll be up this weekend!

Meanwhile, to keep yourself entertained: 

 

And let me know how I can best serve you!  What do you want me to talk about?  Leave it in the comments, and/or take this little, pretty blue poll here!

Unfailing Love in the Time of Granola Balls!

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Happy Valentines day, everyone!  I bet a lot of you are thinking “Happy for who?”  Yes, Valentines Day is one of those holidays created for the blessed few who have already found their kinsman redeemers.  I am not one of those.  And originally, when thinking about Valentines Day, I had planned to back a huge plate of brownies, put in New Moon, and revel in sugar and solitude, the absence of a lover in my life.

But I think that’s where our idea of love and Valentine’s Day gets us started off on the wrong track.  And that’s why I felt led to have my first post be here, for you guys, on Valentine’s Day, because there is so much more to love than cards and kisses. (PS, Here’s a little mini-devotional for Valentine’s Day!  If you just want the recipe, you can skip down…but I really wish you wouldn’t!)  And I think we often forget that we have the ultimate lover, who loved us thiiiiiiiiiiis much (insert mental image of Jesus on the cross).  Now, maybe you’ve heard that a million times in Sunday school, or maybe this is your first time.  Either way, it never hurts to hear it again and again.  And again and again.  I think it’s a good thing to remember when we’re trying to balance repentance and servitude (more to come on this one ;D).  So first, for today, I want to talk about God’s love for us.

When starting this post, I figured I’d look in the most obvious place for verses talking about God’s love for mankind, for us: the concordance.  Without even looking at a single first, we can get a sense of how much God loves us just by the shear number of times that love is mentioned in the Bible.  Sure, there is romantic love, brotherly love, etc. but still, all love.  That means it obviously means something to God.

One of the first times we see love mentioned in reference to God is in Exodus 15:13, where it says:

“In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.”

You’ve got Moses and Miriam singing here, praising God, and as they mention his love, they see that it is unfailing.  These people have just come out of one of the harshest periods in the Bible: when then the Israelites were held under the bondage of Egypt.  Many of them turned away, many believed that God had forgotten them.  But He hadn’t.  And He still doesn’t.  God will never forget his people!  His love is unfailing, and according to a very random Google search, this means that God’s love is reliable or constant…it is constant!  Just think about that for a minute.  We all say we love, I don’t know, popcorn or Twilight (I know, I know-insert your more relevant example here), but do we constantly love popcorn or Twilight?  Is our love for these things reliable, unfailing?  I don’t think so.  It’s even hard to imagine that love between human and anything is unfailing.  But that’s just it: God’s not human, He’s well…God.  What means when His Word says that His love is unfailing for His people, than that means His love does not stop just because we didn’t do Bible study for an hour today, or that He stops loving us when disappoint Him by turning from Him.

You see this same thing manifesting itself in Romans 8.  I think Paul captures this idea as beautifully as we could ever hope to imagine.  Romans 8:38-39:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Nothing, nothing in all of creation has the ability to separate us from this unfailing love that He so magnificently showed in the person of Christ, who came and demonstrated the power of true love, by becoming totally separated from God (which, because He was God, is a pain I don’t think we could ever grasp) so that we won’t ever have to be.  There’s no curtain anymore, and there’s no more sacrificing, nothing else that we have to do other than accept this love that cannot ever be taken away (and by that acceptance, other things should come naturally…).  So while romantic relationships can come and go (or be awesome, but still, not be as powerful as God’s relationship with us!), let’s take a moment this Valentine’s Day to remember exactly what it means to say you love something, knowing that it is inevitably less than when God says, “I love you.”

Song to listen to while mixing: From the Inside Out by Hillsong

Granola Balls!

Modified for ease in a dorm room from an amazing food blog, gimme some oven, here.

2 packets of blueberry Quaker oatmeal

1/2 cup Skippy peanut butter (I used super chunk)

1/4 cup dried cranberries

3 tablespoons of honey

A splash of Almond Breeze, Vanilla (not pictured)

1) Pour all ingredients into medium-sized mixing bowl.

2) Mix it all together (don’t be afraid to use your hands!!!)

3) Then stick it in, stick it in…into the fridge for about 30 minutes.

4) Take everything out, roll ‘em into balls (I made about 25) and keep them in the fridge for up to a week!

1 serving=1 ball

Makes 25 servings.  Calories per serving: 41 Sugar: 4g Protein: 1g

(Phew, so that was my first post!  Oh my goodness, oh my goodness, oh my goodness!  I hope you enjoyed!  I know the recipe is super simple, but I really love these things.  So anyway…questions? Comments? Personal experiences? Ways that I can pray for you?  Comment below, let me know what you think, and share it with your friends!  God-willing, more to come.)

Hello world!

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Hey guys, welcome to Feed the Five Thousand!

We are currently under construction, but please, take a look at the “about” page –> to your right.

And tell me what you think about my ideas, and if you have any questions, comments, or want to be a part of this beautiful thing God is creating!

Blessings and cheers,

Lauren <3