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Preparation for Hebrews Bible Study

IMG-3666It’s been so exciting to see so many wanting to join the Bible study group on Hebrews. I’ve been prattling on and on to my husband about it, and he said he’s hoping this scratches my Bible Study itch. 🙂

I wanted to send out a post before Monday giving a few guidelines, instructions, and recommendations.

First of all, let me say that I am so encouraged to see a bunch of ladies wanting to study Scripture for themselves. I know we are all busy, some more than others. Sometimes our level of commitment or even our ability to have commitment changes with the changing seasons of life. However, I also firmly believe that we make time for what we love. And the great thing about studying Scripture is that the more we invest into it, the more we love it.

That being said, I’m not going to hound anyone who doesn’t comment, doesn’t make “profound” observations, or even gets behind a week. I’m just really happy people are studying. Perhaps making a personal commitment to commenting on the blog post once a week will help you with accountability—whatever works for you.

You will, however, get what you put into it. A quick reading of the weekly chapter and jotting down a few thoughts will be beneficial for sure (and may be all you have time for in a given week), but making extra time to read several times, asking yourself questions of the text, looking up cross-references, etc. will be even more beneficial and rewarding.

So, here are a few ground rules and guidelines for the study.

1. So far, I know everyone who has agreed to the study, so I’m not concerned about this at this point, but just in case someone I don’t know joins, I wanted to clarify something. I am not looking to debate in these posts or the comments. We can respectfully ask questions of each other and even disagree with each other’s conclusions, but I will delete any comments that are divisive, intentionally argumentative, or mocking of the text or God.

2. I usually use the English Standard Version (ESV) in my studies, but may consult other good translations of which there are several. You may use what you want. Just know that when I mention a particular word or phrase in the text, it will probably be one found in the ESV.

3. Wait to consult a study Bible or a commentary until you’ve “wrestled” with the text yourself. It’s really convenient to have so many tools at our fingertips, but I promise that you will get much more out of a difficult passage if you have first tried to figure it out for yourself. When I taught the ladies at our church I compared it to making your own homemade pie crust (I’m a pie crust snob). You can watch a tutorial about how to do it (compare this to reading a book about the Bible). You’ll kind of get the idea of how to do it. Even better you can stand next to someone, watch them do it, and get some flour on your hands (compare this to reading a chapter and immediately consulting a study Bible/commentary). You’ll have a much better understanding of pie crust making. And that is a great way to start. Once you’ve done that, though, you’re eventually going to have to make your own pie crust. You do it, and you make mistakes–the dough is too sticky, it’s too dry, or it falls apart when you try to put it in your pan. Maybe you call someone after you’ve tried and figure out what went wrong. Then you try again and again and again. Eventually you figure out what you’re doing and improve on your pie-crust making skills. Then you can start to teach someone else how to make a pie crust. This last scenario (I want pie now) is what we are going for with our Bible study skills. We are learning how to do it, we will probably make mistakes/get lost, and we will improve the more we do it. As we improve, we can start to teach others to do the same. This does not mean that you can’t consult a commentary or study Bible (or ask someone you trust theologically). I plan to read a commentary, but only after I’ve studied it myself.

4. I’m honestly still not sure exactly how this is going to work out, being the first study we do like this. I will make my best effort to post my questions here on the blog for the week every Monday or Tuesday. I made a special tab on the homepage for “Hebrews Bible Study” to make it easier. I think the simplest way to ensure you get each post is to subscribe to my blog; then, you will get an email every time I post. I will either update my post with my own comments later in the week or simply comment in the comments section. You can comment with more questions that you are asking of the text or your own answers or observations of the text–or even questions about the Bible study method. Underneath your comment (Leave a reply), check the box that says “Notify me of new comments via email.” Then you can be notified of mine or others’ responses.

As I said in the first post, the only essentials for the study are a Bible and paper/pen (or computer). There are a few basic resources that I am going to link to that are really simple but helpful tools.

1. You can simply use your Bible and mark that up if you want. I like to mark my Bible a little bit but not excessively, and I personally don’t like to mark my Bible with color. You can go to Bible Gateway and print off the chapter you are currently studying. You will have lots of space to highlight, underline and make notes that way. If you are willing to spend a few dollar, ESV publishes individual books of the Bible called ESV Scripture Journals. These are conveniently bound with lots of space for making notes.

