Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

624px-XRF_12daysYesterday was the 12th day of Christmas, if you’re keeping up with the rather archaic tradition. But I didn’t give or receive 12 drummers drumming. No…my true love braved the wind and tucked away the last of the outdoor decorations in their storage tubs while I dismantled the Christmas tree.

Today the decorations and tree will head back to their space in the attic, and that will conclude the holiday season.  I am very grateful to be indoors because baby it is definitely COLD outside. We are expecting to hit 8 degrees (F) today. I’m not sure we’ve dipped down to single digits in a couple of years, and I really don’t remember the last time we had such a chilly day.

With the first week in 2014 past, here’s where I’m at on my resolutions, which address four areas: spiritual, cooking, health and cleaning/organizing.

Our church family has been challenged to all participate in a Bible reading challenge and I’m tracking through the Bible in chronological fashion, thanks to One Year Bible’s easy Facebook links. This one should be like riding a bike. (The one I fell off last fall, so close to the end. Sigh.)

I’m also planning to try Reddit’s 52 Weeks of Cooking challenge. The first week was eggs, and I took a stab at shirred (baked) eggs on Saturday. Let’s just say I need to give them another go…and not overcook them. The concept has great potential for weekend Eggs Benedict if I can perfect the cooking time. This week’s challenge is to try a Polish dish. I like stuffed cabbages, but my family is not fond of them, so I’m not sure what we’ll do…maybe pierogies?

To counteract the effects of taking a cooking challenge, my healthy side will continue incorporating more juicing into my weekday meals, and I’m gong to reintroduce myself to my Body Pump classmates and the treadmill. I lost a solid five pounds in the weeks leading up to the holidays and – more importantly – lost my sweet tooth. Not a single piece of Halloween candy.  Alas, the sweet tooth found its way home for the holidays, but if I lost it once, I can do it again.

On the cleaning/organizing side of things, I am…intrigued by this weekly challenge. It looks interesting, but we’ll see if I can stick with it long-term.

So how are you settling into 2014? Do tell!

Happy Monday,

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I don’t know about you, but when I decide to clean something, I go all in.  On Saturday morning, we enjoyed cornmeal and blueberry pancakes from a cookbook Middle Son gave me for Christmas (the recipe needs some tweaking but it has potential.) And as we ate, I kept looking over at the kitchen and thinking about the pent-up post-holiday clutter that never seemed to quite go away no matter how many times I glared at it. Hmmmm.

So as soon as breakfast was over, I set in to clean, and clean I did.  The dishwasher and oven cleaned themselves, but every surface and several cabinets got some one-on-one time with me.  Every countertop was completely cleared, scrubbed and buffed.   The backsplash areas got a damp cloth and stubborn stains got treated to the magic of a Magic Eraser.  The plasticware cabinet was overhauled and the coffee grinder was relegated to the garage.  Every now and again, I might need it…but with the arrival of the Keurig, those times are few and far between these days.  As I wiped off the top of the microwave, a strip of plastic suddenly appeared…it was one of those protective strips they put on in the factory so it doesn’t get scratched from store to installation.  For shame.  This house was finished over six years ago and we’ve lived here for almost two years….and I’m just now finding and removing it? I *do* wipe that ledge atop the microwave occasionally, I swear.


The finishing touch was to scrub and buff the sinks.  I had seen this tip on Pinterest and decided to give it a whirl.  Well, at least the last part.  I used my trusty Barkeeper’s Friend to do the scouring, then did the olive oil buff job.  They are definitely shinier and I hope they’ll stay a little cleaner…for at least a few days.  IMG_3254

Do you clean your sinks?  I hear horror stories of people who don’t…really?  I scour mine at least a couple times a week, and definitely after any raw meat has dripped or dribbled in a basin.

Even clean, the kitchen is visually busy.  My rainbow of Fiestaware isn’t exactly a soothing monochromatic color scheme and I use tools, prep bowls and appliances too often to keep them tucked away in cabinets.


