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Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Lonely Olive Mill - A Poem by Annie Johnson Flint


Photo by FreeStockPhotos.com

The Lonely Olive Mill

Matthew 26:36 Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.

Gethsemane - oil-press, the name of an olive-yard at the foot of the Mount of Olives...

There’s a peaceful vale in a sunny land
Where the hills keep guard around,
And the soft breeze stirs the olive trees
And the grass that clothes the ground.

And in the hush and solitude
Where even the birds are still,
There stands untended and alone
An ancient olive mill.

Through the long bright day the mill wheel turns
And the fruit is crushed by the stone,
And quietly drips the fragrant oil
In silence and alone.

But somewhere out in the circling hills,
Unseen, unheard, unknown,
The Master of the olive mill
Is mindful of his own.

So many hours the wheel must turn,
And stone on stone must grind,
And then he will come to his olive mill,
His need of oil to find.

He knows how heavy the weight must be,
How long to let it lie,
Ere he can gather the precious oil
And throw the refuse by.

O child of God, are you being crushed
`Neath trial, pain or woe?
No eye to pity, no ear to hear,
No voice to whisper low?

Alone in your Gethsemane,
Christ watches with you there.
He will not suffer one ounce of weight
More than your strength can bear.

He chasteneth but to purify;
He crusheth but to raise;
In love he worketh his blessed will
To his glory’s endless praise.

In our affliction, afflicted still
He leaveth us not alone;
He will not forget, he will not forsake,
He is mindful of his own.

Annie Johnson Flint

Hebrews 12:11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Thoughts from the Past – Not Going Alone


As you will see, I wrote this before we moved to Texas. :-)

Jan. 17, 2008

Not Going Alone

Psalm 139:3 Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. ...5 Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.

Once again we have been packing to move. A majority of our possessions are already somewhere in central Texas, thanks to my brother and sister-in-law's kind help. We are making do with what's left here and hoping that the actual move will be in the not too distant future.

This poem by Annie Johnson Flint came to mind recently.

"For Thou Art With Me"

I know not when I go, nor where,
From this familiar scene;
But Christ is here and He is there
And all the way between;

And, when I pass from all I know
To that dim, vast unknown,
Though late I stay, or soon I go,
I shall not go alone.

It is a great comfort for the believer to know that our Lord is before us, with us and behind us. We are assured of His presence all the way, regardless of where the journey takes us. He is already there, and He will accompany us all the way.

In facing the new and the big changes in life we need to lay hold on this hope. It has great comfort and peace in it.

Deuteronomy 31:8 And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.

Hebrews 13:5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Laying Aside Weights – Simplify the Cooking

This is part of a series.

Ephesians 5:15-17  See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.

“Life is too short to stuff cherry tomatoes.”

Some years ago I ran across this quote and I really liked it.  In recent times it has come to mean even more to me and I’ve been trying to simplify my cooking even more.  I also would say that life is too short to make recipes with 20 ingredients or more.  I might make something sometime that has a lot of ingredients, but I’ve been noticing of late that the things with few ingredients sometimes taste just as good or even better than the long complicated ones.  So, why waste time and strength on complicated cooking projects when I could be doing something else of more lasting value?

Ok, I know some people actually enjoy making long, complicated recipes.  That’s OK if it’s your hobby.  But, most of the cooking that I do is not for pleasure in the sense of recreation.  It’s necessity and often even a chore, especially when it’s added work at the end of the day.  This is true of many of those I know who cook from scratch.

So, what I’ve been focusing on lately is the concept that less is more in cooking and meal preparation.  (This is especially worth noting during a Texas summer. :-) )  I’ve always made some pretty simple meals, but since I like variety and I’ve enjoyed inventing my own recipes at times, er….often, I have tended to go overboard with some things.  In earlier years I was also quite inclined to take on projects of various sorts that were actually beyond my skills – this included food preparation.  But, I am seeing more and more the benefits of sticking with the simpler things, not just for the sake of conserving strength when I’m feeling tired, but also for the simple reason that it’s less work – less time spent cooking, and cleaning up afterward.