2. A concordance is a very, very helpful tool in understanding a word in the text. You can get a Strong’s or Young’s Concordance anywhere–you might have one already. An even easier tool is E-Sword. This is a free resource (also available on iPhone for $2.99) that I have used. It is so much easier and quicker (and you can copy/paste if you are doing your study on your computer) than a concordance. I will try to touch on how to do a word study (with concordance or e-sword), but here is a tutorial for you. If even a concordance is too much for you at this stage, just use an English dictionary to look up a word.

3. You may want a set of multi-colored highlighters or colored pencils for marking key words. This is totally up to you. I love using black micron pens to mark my Bible. They don’t really bleed, and I love the smallest point. There are a variety of point sizes and colors as well.

I think that is it! If you have any questions or comments please comment below. I have had one suggestion to do a Zoom video conference once a week at a set time to discuss the study. I’m not sure yet about this–especially with several of us being in different time zones. I’m possibly willing to consider this if multiple people are interested. Again, let me know in the comments.

Looking forward to our study!

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An Invitation to Join a Bible Study on Hebrews

After talking to one of my sisters, I thought I’d try something new here. I’ve gathered from people—either directly or indirectly—that studying a book of the Bible for oneself feels intimidating and overwhelming. Some people would like to do it but don’t know where to start. Others seem to feel that sort of study should be left to the “professionals”—pastors, scholars, and teachers.

I’m here to tell you that anyone who can read at a perhaps jr. high/sr. high level (maybe lower!) has the ability to do at least some level of independent Bible study. (I have seen some great resources for teaching the basics of inductive Bible study to elementary-aged kids too! My son has done one.) You do not need to know Greek or Hebrew. You do not need to have a Bible degree. You do not have to have commentaries and lexicons. (Although any of those things would certainly enhance your study.) You need a Bible, pen, and paper (or laptop). An English dictionary might be helpful too. A concordance would be a beneficial tool too but not absolutely necessary.

So, I thought that perhaps I could be a help to someone—even if it is just my sister whom I ran this by (Hi, Heather!)—by sharing what I am doing in my personal study here. I don’t have a seminary degree, so I have perhaps the advantage of doing my study from a “layman’s” perspective. I did get a M.A. in biblical ministry, which included a class on inductive Bible study, however, which gives another advantage of having learned in a formal setting how to study the Bible.

Neither my methods nor my conclusions will always be perfect, but I am hoping that someone who feels lost might be encouraged to see how at least one other person studies the Bible.

In thinking through how best to do this (and this may change as I go along), I thought I’d start with a week of overview, followed by one chapter a week (13 chapters, so 14 weeks total).  I will attempt to post on Monday or Tuesday of each week the questions I am planning on asking myself as I study for the week. Bear with me, though–I have four young children whom I homeschool!

So, for this next week (starting 1.20.20), I will start an overview of the book of Hebrews, reading through the whole book several times. I will post on Monday (1.20) what I am planning on doing in that first week of overview.  Make sense? If you would like to join me in this study or have follow up questions, just note below in the comments. I’m sure it would be encouraging to many and give ourselves a little accountability to boot!

If you’re curious as to why I’ve chosen Hebrews, I’ll quickly explain. I wrote some studies on Genesis and Exodus for our church’s former Ladies’ Bible Fellowships . I then went on to write a short (3-week) study on Leviticus-Numbers 10 for myself. Having all of this study of the Law and sacrifices in my head will really help me as I head into Hebrews.

I’m excited to head back in to the New Testament for a bit, although my appreciation of the Old Testament has grown exponentially since studying those first few books. I’d love for some to join me here in Hebrews!

“Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts” (Jeremiah 15:16).

 

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God’s Presence, Glory, and Laws & My Sanctification

I wrote a bit ago that studying the books of Genesis and Exodus has been one of the most helpful things for my sanctification. These might seem an odd couple of books to help one in his or her sanctification. Wouldn’t the epistles be better—verses that speak directly about being taught to “to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:11, ESV)? Or perhaps one of my favorite passages, Colossians 3:12-17 (part of which I have hanging on the wall right where I do lots of disciplining and discipling my kids):

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (ESV)

These are wonderful and needful passages. These are ways in which God trains us by His grace (cf. Titus 2:11) to be changed into the image of the Lord (2 Cor 3:18). This is sanctification.

Sometimes the concept of sanctification is confusing. As I’ve read more about the gospel and grace, I have grasped with more fullness the understanding that sanctification in our lives is a result of grace just as our salvation is (cf. again Titus 2:11). There is the tension that the Bible frequently presents of our sanctification as not something in which we just allow grace to “wash over us and make us sanctified,” but rather a persevering working out of that which Christ has worked in us (cf. Phil 2:12-13). So is sanctification something God does? Something we do? And how do we do it–by following some NT commands?