But when it’s clean, it definitely sets a better “tone” for our open floor plan.   And I know the kitchen won’t stay this clean for long.  We work hard, play hard, and eat hard in this area and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  For now, we’ll do what we can to maintain it….and in a few weeks, I’ll be running a sinkful of scalding hot water and doing it all over again.

After the kitchen was finished, Swimmer Girl and I headed out for pedicures and a movie (Les Miserables). Five hours of uninterrupted mother-daughter weekend time = awesome.

I hope your weekend was filled with some activities that gave you a sense of satisfaction, and some opportunities to savor a special moment.  Those are the best weekends, in my book.

Happy Monday,

P.S. Yes, I’m still keeping up with my daily Bible readings, which is proving extremely convenient since they are posted on Facebook every day.  Last week’s passages blazed a trail through the lives of patriarchs, and I’ve once again pondered our oh-so-human frailties:  deception, favoritism and envy marred the relationships of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their families.  This week will focus on Joseph…and his ability to see God and good in the trials of life.  We could all learn a lesson or two from his story.

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I am resolved….

main-calendarYep, it’s that time again.

Resolution time.

New year, new opportunity to renew commitments to myself.  Looking back over the past few years, I realize that my resolutions have focused mainly on self: lose weight, get more organized, spend more time in Bible study.  All are good, wholesome (and hard-to-keep) commitments, but ultimately, every resolve revolves around little ol’ me.  And the longer I live, the longer I realize it’s not about me.

Don’t get me wrong.

This year, I do plan to run, stretch and exercise.  A lot.

And study scripture and pour out my heart to God.  Every day.

And organize a lot more stuff.  Starting with my closet.

But more than that, I resolve to…

  • be a friendly face to more people I meet.  And to be a better friend to those I already count among casual acquaintances and close confidantes.
  • show my faith in action to others.  To live with more integrity. And show more of the grace and mercy I receive when I fail.
  • honor my family with more thoughtful menu choices.
  • honor God in more ways.  And let Him show me those ways.
  • look for opportunities to make our home the most pleasant place for family and friends to gather.  More frequently.
  • spend more time enjoying the company of those I love.  Because time is the one thing we can’t make for ourselves or save up for a rainy day.
  • and to look harder for the good, in those I meet and in whatever situation I find myself in.  Because whether you look for the good or the bad, you will find it.

I heard this quote recently during a sermon, and it seems a fitting way to sum up my resolutions.

“Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.”
–Jonathan Edwards, 1722

So what are you resolved to do this year?  Do share…it increases your odds of following through on them, you know!

Happy 2013,

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By the time June rolls around, spring has given way to summer’s heat and January is just a distant memory.  Cold weather?  I can barely remember what it is to wear shoes and sweaters.  By now, resolutions often ring a faint bell but they are pretty hazy this far away.

This year, I do remember my resolutions and I can still recite them at the drop of a hat, thanks to this monthly check-in.  I am now at the point of accepting some of them as part of my routine, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say they are ingrained or permanent habits.  (That old saw about it taking 21 days to make or break habits is bogus – it takes far longer to truly make something stick.)

1.  Read my Bible daily.  First half of the month, right on track. Second half, not so much.  I won’t whine or make excuses, it is what it is. But there is now this frequent niggle and nudge inside me to pick it up and read it more days than not.  I’m encouraging that niggly nudge to grow and get stronger.  It’s the same feeling that can get me up and going to the gym before daybreak.

2. Exercise.  At the risk of repeating myself, see #1 above.  First half of the month, definitely on track. Second half, other things took priority.  And I don’t kid myself that gardening burns as many calories as the gym.  I may sweat buckets while dragging the hose and digging weeds, but the exertion level is not the same.  However, I’m okay with my results for the past four weeks; the things that overshadowed my regular routine were important and urgent and are now completed, so no more excuses.  And my weight dropped beneath 120 earlier this month.  It still hovers and flutters around that mark, but we’re headed in the right direction.  Anyone trying to lose a few pounds, take heart.  Changing the way you eat and exercise are key – they don’t always yield dramatic results, but be patient and let them work their slow magic.

