Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Potato Soup for the Soul

On Saturday I made a big pot of savory potato soup. Mmmm. Warms you from the inside out. The recipe is enough for company and we still had some to carry us into the work week.

1 lb. Jimmy Dean hot pork sausage
12-13 medium size potatoes
1 large leek
1 large onion
salt to taste
dash of parsley
garnish with parmesan cheese

  • In a large kettle, brown the pork sausage while breaking into small chunks. Scoop the sausage out into a bowl with a slotted spoon and set aside, leaving just a little drippings in the kettle.
  • Dice the onion and chop the leek (greens and all) into small pieces. Saute the onion and leek together in the drippings until tender. Scoop out into a bowl and set aside.
  • Scrub well the potatoes in their skins, put them in the kettle and add water to barely cover. Cook on medium heat until tender. Do not drain! Take out 3-4 potatoes and cut them into small chunks and set aside.
  • Using an electric mixer, blend the remaining potatoes (skins and all) with the water until smooth. You may be able to use your mixer in your kettle, or put the pureed potatoes back in the kettle.
  • Add the potato chunks back to the kettle, along with the browned pork sausage and sauteed leek and onion. Add salt to taste and a dash of parsley. Most of the seasoning is already in the pork sausage. Heat through and simmer to marry the flavors.

It's a thick, hearty soup, full of vegetables, without using a rich cream for a base. The water is full of nutrients from cooking the potatoes, and it's good fiber to leave the skins on. I garnished with a shake of parmesan cheese and served with breadsticks.

Just as a hearty meal doesn't hold us all week (we have to eat again), reading scripture on Sunday doesn't really hold us all week either. We need to sustain ourselves with study during the week. Just as a generous recipe is enough for company, if we generously read scripture, we'll have wisdom to share and to sustain us into the work week.

God, thank You for this meal, for our loved ones, for Your wisdom. We are grateful for all the good things You provide. Let Your Word and Your Wisdom soak into our souls and sustain us.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Gulp... Giants!

Worry had sneaked up on me again and doubt became my companion. Whose voice was I listening to? Certainly not God's.

In Numbers 13, God told Moses to send 12 men into Canaan to see the promised land He would give them. One man from each tribe was chosen to join the expedition. They tromped along the river and up through the hill country, through fertile fields and vineyards, checking out all the land had to offer. At the end of 40 days, with a cluster of grapes so large it took two men to carry it, they returned to report on all they had seen: "The land is full of giants; they are powerful and strong."

Ten of the 12 were overcome with doubt, saying: "We can't attack those people; they are stronger than we are." And they spread among the Isrealites a bad report about the land. (Numbers 13:31-32 NIV)

But Joshua and Caleb insisted, "The land is flowing with milk and honey. Don't be afraid; God is with us."

Here is a decision point. Will I identify with the 10 who doubted or with the two who trusted? Whose voice do I choose to listen to? As I reflect on the "giants" in my own life, I will make my focus what God says He will do and not the size of the obstacle. Faith is living above the obstacles, not under them.

Abiding is staying connected to Him, trusting in Him, despite the odds. No matter how small I feel. He is big enough! I remember how, many times, God has answered my prayers, and shown Himself to be way bigger than I thought He was!

What "giants" are in your life? Are there things that seem too big -- even for God to resolve? Well... How BIG is our God, anyway?

Oh, Father God, You are above all and You know all. I choose to rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will fear no evil because You are with me.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Beauty of Surrender

We know that God doesn't always answer prayer in the way we would anticipate, or as "quickly" as we would wish. But I can now see that for many of these times, He has given me an answer far better than I knew to ask for, in just the right timing.

As I reread my journals from a few years back, I gained a different perspective on how God was shaping me. He was orchestrating the details that needed to be put into place, while at the same time, preparing my heart to want the greater things He had in mind for me.

Upon reviewing these journals, I made a wonderful observation. Whenever something really "big" happened in my life -- an answer to a long-time prayer -- it came directly after a period when I was able to fully "surrender." By this I mean that I had given up control of the way I wanted the situation to go, realizing that He knows best. I could finally be open to His solution (the one that was perfect in the first place!)

But God is a gentleman and He didn't hurry, pressure or force me. I saw that many times He was incredibly patient with me. When I eventually stopped pleading with God about what needed to be done (how silly that sounds!) and resolved that I could trust Him -- whatever the outcome -- then the answer finally arrived. An answer that surpassed human understanding. An answer that gave me the greatest peace ever. An answer that came in a great big God way.

I now reflect on the character of God and His promises in the Bible:
  • Great is His faithfulness (Lam. 3:23)...
  • He can work all things together for good (Romans 8:28)...
  • Nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:39)...
  • He wouldn't give a snake when we ask for a fish (Matt 7:10)...
  • All things are possible with God (Mark 10:27)...
I remember that He really has my best interests at heart.

The beautiful 1855 hymn reminds us what a Friend we have: "Oh, what peace we often forfeit; oh, what needless pain we bear; all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer."

Do you have a heavy burden you're carrying? Are you ready to lay it down?

Father, help me get my head, my heart and my feet on the "same page." Help me, more and more, to surrender to You. I really do want Your way. I know that from the fullness of Your grace we have all received one blessing after another (John 1:16). We have every reason to trust You.

Monday, February 1, 2010

We Do Not Lose Heart

Several of my work friends are losing their jobs of many years. Names are missing, cubes are cleared out, e-mails bounce back.

Others close to me are missing loved ones. The memory of their loss pierces their hearts each day. Will the pain ever go away?

Many in my church ask for prayers over serious health issues, overwhelming finances or complicated relationships. My prayer list is growing. There is suffering everywhere.

And then there is Haiti.

These poor souls have suffered their whole lives -- but we hear stories of these beautiful, victorious people who have not lost hope:
  • A man searched through wreckage and debris every day for his wife until he found her.
  • His wife, who survived a week under rubble, praised God and sang as she emerged into the light of day again.
  • A young man pinned under a fallen building for 14 days survived by rationing a jug of water and was rescued just hours after his supply ran out.
  • A doctor reported that hundreds of hungry, terrified, grieving, hurting people waited so patiently in long lines to be treated for life-threatening injuries -- without a single security incident.
  • A 66-year-old widow and a 12-year-old boy who had just lost their entire families decided to become a team -- a new family -- saying, "God will provide. In fact, He already has"...
I remember that suffering is not new; the Bible gives many examples. We can relate to what Paul wrote: "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." (2 Cor. 4:8-9, but read the chapter for the full encouragement...)

We must not forget that God is with us through it all. Just think, He is with all of His suffering children at once! He is sovereign. We do not understand, but we do know God is the One who can call light out of darkness.

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Cor. 4:16-18 NIV)

Thank you, Lord, for role models with strong faith -- strengthened, no doubt, by suffering and walking along, trusting in You no matter what. Oh, give them strength!