As I’ve studied Genesis and Exodus and marked my own (slow!) sanctification, I’ve noticed something that has helped me better understand the means by which we are sanctified, one that has pushed me toward holiness without edging toward legalism.

I was first struck by this when I read a comment by God to Moses about the tabernacle: “There [at the tabernacle] I will meet with the people of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by my glory” (Ex 29:43, ESV). On this verse, one commentator states,

In saying “the place will be consecrated [made holy] by my glory,” God indicated the real means of sanctification—to which various sacrifices and rituals merely pointed—as his own presence. Where he is, he takes possession, and thus things near him become his and are holy. Nevertheless, the rituals were important, as v. 44 states. The ultimate means of sanctification is God’s presence, but the proximate means was obediently carrying out the ritual consecration actions for the “Tent of Meeting” (tabernacle), “altar,” and “priests” as the chapter earlier describes.[1]

The real means of sanctification is God’s presence.

Hmm. Ok. . . so simply communing with God will change me, make me more holy, more like God?? Well Stuart noted in the quote above that for the Israelites under the Old Covenant, the rituals were important; their obedience in worship and life was required.

Before I draw a conclusion, let me point out another truth that struck me. In the giving of all of the law—and even in the giving of the ten commandments which are the “umbrella” under which the law stands—there is no initial mention of what Jesus later called the two greatest commandments. When a Pharisee tested Jesus by asking Him what the greatest commandment in the Law was, Jesus replied,

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt 22:37-40; cf. Deut 6:4)

When God gave Israel the law (all 613 of them), why didn’t he just say “Love God and love your neighbor”? I mean, those are the 2 most important laws—we know that from the mouth of Jesus.

Well, let me ask you this—if you have children or work with children, do you only give them 2 rules? Do you tell them that the 2 rules you have are to love God and love each other? No, you probably don’t; why? We don’t and can’t expect sinful little children to take rules like loving God and each other and expect them to understand that living that out means don’t hit, don’t bite, don’t scream when you don’t get what you want, don’t spit your food on the floor, etc. And God graciously did the same with his people: loving God and others meant no idols, no stealing, no murder, no adultery, make sure you worship exactly as I tell you, don’t live like the idolatrous culture around you, and 600+ old covenant laws.

But always emphasized was the reason they do these things: love the God who rescued you from Egypt and who has and will keep his promises. (And thus I give my kids lots of rules while constantly pointing them to the truth that their sins are ultimately breaking the law of not loving God or others.)

A third observation before I tie all my thoughts together—When Moses was beseeching God for His presence to go with Israel after God had denied his immediate presence with them because of Israel’s sin of idolatry, Moses asked to see God’s ways (Ex 33:13) and God’s glory (Ex 33:18). God said,

“I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord’ (Ex 33:19, ESV).

What did God then do? The next day, when Moses brought up the new tablets to the mountain,

The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,  keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation”(Ex 34:5-7).

How did God communicate to Moses his glory, his goodness, and his ways? Besides Moses’ being allowed a tiny visual perception of God’s glorious back (cf. Ex 33:21-23), Moses learned of these things through God’s declaring his character to him: merciful, gracious, patient, steadfastly loving, faithful, forgiving, and just.

Moses’ face was shining when he returned from talking with God on the mountain, so much so that the people were afraid, and Moses had to put a veil on his face. When he went in to speak to the Lord, he would remove the veil (Ex 34:29-35).

The apostle Paul ties this narrative into his letter to the Corinthians. He says that if Moses’ face could shine so when in the presence of the glory of God as revealed in the Old Covenant, how much more should the glory of the New Covenant through the Holy Spirit working in us have? (2 Cor 3:7-11) Paul goes on to say,

Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:12-18).

When we behold God’s glory, we are transformed. When we study God’s Word—when we study every book of both the OT and the NT—we see more of who God is. We view his glory, and we change. We then have the desire to love God in worshipful response to who he is.

And how do we respond to our desire to love God? We look to instructive passages that tell us how to love God. And in loving God we learn that love extends to others too.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Gal 5:16-26, ESV)

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph 4:1-3, ESV)

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:4-7, ESV)

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. (Col 3:18-25, ESV)

So I’ve learned that sanctification comes primarily and necessarily through being in God’s presence and knowing him (i.e., studying his word and meditating on him and praying to him). It cannot come apart from this. It cannot happen simply by only going to the “do this” or “don’t do this” passages. But sanctification also needs these passages. We can’t simply know him and love him but not obey him. Knowing him causes us to love him. Loving him causes us to what to know him more. Loving him causes us to see what he expects of us.