3. Prayer life.  It’s not without ceasing but it is regular and more frequent than daily.  I pray for health of friends and family and for many who are near-and-dear to my nearest-and-dearest.  I try to stop and appreciate and give thanks for the abundance of good things that happen every day.  From small mercies to big blessings, all good things come from God and I hope I never forget that or fail to give Him thanks.

4. Cultivating the fruits of the spirit. This one is still an enigma.  I know I set it as a resolution but how can I measure this?  It isn’t like cultivating plants in my garden.  I can see how my plants grow; I can see them mature and bloom and bear fruit.  I know there must be a way to similarly see and measure this growth but in the meantime, I keep praying and studying know the more I do that, the more the fruit will grow.

I hope this month finds everyone thinking back on whatever you resolved to stop or start roughly 150 days ago.  Whether you’re struggling to keep those promises, or struggling to even remember what you promised yourself, there’s no time like today to get started.  And think how great it will feel in December to know you made good on your resolutions in 2012 and see the results of your efforts.

Happy resolving,

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A seed has many virtues.  It’s tough.  Self-sufficient.  Capable of withstanding a lot and safeguarding its own fragile germ inside. It needs nothing from anything or anyone to maintain itself for a very long time. And it ages well..an ancient seed may look much the same as it did when it was newly formed.  There’s a lot to be said for being a seed, and many people – even Christians – view themselves as self-sufficient and capable of weathering life’s storms and trials without weakening or needing help.  Rugged individualism, autonomy and self-determination are touchstones in our culture.

But until it gives up being a seed, it can’t become anything else.  The life force within that tough coating may remain intact for months, years, decades, even centuries as witnessed by findings of still-viable seeds in ancient civilizations.

Like the seed, only when we are willing to relinquish our tough exterior and dogged self-sufficiency can we become more than just a single seed. Losing that protective coating and becoming  vulnerable is one of the hardest things we’ll ever do.  Our destiny is no longer in our hands. Can we trust the one who made us?  Absolutely.  WILL we open up and trust Him?  Only if we choose to.

Gardeners have all seen a seed in the process of transforming into a plant – pull up a plant after it sprouts and  you’ll often see the remains of what was a seed still providing nourishment as a final sacrifice of self. It is barely recognizable, a vestige of its former self.

Unlike seeds, seedlings are tender and vulnerable.  Once sprouted, a seed can’t un-ring the bell and scurry back inside its safe coating.  Damage or neglect may prove fatal at any stage from here on out.  But with the right combination of sun, water, nutrients and support from the soil, it can become a fruit-bearing plant, and create many more seeds until it eventually dies.  In a few generations, the effect of just one seed giving up itself to become a plant can extrapolate into millions of new seeds, each becoming living, productive plants.

As gardeners, our understanding of the soil and plants forms the very foundation and basis for understanding many of the mysteries of life and hard teachings, like the paradox of the seed, taught by Jesus.

Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24)

We can’t have it both ways – we either live for ourselves or we can die to self and become something more.   There’s no middle ground.

What is your legacy?  Will your story be discovered among other well-preserved seeds in a few hundred years?  Will it have a clearly defined beginning and ending, discrete and disconnected from all the other preserved seeds? Or will you be part of a living legacy, your very being and story intertwined into many others, all because you chose to give up yourself and grow to your full potential?

Happy gardening,

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Someone on Twitter resurrected a 2009 MSN article that touted many “surprising” benefits to gardening, such as:

It is a spiritual antidote to daily stress of fast-paced living and onslaught of technology, which has led most of us to “attention fatigue” (a polite way of saying we all suffer from a little ADHD, probably due to the constant barrage of stimuli we seek from the internet, our cell phones and televisions.)

The sensory experience of gardening “allows people to connect to this primal state,” says James Jiler, the founder and executive director of Urban GreenWorks

It has been demonstrated that depression and bi-polar disorder symptoms are lessened in sufferers who garden and the reasons may go beyond the therapeutic benefits of being outdoors and taking out our frustrations on weeds or appreciating nature’s beauty.

