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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Laying Aside Weights - A New Challenge for A New Year

[This is a series.  Please see index at the bottom of this article.]

Do you ever feel like the lady in this picture?  Loaded down with too much to carry?  This can happen to us physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  In Hebrews 12:1 we read,  Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

For a long time I thought this verse was talking about laying aside the weight of sin that so easily besets us.  Maybe I heard it misquoted, I don’t know.  Then one day the Lord helped me to stop and read the actual words.  It says, …every weight (comma) AND the sin which doth so easily beset us…  Hmmm.  That really says a lot more than just laying aside sin!  Do you realize there are a lot of weights that we can carry around that are not necessarily sin yet they weigh us down and keep us from serving the Lord as we otherwise might?  Our houses, minds and lives are often cluttered with everything from family heirlooms, toys and piles of books, to thought patterns, traditions of man, emotional baggage, and even people (!) who are hindering us from pressing …toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14)

You may remember that last year I challenged us all to give gifts from the things we already had as much as possible.  I did so-so at that myself.  But, I started something that seems like it is improving, and I’m hopeful that I’ll do even better this year on that. :-)

This winter, however, I’ve been looking at blogs, watching videos on Youtube, and now reading a book that have inspired me to not only stop buying so much stuff, but also to get serious about getting rid of stuff I already have (or to actually use it).  OK, I had already been inspired to do this, but I’ve actually been really working on it lately. :-)  I hope to continue!

I also want to lay aside some of the fruitless mental ideas and thought patterns that are hindering me from getting things done that I’d like to get done.  (Oops!  Some of those include unrealistic expectations of what I “should” get done!)  I’m hoping to eliminate some of the mental clutter that is keeping me stagnant and underproductive.

As I go along, I want to share this adventure with you, and I hope that you will be challenged to participate! :-)  I have already been reminded of how liberating it feels to lay aside weights.  Imagine how great the lady in the above illustration felt when she put down that load.  That feeling can be ours too as we lay aside the weights!  The feeling of  knowing there is less stuff around to bother with, to organize, or to sort through can be almost intoxicating.  It can give you light feeling, like you couldrun and not be weary and walk and not faint” for a change! :-)  Yes, I know that is a spiritual promise for those who wait on the LORD, but in pressing towards the mark we need to run the race with patience, and it’s hard to run anywhere with a load of stuff – mental, physical, emotional – hanging on you!  Let’s make an effort to put it down!

(Please note that I’m not suggesting a “resolution”.  As I’ve probably said before, I’m not that interested in making promises or swearing to things that we might not be able to accomplish.  Ecclesiastes 5:5  Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.  But, I think it is good to purpose in our hearts to do good, and this is certainly a good thing.)

To start with, I’ll list some places where I was inspired (not in any order).  I probably should divide them into multiple posts, and maybe I will for some, but I want to get this thing off the ground, so, I’ll just give you several here. Please note that most of these people are not Christians as far as I know and I cannot recommend everything they may say, write or do!  Some of their ideas are more “the rudiments of the world,” but where there’s good sense, that can be useful to us in our goal of laying aside weights so that we can run the race for God.

First of all is the blog of Nony at A Slob Comes Clean.  This lady is refreshingly honest and humorous, which makes it actually seem enjoyable to clean up, declutter (sometimes the same place twice), and “deslobify”. ;-)   One significant thing I learned was that there are a lot of things sitting around our house that have faded into the background and I don’t even see them any more!  But!  I know guests do!  Ouch. :-P

The next one that has really helped me with what might be called a mental weight is The One Minute Rule.  This is super simple, but what a difference it makes.  Basically it is, “If you can do it in one minute or less, do it now!”  For a procrastinator and/or “I-have-something-else-to-do” type person (me), this is a very helpful habit to develop.  I’ve been surprised how many little things are getting done sooner, rather than later and thus reducing accumulation and last minute rush. And, the great thing is that as you do this, you begin to think, “That won’t take long, I’ll do it now,” even if it’s longer than a minute!  [On this one my sister-in-law said for her it should be, “If you can do it in five minutes of less, do it now.”  This works well for the slightly longer chores that too often get pushed aside.]

This may sound crazy, but one thing that helped me want to get rid of stuff was this lady’s talk on “Don’t Get Organized!”  Yeah, that doesn’t sound right, but point is – get rid of stuff instead of organizing. Organizing can become a crutch to help you keep things you don’t need. :-)  (Ouch, again!)

I’m going to stop here for now.  Let me know what you think.  How are you challenged to lay aside weights this year?  I will try to keep making posts on this throughout this year, but since making hard fast deadlines is usually counterproductive for me, I’m not promising when.  (Besides, I’m having too much fun going through our stuff and “deleting” things.)  ;-)

Laying Aside Weights – So, Where to Being?

Laying Aside Weights - Getting Rid of Brain Clutter, Asking the Right Questions

Laying Aside Weights – But, I didn’t get it done!