And as we behold the glory of the Lord we will be transformed into his image. And then, one glorious day, our sanctification process will be complete, we will have faithfully persevered, and we will behold him “face to face” (1 Cor 13:8; cf. 1 John 3:2).

 

 

[1] Stuart, D. K. (2006). Exodus (Vol. 2, p. 631). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

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The Benefit of Studying Whole Books of the Bible in an Instant Gratification Society

The ladies in our church are studying the book of Exodus during our Ladies’ Bible Fellowship time. I imagine that a group of women studying just the Bible–and the book of Exodus at that–is not the usual occurrence (but I would absolutely love to be proven wrong on that one!).

Studying Exodus has not been easy, but neither has it (nor Genesis which we did prior) been as overwhelmingly intimidating as I imagined it might be. In fact, studying these two books of the Bible has been one of the most helpful things I have ever done to aid both my understanding of the Bible as a whole and my sanctification.

It does take hard work and effort, though, to read for understanding these books and to do so for any book in Scripture. It takes discipline, persistence, and patience.

Why patience? you may ask.

Well, let’s say you’ve prepared the night before to wake up earlier to read/study your Bible. You’ve done the work to prep your coffee, set out your stuff, go to bed early, and then actually get out of bed when the alarm goes off, followed by the painstakingly slow and quiet steps to your designated area of study in an attempt not to awaken anyone and reach your destination in peace. You settle in to have your time with the Lord, hoping to get some fuel to get you through a hectic day ahead. . .

. . . and the next chapter(s) lined up for you to read is the genealogies in Genesis or the description of Aaron’s high priestly garments in Exodus or a description of some wheels within wheels with eyes on them in Ezekiel.

How is reading a bunch of names or foreign clothing or odd-sounding wheels supposed to give you the spiritual boost you need for the day?? How about we just read a psalm (but definitely not one of the laments!!) or the proverb of the day, or–even better–a devotional or inspirational book that takes a verse and tells us some thoughts (biblically based or not) from the author to help us out?

Because our society is so used to instant gratification, our spiritual lives can have the tendency to gravitate to the same, I’m afraid. What is instant gratification? It “is the desire to experience pleasure or fulfillment without delay or deferment. Basically, it’s when you want it; and you want it now” (https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/235088). We can instantly see what’s going on in others’ lives through social media, instantly check the news, instantly perform bank transfers, instantly watch any movie or show we want, etc. We–at least in our first-world context–don’t need to have patience to satisfy many of our given needs/desires.

So, when we read our Bibles each day, we tend to want the same.

I’m tired today! Look up Isaiah 40:31 “They who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

Feeling low in self-esteem? Look up Psalm 139:14 “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Worried about something? Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

Not sure what you need yet today? Read the next chapter in your consecutive reading plan and try to find something that can apply to you. Or, better yet, stick with a good devotional that talks all about you and your exact needs.

All of the above examples are given tongue-in-cheek, and it is never wrong to go to a passage that gives truth about a problem you are having (but you do need to know what context the verse sits in; e.g. Psalm 139 is not about the cure for self-esteem). But imagine the following with me:

Imagine that you’ve worked really hard to carefully read through (several times) a book of the Bible like Exodus. Let’s say you’ve studied its themes and repeated phrases and placed the book into the big picture of the Pentateuch, the Old Testament, and the Bible. Let’s say you’ve had a growing awe of a holy, merciful, compassionate, and promise-keeping God that continues to build. Let’s say that you’ve just read this morning about the necessity of the priests to consecrate the altar for seven days with an animal sacrifice each day before it could be used for worship.

Now let’s say that you’ve really been struggling with pride. You could (and perhaps you should) run to a verse like 1 Peter 5:5 “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” 

But after your study of this altar consecration, could you not also see how holy God is? That even the altar made exactly as God wanted by Spirit-empowered workers according to a heavenly pattern shown to Moses was not acceptable for worship until it was consecrated as God demanded. Is it not humbling to know that such sinful people as the Israelites (and now I) were (are) able to approach this holy God? That God still desired to dwell with these people (and us) for his own glory? That could dash some pride.

Or perhaps you are struggling with trusting God over a situation. Definitely meditate on Proverbs 3:5-6. But let’s say that a year ago (maybe even when life was going really well with you) you patiently plodded along through your study in the book of Genesis. You read through some genealogies along the way and you saw the faithfulness of God to his promises in them. God, who was faithful over and over and over to his words and his promises to Abraham and Israel will be faithful to you. Trust him.