Luke 10:40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving…

Now there is nothing wrong with making nice things once in awhile.  We know that feasts were described in scripture and even commanded in Old Testament times.  But, epicureanism and the “foodie” movement have spawned an obsession with unusual, expensive, extotic and even bizarre recipes that can become a distraction from things that really matter.  I don’t say that we should avoid such things altogether.  This would be legalistic and make it sound as if attention to niceties was a sin – an old and tired refrain from those who mistakenly think that self-deprivation equals godliness.  But, I do think we would do well to reconsider how much time we spend making complicated and time consuming dishes which too often require special purchases ($$) and even extra shopping trips just to make them.

An example: I have subscribed in the recent past to a magazine called “Country Woman”.  For a long time I enjoyed it, but there has been a slight change in it in recent years which has been a little disappointing.  The main complaint I would probably have is with some of the recipes.  Sometimes they don’t seem like “country” recipes to me any more.  There are still some useful ones, but there are also some that require expensive or unusual ingredients which I don’t associate with country cooking, frankly.  Macaroni and cheese with 5 kinds of cheese, three of which are specialty ($$) cheeses?  Really?  Decorating sugar cubes with tiny icing decorations for the holidays?  The only place I think I’ve actually seen sugar cubes in active use was at an elegant home in the suburbs of Boston.  Besides, who has time to pipe tiny images with frosting on sugar cubes?  Hello?  But, you get the idea.

When we make our cooking work less complicated and more streamlined, we will have more time to focus on the things that are more important in this life – spending time with our family, reading, studying, learning new skills, writing letters, communicating with friends/believers, etc.  Food is such a temporary thing, isn’t it?  Why do we feel compelled sometimes to spend such great amounts of time and money on something that will disappear in 5 minutes?  It just doesn’t make sense from a Christian viewpoint, and even some non-Christians will see this point.

As you may know, I don’t recommend relying on great quantities of processed foods.  That is not healthful, as recent studies show.  But, it is possible to make good food quickly and simply.  We may have to change our thinking, though, about what is “necessary”.  (This is partly the reason for my “Quick Meals” series that I started recently.)

I remember reading an item once from a man who was living in the Great Depression of 1929.  He talked about the fancy dishes they had been eating before The Crash.  He mentioned Oriental dishes in particular, which I didn’t know had been popular at that time.  He said that after the Depression hit they were content and even happy with much simpler food.  They even enjoyed “sow belly with the buttons still on” it.  Yes.  Sow bellies are very un-elegant food. :-)  I think it would be to the benefit of our quality of living, and in some ways to our budgets, if we would be more content with simpler, wholesome, uncomplicated foods.  Sometime it may prove to be a blessing.

I’m afraid that some of the obsession to make unusual and “amazing” dishes stems too much from the old “keeping up with the Joneses” thing. I feel it sometimes myself, to be honest. We are not in a competition, nor are we somehow better people if we can feed our families or friends on fancier, unusual or more complicated dishes.  Yes, unusual food can serve a useful purpose at times in teaching kids to like a variety of things, but we don’t need to eat a steady diet of it.  Besides, have you ever thought that some of our sisters in Christ might be feeling deficient when they see us strive to make such fantastic foods?  Not that we should avoid making nice things strictly on that account, but it might be good for us to stop and examine our motives sometimes.  I say that as a person who is sometimes moved with a pretty strong urge of competitiveness.

…whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) Philippians 3:19

The belly god is a demanding idol.  If you don’t believe that, all you need to do is drive through the business areas of a fair sized U.S. city and consider the proportion of restaurants to other businesses.  I’m sure this is true in other parts of the world as well.  We are inundated with dining choices!  Also check out the cold cereal and snack food aisles in many supermarkets.  It’s really quite amazing.

While eating is not a sin in and of itself and even enjoying eating does not have to be sin, it can quickly become sin and a substitute for things that matter more.  This is one reason there have been so many religious groups down through the centuries who have made their own (unbiblical) laws and rules regarding food and its consumption. 

One of the troubles about allowing ourselves to be governed by the belly god is that we also are inclined to mind earthly things.  After all, our appetite is a very earthly thing.  We need food to live, and yet it is not the earthly food that ultimately sustains the part of us that really matters.  It is the bread of life from above, which is Jesus Christ, that gives us that sustaining power and salvation that we so need.  John 6:49-51, 63  Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world…63  It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.  An emphasis on earthly food can result in a lack of focus on that spiritual food. 