Digging in the dirt isn’t the same as taking Prozac because humans evolved along with M. vaccae and a host of other friendly bugs, the relative lack of these “old friends” in our current environment has thrown our immune systems out of whack, according to Christopher Lowry, Ph.D., an assistant professor of integrative physiology at the University of Colorado.

It provides a form of physical exercise that is both gentle and productive, making it easier for most people to stick with, versus other forms of exercise.

“It’s not just exercise for exercise itself, which can become tedious,” says Katherine Brown, the executive director of the Southside Community Land Trust in Providence, R.I.

And it may help reduce the risk of dementia, and stave off its devastating effects.

Two separate studies that followed people in their 60s and 70s for up to 16 years found, respectively, that those who gardened regularly had a 36 percent and 47 percent lower risk of dementia than non-gardeners…

And of course, the benefits of eating freshly picked, homegrown produce can lead to better physical health and nutrition.

But none of this should be surprising to those who are Bible students.  We know that gardening IS the world’s oldest profession.  In the second chapter of Genesis, we see the Lord God took Adam and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.  Even after he and Eve were cast from the garden, God commanded Adam to continue gardening, telling him, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

I’ve always loved Kipling’s “The Glory of the Garden” and especially this bit:

Rudyard Kipling Glory of the Garden

Whether your garden consists of a few herbs or plants on a balcony or windowsill, a small plot in a community garden, or you tend a huge old-fashioned farm garden, I hope your efforts bring forth many good things for you this year.

Happy gardening,

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So, how’s everyone doing?  It seems this is where daily routines start to become habits, but some things are just plain hard to put into regular practice and to be honest, I’ve stumbled in a few areas.

1. Cultivate a daily prayer life.
My goal is to pour a cup of coffee, do my daily Bible reading and then spend time in prayer.  It’s putting “first things first.”  Is it a habit yet?  Nope. In fact, right now I’m a few days behind on my reading. Again. But I’m trying!

2. Read the Bible through in 2012.
Still (pretty much) on track. This month, I worked my way through Job, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther and most of Isaiah, plus Paul’s letters to the Corinthians and Galatians.  Both of these readings remind me that some things never change.

3. Exercise at least 4 days a week and drop the last 15 pounds I want to lose. 

  • Week one,  I managed a 3-mile run and yoga, and two brisk walks with the dog.
  • Week two was back to Pilates, plus some elliptical (knee is still iffy) and an hour of Body Pump on Friday
  • Weeks three and four both consisted of two hours of weights, plus an hour each Pilates and yoga
  • This week has seen me back in the gym early for elliptical work, then body pump and Pilates.

My goal weight is 110.   I’m at 123, which is up a couple of pounds from last month.  February is Girl Scout cookies month.  What else can I say?

4. Get my desk organized and keep it that way. 

Recipes are in my notebook; projects are in folders.  Tax docs go to Mr. Official and college info to Swimmer Girl.  We’re going to ignore the microbursts of mail sitting on the island and my sewing table (next to the desk.)  Organization is sadly still not a habit but it is getting better.

5. Cultivate the fruit of the spirit in my life.

I stumbled over a video imbedded in this entry at How to Live Richly on a Budget.  It’s 12 (highly entertaining) minutes so grab a cup of coffee and settle in.  The upshot is in the last couple of minutes where he describes a scientific “discovery” for success by doing the following daily activities for 21 days in a row.

  • find 3 new things you’re grateful for,
  • journal about something positive that occurred in the last 24 hours,
  • regular exercise,
  • meditate (an antidote to multi-tasking), and
  • commit a random, conscious act of kindness

Science and scripture are in sync; good things come from kindness, self-control, patience, love, etc.  So what would you like to change in your life? There’s no reason to wait for next January – I hope you’ll commit to it today.  And tell others what you’re trying to do so they – and we – can encourage you!

Happy resolving,

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