This is the benefit of patiently studying books of the Bible. It’s ok if, after reading a section of the Bible, you can’t immediately fill out the application section in your journal. That might even happen for several days in a row. But, oh, it is so worth it when you eventually see just one more facet of God’s plan for history and for his glory and for our salvation/sanctification a little more clearly–when you sit in greater awe of who God is and how much more (you realize) you fall short of his glory.

I have heard it said that every time you come to understand a passage of Scripture, it’s like you have lit a candle. Imagine being somewhere utterly gorgeous–maybe the King’s State Apartment at the Versailles Palace in France. Imagine that you walk into one of the rooms, and it is pitch black. But you light a candle and can see a little bit. Perhaps you’re really interested in one corner of the room, so you continue to light lots of candles in one corner. Now you can see a lot in that corner, but it’s not quite accurate because the rest of the room is so dark. So you walk to the other side of the room and light another candle. This doesn’t seem very effective by itself, but you patiently light candle after candle after candle. Now you are seeing things you didn’t see before, and–in fact–the lighting here is helping you view that other corner you initially spent a lot of time in “in a new light.”

Patiently continue to light those candles. Be brave and study a book you’ve not studied or are even intimidated by. I can guarantee that your patience and your hard work in understanding the Bible, book-by-book, chapter-by-chapter will yield in the end such priceless treasure that you will never regret it. It will outshine any other devotional book or attempt to instantly gratify your spiritual desires for the day. Treasure God’s Word. Patiently, diligently study it. Your view of God will expand. You will view yourself more accurately. And you will be forever changed. And God will be glorified.

 

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Tasty Tuesday: Top 8 Allergy Free Amazingly Tasty Pizza

“She’s allergic to everything.” That’s the easiest way to sum up my 2.5-year-old daughter’s allergies. It has been quite the journey for me as I’ve learned to navigate cooking and baking for someone who is so allergic to so many things. Many people just don’t even understand allergies, assuming they’re some sort of sensitivity or preference. “Have you tried using organic milk?” someone suggested. Umm, no, if milk–or something that once held milk–even comes into contact with her skin, she breaks out in hives.

I’ve learned that it’s physically exhausting to live with a toddler with allergies–madly dashing about after her as she grabs something off the counter, building contraptions over the garbage can so she can’t eat out of it, etc. It’s also mentally exhausting–meal planning for a fairly large family of six, but always thinking about what she can eat and how to modify my meals. It’s especially challenging when we go out to eat, because she can’t eat anything at a restaurant, so I have to try to figure out a “special” meal to pack for her. Or never letting her eat anything someone else makes because they may have forgotten that they used the same knife to cut Gwen’s food as some cheese.

For me in particular, I have found it challenging, because baking and cooking good food is a way I express how much I love my people–it’s one of my love languages, so to speak. It makes me sad that she can’t join us for pizza and chocolate chip cookies on movie night or pancakes for breakfast on Saturday.

So I have made great effort to find recipes–thank you, Pinterest!–that fit her diet. But it’s been hard. Egg replacements often use banana and flax–no can do. Flour replacements often use almond flour. No. Cream replacements use coconut. Nope.

I have made modifications to “allergy-free” recipes I’ve found to make them “allergy-free-for Gwen.” I know others have as extensive allergies as Gwen, so I thought I would try to start sharing them. Most everybody likes pizza, and Gwen LOVES this version. It is absolutely delicious. Sometimes I’m tempted to ditch our cheesy pizza and join her on movie nights, it’s that good.

This recipe was adapted from https://thesoccermomblog.com/healthy-barbecue-chicken-pizza-with-sweet-potato-crust/

INGREDIENTS

1.5-2 medium sweet potatoes (1.5 if they are on the bigger side), cooked

3 Tbsp of aquafaba (the liquid in a can of chickpeas/garbanzo beans; 3 Tbsp = 1 egg)

1/2 cup of chickpea flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1-1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar

2 cups cooked chicken, shredded or cubed

1/2 medium red onion, sliced or chopped

1 cup spinach, chopped

olive oil

1/4 cup barbecue sauce, plus more for drizzling

1/4 cup tomato sauce (I used homemade pizza sauce)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Remove potato from skins and mash in a medium sized bowl. Add aquafaba, flour, spices, and vinegar; mix thoroughly.
  3. Spread with a spatula on a pizza stone or greased/silpat-covered baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes (edges will get dark and crispy).
  4. While the crust is baking, cut up the chicken if already cooked. If not, cook up some chicken in a frying pan while crust is cooking. (Last time I did this with leftover bacon grease, then added the onion and spinach to cook as well.)
  5. Saute the onion and–in the last minute or two–the spinach in olive oil (or bacon grease! 🙂 ).
  6. Remove the crust from the oven when done. Spread the tomato sauce and barbecue sauce on the crust. Add the cooked chicken, onions, and spinach. Drizzle with extra barbecue sauce. Return to oven to bake for 10 more minutes.