If you feel that your attitude towards food is sinful, you need to confess that sin (1 John 1:9). I am primarily trying to point out the need to not overstress ourselves with food related demands that are unnecessary.  1 Corinthians 6:12-13  All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them…

After all, this life is so temporary.  It behooves us to live wisely in all areas, including how we cook and prepare food.  Meal preparation is a good and wholesome task, but it is not the chief end of man – or woman. :-)  I know, some people seem to at least imply, if not outright teach, that women were meant only for the drudgery and menial labor of housework and cooking and child rearing, and that when they find ways to reduce the amount of work that this entails they are “sinning” or will fall into sin.  There are Christian teachers and groups who are chastising women for desiring to spend less time on house care because the teachers and groups are reacting against feminism rather than examining the scripture to see if these things be so!  Ladies, this teaching is NOT of God.  Remember our Lord’s dealing with Martha and Mary.  If this ideology were true, He would surely have said so then, but He did not.  In fact, He made it clear that sitting at His feet was more important than much serving – than making a special meal for Him

Luke 10:38-42 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. [Emphasis added.]

It is more important to spend time with the Lord than trying out all those “great” recipes with which we are swamped these days.  It is more important than learning to use all the “unusual” ingredients that are available in the markets.  Tomorrow they may be unavailable, but Jesus will not.

We need to focus on the simplicity which is in Christ, 2 Cor. 11:3.  We need to acknowledge that the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Php. 3:14) is not preparing the most unusual and complicated dishes or titillating our taste buds.  It is loving the Lord with our heart, soul, strength and mind (Luke 10:27).  If we are spending excess time on food at the expense of that, then it is a weight we need to lay aside.  If we are spending excess time on food at the expense of other things of more lasting value, then it is a weight we need to lay aside.  I don’t mean that we need to deny ourselves in this to prove we are “spiritual”, but we need to deny ourselves in this if it is taking the place of the things that really matter.

Hebrews 12:1  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, 2 Looking unto Jesus… 3 For consider him…


Well, I didn’t set out to write such a long post on this subject.  Somehow it just came.  Maybe someone especially needed this. :-)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Way to God – A Poem by Annie Johnson Flint

The Way to God

No tower man can build him will ever rise to God,
For his foundations crumble ere half the stairs are trod;
No wireless spark, far-flashing its message through the air,
Can bring the seeking sinner an answer to his prayer;
No bridge of his contriving can cross the awful space
Between the guilty spirit and God's forgiving grace;
No airship of his making can be so swiftly driven,
Or plume so bold a pinion as once to soar to heaven;
No lamp of his devising can send one cheering ray
Along death's gloomy vista or through the grave's dark way;
No road of his constructing can ever stretch so far
That he can travel on it to reach the nearest star;
Too weak are man's inventions, too short to reach the goal,
All vain for his salvation and useless to his soul.

Oh, changeless name of Jesus! This is the tower that stands,
Its firm foundation resting below Time's shifting sands;
Oh, precious blood of Jesus! This is the voice that speaks
God's word of love and pardon to every heart that seeks;
Oh, blessed cross of Jesus! This is the bridge that's given
To span the dreadful chasm between man's soul and heaven;
Oh, wondrous wounds of Jesus! His nail-pierced hands alone
Can bear the sinner's ransom up to His Father's throne;
Oh, empty tomb of Jesus! This holds a glory bright
That fills death's shadowed valley with resurrection light;
Oh, mighty love of Jesus! His feet alone have trod
Earth's heights and depths of sorrow and made a way to God.

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.

John 14:6  Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Laying Aside Weights - It’s not Your Weight

Well, it’s time to get back to this series again.

Hebrews 12:1  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,

I suppose we all have weights to deal with that are not really ours.  Sometimes it’s the things that belong to someone else that are cluttering our lives for one reason or another.  Maybe it’s our spouse, our kids, parents, or other family members, or even friends that have shifted their weights into what we feel is our space.  This can be hard to deal with.

Not Your Stuff

My great-grandparents lived in a travel trailer and moved at least once a year. Every time they moved, they threw away all Grandma’s toys except one china doll (pictured above). This was very sad, and it affected my grandmother in later years when she became attached to things more than to people and even showed tendencies toward being a real hoarder.

Those of you who are parents do have the right to decide what your kids really need, but I suggest that you make them part of that decision when possible. Teach your kids how to part with unneeded stuff now, and it will be so much easier later on!