Laying Aside Weights – Get Rid of Fifty Things Challenge

Laying Aside Weights – The Heaviest Cross – A Poem by Annie Johnson Flint

Laying Aside Weights – Perfectionism

Laying Aside Weights – It’s not Your Weight

Laying Aside Weights – Simplify the Cooking

Laying Aside Weights – To Everything A Time, Part 1: Chronophobia

Laying Aside Weights – To Everything A Time, Part 2: The (not so) Good Old Days

Laying Aside Weights – Suffering for 15 Minutes Demo

Laying Aside Weights – Counting: Every Blessed Thing

Laying Aside Weights – Counting: Works unto the Lord

Laying Aside Weights – The People Problem

Laying Aside Weights – Good-bye to Chicken Little

Laying Aside Weights – Dream Homes and the Beautiful Life

Monday, January 9, 2012

A Few of My Favorite Kitchen Things – the Steamer Pot

Every kitchen needs some good tools that really work or help make work easier. I am going to try to give you some reviews on various items that I have found to be especially useful in real life. I say, “in real life” because before I was married I collected a lot of things for my hope chest – some of those things proved useful to me once I started keeping house myself. Some did not. In fact, I got rid of some things long before I ever married because I could see that they weren’t worth carrying back and forth across the country as much as my family moved. Either I didn’t figure I’d use them, or I figured I’d find something when I needed it.

If you already have a kitchen of your own, or if it’s a dream for someday when you have your own home to keep, maybe these posts will give you some ideas about what is useful and what is not. Not everyone has the same needs, but at least you may get some idea as to whether you could use a particular item.

I would call this a steamer-stew pot combination. It is stainless steel (with no non-stick coating). As you can see in the picture, the stew pot part is not invaded by the steamer part, which sits only slightly nested into the bottom. This actually makes it more useful.

We received this as a wedding gift from some friends and it is one of my favorite kitchen tools. At the time that I put it on our registry (we were only registered at Amazon.com), I think that I didn’t really anticipate using the steamer part much since I wasn’t fond of steaming vegetables. I don’t remember if it was the only model that had the size and type of pot that I wanted at the time or what. I just knew I needed a large stew pot for making soups, stews, roasts, etc. for larger groups. Since there are six adults when my family here are all eating together, this is kind of necessary for my kitchen. If I had to get a steamer with it, well, that was OK too.

I used the pot for stews and stove top cooked roasts several times and it turned out to be a good pot. Then I made a great discovery. I could cook meat (and potatoes) in the bottom of the pan and steam the vegetables in the steamer part all at once, thus getting the whole meal cooked on one burner! (Plus it added flavor to the veggies and vice versa.) Wow. What a great idea! :-) That was a real plus.

Then last spring we had an abundance of greens (that was before the real drought hit Central Texas). I needed to help out by processing them for later use since there was too much to eat at the time and the weather was getting hot (not good for most greens). Back in the day when my family still used a microwave, Mom used to blanch greens for freezing by putting them in the freezer bags and putting them in the microwave for some seconds till they got warm and started to wilt. Since we no longer use microwaves, it occurred to me that maybe I could just steam the greens in my steamer and then put them in bags and freeze them. This sounded a lot better than the traditional dipping method.

Well, it worked great! Bringing the water to a boil first, I’d put a batch of greens in and let them steam for a few minutes on one side then turn them over with tongs and let them steam on the other side briefly. Then I carefully put two servings of greens into each bag, let them finish cooling, labeled them and put them in the freezer. I could do several batches of greens with the same batch of water. It turned out beautifully. :-)

(Side Note: The rich broth left in the pan after this is done can be used as a soup base or an “energy drink”. There are a lot of nutrients there, as the color indicates.)

So, a good combination stew pot-steamer is a very useful tool if you:

- cook for larger groups.

- like to conserve energy.

- process large quantities of greens or other vegetables that could be steamed before freezing.

We have used this pot to make large amounts of East African style tea. :-) A pot like this is also handy for canning things like jams or jellies.

Cons -

The only problem I’ve had with this particular model is that the handle on the lid, which is metal, gets hot to the touch. I have to be careful to use a hot pad or over mitt whenever I’m cooking in it. However, I think I can put the lower pot with the lid on it in the oven because all the parts are stainless steel or glass, which could be useful at some time.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Some Scripture for A New Year

As we go into this very uncertain year and face a future that is clouded with possibilities for trouble, these passages of scripture especially blessed my heart.  We need to live above, or outside of, the turmoil as much as possible.  With the Lord’s comfort and help we need to strive to make our homes islands of peace and calm in the midst of the storm.  We need to resist the urge to participate in the confusion.  We need to remember that each of us has a work that God has given us to do and that is more important than all the political and economical turmoil that may occur.  We need to remember that our strength and provision to do God’s work is from our Father in heaven, not from man.  We need to “be about our Father’s business” regardless of the chaos and fear around us.

Psalms 90:13-17  Return, O LORD, how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants. O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil. Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children. And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.

Psalms 46:1-7  God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;  Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.  The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.

Isaiah 40:28-31  Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

A few more verses I thought of in this vein.

Hebrews 12:27-28  And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.  Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:

Hebrews 13:14  For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.