The crust is fairly thin and a little fragile, so it may be eaten with a fork, but my Gwen does just fine picking it up and shoveling it in. In her words: “So good!”

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Don’t Waste Your Summer Non-routine

I often hear moms who send their kids to school get frustrated during the summer months because their kids bicker and fight so much. I always slightly chuckle as a homeschool mom, because we deal with this all year long. However, today my kids have really been on a roll with the arguing, fighting, and tattling. . . and we’ve only been done with school a little less than a week.

I’m a routine person, so we will likely soon fall into a summer routine, but it will not be quite as structured as our school year.  It got me thinking about what it is about routine that reduces all the child chaos. Some of it is I’m sure the healthy structure and stability that routine gives children. But as I thought about it, I wondered if sometimes the structure simply gives children something to do so they don’t have as much opportunity to display their resident sinfulness. {Although I’m quite aware that it seeps–or gushes, at times–in the midst of structure too!}

This is no new truth, but every time our children–or we–sin in any small {or irritating-to-us} way, we are revealing our hearts. The Bible says in Matthew 6:21: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (ESV). As frustrating as the constant arguing over who gets what Lego, who fills up their water first, who gets what color of popsicle holder containing the identical popsicles. . . .

It’s not about our peacefulness this summer in relaxing with perfectly behaved children. It’s about our having the opportunity to point out that what our children are treasuring–the favorite Lego, the first in line, the red popsicle holder–are revealing the selfishness and love of self over God and their neighbors. And, in truth, it is revealing what we–at least I–often treasure: my own agenda of peace and relaxation. How do we often {usually??} react to the never-ending arguing, screaming, and fighting? Would you just stop? Can’t you guys just play nicely for five minutes? If you guys fight one more time. . .

What if instead we were thankful for the {exhausting} privilege to disciple our kids all day long all summer long? For us homeschool moms, we have this privilege all year long, but even more so with all the extended “free play” time that summer affords.

I have used James 4:1 countless times in response to my kids’ bickering among themselves.  “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” (ESV). Every quarrel and fight reveals the heart. Don’t miss that in your frustration and exasperation at the pettiness of the arguments. The pettier the argument, the more selfish the heart that generates the argument.

Moms, don’t waste the summer non-routine. It is God’s gift to you to point your sinful children–and yourself!—to the mercy and grace God offers. Teach them in word and deed to treasure God in their hearts, so that slowly and surely their little lives would reflect what they treasure.

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Game of LIFE Bridal Shower Theme

This past weekend I hosted a bridal shower for a girl in our church. In helping me come up with a theme, her sister suggested the game of LIFE, because that was a favorite of the bride-to-be when she was growing up. It sounded like a great idea except for the fact that I’m not creative. Thankfully, Pinterest gave me most of the help I needed. Unfortunately, I could only find a few different scattered posts using this theme idea, so I thought I’d help some future uncreative person by sharing what I did.

My menu was fairly simple: meatballs with my mom’s tasty sauce, tortilla pinwheels (so delicious and easy), a fruit salad, veggie tray, a couple cheeseballs & crackers, the cupcakes, and a chocolate chip cheeseball (which I served as a dip without the nuts, with GF graham crackers & pretzels, regular pretzels, and tea biscuits).

For the games, I tried to stick with games involving “life events.”  We played Guess the Bride’s age, something like the game found here. We also played a “Save the Date” game, where we named off significant life events, and the guests had to pick up the correct month and date that were printed on cardstock on each table. Finally, I modified this kind of game to make it applicable to our group and theme. This last game especially helped the guests get up and talk with each other. Everyone seemed to have fun!

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I tried to mimic the LIFE symbol in my announcement that doubled as invitation.
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The tables look complicated, but they were pretty simple, although time consuming. Technically, the LIFE spinner has 10 wedges, but 8 was much easier. I folded 8 different colored tablecloths into eighths (fold in half, then in half again {a quarter}, then in half again {an eighth}). Then cut along the folds. Have all points meet in the middle (I found it helpful to weight down each wedge before/while I taped.) Finally join the seems with white masking tape. An upside down white plate, with a white bowl filled with lifesavers completed the look.

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The hanging balloons with the same 4 repeated colors completed the decor.

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I used clear tableware to reduce eye clutter.