As far as clearing out the clutter of your husband or other family members, it’s important to remember to keep love and grace as the focus of you reasons, rather than annoyance and frustration. I know this can be hard from personal experience as my family had to clear out my grandparents’ house of useless clutter – not once, but twice.  Frustration was hard to avoid.  But, it will help your relationships in the long run if you maintain compassion.

My grandpa used to throw away excess candy that my grandma bought because she had diabetes and shouldn’t have had it in the house because she had a strong sweet tooth. If she knew, she never complained. We also discarded a number of her books with doubtful content after she started hallucinating about things that could easily have been from those books. She never even asked what happened to them. In both of these case, if she suspected what happened, she knew that we all did these things out of love for her and she was able to accept that.

Encourage, rearrange and organize if possible, and only discard things that are really trash if you simply must for safety and cleanliness, but try not to nag nor to respond in anger.  Harshness will not help them see their problem.  They will only feel threatened and that will probably make them cling to the things more.  Sometimes bluntness is in order when the problem is serious, but forcing someone to clear clutter may have unhappy repercussions if they are not willing!  Be thoughtful and prayerful in your approach.

False Guilt

There is another aspect in which some weights we carry are not ours.  You may have had some item bestowed upon you that someone (usually a family member) held dear, yet it really isn’t something you wanted.  The giver may still be living or they may not, but the “responsibility” to keep the item out of “respect” (read “guilt”) can keep you lugging dead weight around that is totally unnecessary.

Remember that doll that belonged to my grandma?  Well, as the oldest granddaughter, that doll was given to me.  I have it yet.  I am not really interested in antique dolls.  She has no trademark and the name of the maker is not apparently on her.  She has one detached arm and one broken hand.  Bugs have eaten some of her (real) hair.  As far as I can tell, she probably doesn’t have very much value.  And, to me those unhappy memories of my grandmother’s childhood make her a sad souvenir of the past.  Since my grandmother is with the Lord now, I feel no more obligation to keep that doll.  I’m sure that now Grandma would agree with me on that.  I am hoping to sell the doll or give her to someone who I know would enjoy restoring her.  But, I don’t want to feel obligated to carry a memorial to sadness through life.

As I mentioned in a previous post in this series, one of the questions I’ve been thinking about recently is “Am I keeping it because I like it or from a sense of guilt, either because it ‘might be useful some day’ or because it was important to someone I love?”  Another is, “If it is a memento – does it have good memories associated with it, or are there some bad memories mixed in that I’d rather not recall?”  In the book which I was discussing, the author of Throw Out Fifty Things touched on the idea of bad memory associations, and it’s something that I’ve been working on.  If the memories are bad, as with the doll, or if there is some singular bad memory connected with an item, why keep it?

Of course, there are those “wonderful heirlooms” that get passed on which we are “positively obligated” to keep which we hate or have no feeling for whatsoever.  You know what it is if you have one. :-)  But, really, should we allow others to push, nag, and “guilt-ify” us into keeping something that we don’t like, or maybe even hate for whatever reason?  Something that is elegant, sentimental or beautiful to one person may be utterly ugly or useless to another.  Friend, you are allowed to have your own likes and dislikes about such things without being made to feel guilty.  If you don’t want the family kewpie doll collection, you Do Not Have To Have It!  Refuse to accept it graciously if at all possible, and if not, refuse it bluntly or give it to someone else in the family.  If someone doesn’t like that, hopefully they will get over it.  Extended family members who are so childish that they would let the family peace and fellowship be destroyed over something like that probably are a pain in the neck in other ways as well.  I’m just saying…

I see two kinds of “clutter guilt” in play with the questions I mentioned above.  One is the guilt of the future—“What if we need this someday?  We’ll feel so bad we got rid of it.” Or, “What about when so-and-so dies?  I’ll really wish I’d saved this.”  (This, even when one sometimes has numerous other things from said person.) 

The other is the guilt of the past—“But, this was my great-grandparents’ wedding gift, grandma’s best (read “least used”) dishes, etc.  We can’t get rid of that.  It’s been in the family for years.”  Either way, if we succumb to it, we can allow our lives to be inundated with junk (yes, I said junk), that serves no useful purpose in the big scheme of things—meaning God’s scheme of things!  Seriously, if it’s not something you want and you have no room for it (and presuming that no one else in the family will take it off your hands) sell it and use the money for something you really need, to pay down debts, or to give to the needs of the saints.  Or if selling isn’t an option for you, give it away or donate it.  Yes!  You Can!