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I used a shoe box and its lid to create the car. 2 toilet paper rolls, 2 Styrofoam balls, and a small box composed the LIFE figures. I read that a halved cracker jack box works for the box part, but I didn’t have one. I just made a box out of poster-like material. I found the pattern for the church here. It was way too small for my big shoe box car, so I built a white box for it to sit on, then placed it on a green napkin-covered stand to resemble a hill.

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My attempt at this, using this cupcake recipe and this frosting recipe. I made the cupcakes several days ahead of time and froze them. I thawed them a few hours before the shower, and they tasted moist and delicious. I made the frosting recipe the day before. I recommend letting it come fully to room temperature before frosting.

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We incorporated some aspects of the game into the shower.

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This idea was cute, even though it was technically not part of the game of LIFE.

 

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The Best Almond Granola {Refined-Sugar Free!}

I’ve been making granola for years, and I’ve liked the recipe or two I’ve tried, but the texture has never been quite right. Not like the dreamy granola I remember my mom putting on her frozen yogurt at TCBY, at least! Recently, I happened upon a recipe that I fell in love with AND it only bakes for 10 minutes!! I’m not quite sure how it works, seeing my other granola baked for 40 minutes. Julie’s granola is heavenly, and here’s her recipe: https://lovelylittlekitchen.com/homemade-coconut-oil-honey-almond-granola/.

Initially, I made it exactly like she wrote it, and it was just perfect. Grinding up half the almonds gives wonderful nutty texture. Plus the almond extract makes the almond flavor jump right out (and I’m normally not a fan of almond extract). Cooling the granola on wax paper after spreading the granola out very thinly helps keep the texture clumpy, but chewy. Delicious!

I did want to reduce the sugar content. I repeatedly cut down both the honey and the brown sugar, until finally I had cut the honey in half, eliminated the brown sugar, and added unrefined coconut sugar. These modifications keep the granola slightly sweet with occasional clumps (though perhaps not quite as clumpy as Julie’s original).

Here is my modified recipe. Enjoy! 🙂

Ingredients:

2 cups whole almonds, divided

6 cups old-fashioned oats

1 tsp salt

1/3 cup coconut sugar

1/3 cup honey

6 Tbsp (or 1/4 cup  + 2 Tbsp) coconut oil

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp almond extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Place 1 cup almonds in food processor and chop until finely processed.
  3. Chop the remaining 1 cup almonds coarsely.
  4. Place all almonds, oats, salt, and coconut sugar in a large bowl.
  5. Heat oil and honey in microwave/stovetop until oil is melted. Stir in vanilla and almond extracts.
  6. Mix oil/honey mixture into oat mixture, then place onto 2 silpat- or parchment-lined rimmed baking sheets.
  7. Bake 5 minutes. Stir and switch around baking sheets (to prevent bottom one becoming too dark). Bake 5 more minutes.
  8. Spread baked granola onto 2 large pieces of wax paper on a flat surface. Spread as thinly as possible. Cool.
  9. Store in an airtight container.
  10. Enjoy!!
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You Have Not Delivered Me At All!

This past year I finished writing a study on the first book in the Bible, Genesis. I couldn’t wait to continue to study how God would keep his promises to his people, Israel, so I decided to study Exodus as well. I’ve almost completed my first week of the study, and some things struck me that I have never noticed before. I shared my thoughts as a Facebook post, but it was blog-length, so I thought I’d share here. 🙂

When Moses was living in Egypt, he killed an Egyptian who was wronging an Israelite. Stephen, martyred hundreds of years later for preaching the truth about Jesus, gives an interesting commentary on this before his stoning in Acts 7:25: “He supposed that his [Moses’] brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand.” Instead, they rejected him. Moses had tried to be the deliverer of his people on his own initiative with his own methods, and he had failed.

40 years later, God appeared to him, saying that he had seen his people’s affliction, heard their cry, knew their sufferings, “and I have come down to deliver them” (Ex 3:8). Salvation/deliverance was to come by God’s hand, although God would choose to use Moses (His way). God followed this call with detailed promises and signs to back up his promises. Despite Moses’ many protests, God sent him to Egypt. Here again, Stephen comments: “This Moses, whom they rejected, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’–this man God sent as both ruler and redeemer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush” (Acts 7:35).

So, Moses goes, and Pharaoh rejects him as God had said he would. But he does not just reject Moses’ words, he also increased the Israelites’ burdens, causing them to resist Moses. Moses’ response was to tell God, “You have not delivered your people at all.”

Two things struck me. First, we often try to solve our problems our own way and sometimes in an unbiblical manner. Clearly, killing an Egyptian was not the answer. Yet, Moses had this idea that he could be Israel’s deliverer.

Ironically, God did want Moses to be the one through whom He delivered his people, but according to His own plan and timeline. God had given Moses all of these promises, based upon his former covenant with Abraham and based upon his own person. Yet at the first negative interaction (albeit an interaction which worsened Israel’s situation), Moses accused God of not delivering his people at all.

Secondly, it is so easy to doubt God’s promises when we do what he has said and then see life not going well–or even going worse. We begin at times to think that God is not going to keep his promises–because, well, he sure hasn’t done it immediately like we wanted him to! “You have not delivered me at all!” our hearts cry (though we may not accuse him in so many words).

Yet God responded to Moses’s doubts and accusation graciously. He repeated his promises based on who he is: “I am the Lord” (Ex 6:2, 6, 7, 8) and based on his past promises (see all of Genesis). We also must trust God, because of who he is, what he has said, and what he has done. He knows our trials, and he hears them–just like he heard the Israelites’ groanings. And, we have this wonderful story–as we know the end of the story here–of God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt.

God keeps his word. We can trust him. Psalm 31:14 – “But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.’”

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Thursday Thoughts: The Most Important Parenting Truth I’m Learning

crossI haven’t written in over a year. Life has happened, and I’ve tried to make real life a priority over the blog, fun as it may be. The kiddos are now almost-7, 5, almost-3, and 6.5 months.  Real life has been really busy around here lately.  .  .

Mothering has become even more full-time than ever, and I’ve been learning a whole lot. I am a mom-in-progress as I find out the hard way the better way of mothering.

This isn’t a post about whether or not to schedule you baby’s sleep, whether or not to use a pacifier, whether or not to vaccinate, whether or not to give your child sugar. I have learned a lot about sleep, food, vaccines, etc. But these are not the most important parenting truth I’m still in the process of learning.

This truth is the truth about how I view myself and how I view my children.

My older three children are at intense stages of discipline right now. They are learning to be disciplined in their schoolwork, piano, chores, and play with each other. And behavior. Behavior discipline is especially {ahem} challenging–to say the least–with the two-year old at the moment.

But I consistently persevere with the two-year old, because I look at my six-year old, and I realize there is HOPE. God can use my measly, growing, evolving mothering to do a work of grace in my children’s hearts.

I especially hope in regard to the two-year old when I observe my five-year old. This child has more spunk, will, and emotional versatility and volatility than almost anyone I know. Discipling her and disciplining her behavior has been a difficult path for us. Yet I have recently seen a softening in her in response to our discipline, and I have tried to put a finger on its cause.

I think this truth may play a big part in it. I have learned that it is essential to view myself on the same plain as my children–at least where I hope they place themselves.

I need to keep myself–with them— at the foot of the cross.

I need to remind myself that I am in need of just as much grace as my children are. I need to remind myself that I am just a little ahead of them on the race–the same race–that we must both run.

And not only do I need to remind myself of this truth, but I need to frequently tell my children this truth. I believe that this has made a huge difference in my disciplining of them and their response.

  • I apologize daily to them for sinning in my interaction with them. I ask them to forgive me.
  • I tell them that they are sinners–just like mommy–when they are being disciplined. I tell them that they need Jesus, just like mommy does.
  • When they obey, I point them to Jesus. We praise God that He is teaching them to obey. When I am more patient with them, I tell them how thankful I am that God is teaching me to be more patient.
  • I pray with them for myself. I tell them how I struggle and how I ask God to help me.
  • I ask them how they think I’m doing with the struggles that I have (primarily patience!).

Here’s one example from just the other day. The five-year old was out-of-control reacting {again} to something the two-year old did {again}. I yelled at the five-year old and lectured her about being out of control. In the middle of my lecture, I just stopped. I recognized what I was doing. I took a deep breath, and I told her that mommy was out of control too. I told her that we both needed Jesus to help us have self-control, especially when other people do things that we don’t like.

This five-year old who used to have a hardened expression on her face during these conversations, who used to suddenly “have to go to the bathroom right now,” who used to tell me “I’m bored” when we would talk about behavior and Jesus. . . . This girl suddenly started gently scratching my back, and hugging me, and listening. And this has been her general disposition lately.

I don’t know what exact work that God is doing in her heart right now. But I know one thing. She knows that her mommy is running the race with her (or at least calling her to run with her), at the foot of the cross of Jesus.

 

{On Thursdays, I share some thoughts about what God is teaching me in my various roles as a Christian, a woman, a wife, a mother, and a pastor’s wife.}

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