Some of us seem to be a lot more effected by this than others, I think.  Whether we have a strong guilt mechanism, are more prone to sentiment over useless stuff, or are just “wired that way” I don’t entirely know.  But, from my own experience, I encourage you to think about the whole guilt factor that compels us to clutter our lives with things that are really and truly not our responsibility.  Let’s lay down those weights that others have laid upon us along with the load of false guilt to try to make us feel it is “necessary” to keep carrying it. 

In some cases I can’t help wondering, “If that thing was so great, why didn’t they keep it themselves?”  In all honesty, in some cases I suspect that there are those who really don’t want and/or like the item themselves, but they can’t stand to see it “leave the family” so they saddle some unsuspecting “collector” with it who doesn’t have the courage to say “No, thank you!” and mean it.  If you are either the giver or the receiver in this scenario, you need to review your motives and weakness before the Lord.

Hebrews 10:24  And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works[Emphasis added.]

The Wrong Crosses

I also can’t help thinking of  Matthew 16:24, Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  The Lord said “his cross”, not “his neighbor’s cross”, and not “his brother’s cross” (and not “the cross of world suffering”, by the way).  Jesus Christ Himself bore the cross for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2), He only requires us to bear our own cross, and that must be the one that He gives us if it would not be a weight too heavy to bear. 

There are so many ways that we take heavy burdens upon ourselves that are not our weight to carry.  It is not just things.  We can be overcome with helping others and doing for others till we do not tend the responsibilities that are truly ours.  How many mothers are volunteering for some community service and not caring properly for their own?  How many mothers are running their kids to all kind of activities while neglecting their own personal health – spiritually and physically?  How many wives are working outside the home, not because it is really needful, but because their families can’t live in the income bracket they desire without them working, or because they imagine it’s more “fulfilling”?  How many women are serving the pastor—yes, I said that correctly because they are not doing what the Lord, or maybe their husbands, would have them to do, but what the pastor would have them to do—how many, I say, are serving the pastor instead of serving their husband or family in the role God gave them?  How many are convinced that some “ministry” would collapse or never get done without their special talents, yet they are not using those talents to minister to the needs and responsibilities that God has given them at home or in their local church?  With the internet it is possible to be “necessary” in so many other places than where we are most responsible and needed!  It is a sobering thought.

For my own part, I find that I tend to enjoy sewing things for others more than I do for myself and for my own home.  While sewing for others can be a good means to give of my skills, our own house - and even the wardrobes of my mom, sister-in-law and myself - could be improved by more attention to the needs there.  I have been trying to work on this myself.

Matthew 11:28-30  Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

If we would have the easy yoke and the light burdens, we must, must, must go in the yoke with Jesus, and with Him alone!  We must take up the cross He gives.  No other burdens or weights will be light enough for us to run with patience the race that is set before us!


Post Script

By the way, please do yourself a favor and check out those items that Grandma or Uncle George think are so valuable because they are so old, unusual, etc.  You may find out that they are worth very little.  I know this because there were things that my Grandma seemed to think were valuable which, with some online research, turned out to be pretty worthless.  Some of her “precious treasures” had also been purchased as “seconds” and consequently have little value.

These plates, which I don’t ever remember Grandma using, were “seconds” that she got in Britain (they were imperfect and so were sold cheap at outlets of some sort).  I’m not sure why she didn’t use them, but even if they weren’t “seconds”, their value is quite low from what I can tell.  My husband and I now enjoy them as every day dishes.   We might as well; Jesus is coming, so why leave them in perfect condition to be burned up and destroyed in the last day? :-)

2 Peter 3:10-12  But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Just for Fun – Of Food and Kids

Stay at home meals - Seriously, as a kid and teen I mostly hated leftovers.  As a married woman with meals to get – I love them. :-)

My Mominator said we had to eat our peas too.

You always wondered…

Those unforgettable desserts. Have you ever remembered someone by the great dessert they brought to a dinner or picnic?  Have you ever had someone say to you, “Oh, yes.  I remember you.  You brought that [fabulous chocolate cake] to the __________ dinner”? :-)

The mother bug

Cleaning up the kid trail.  And again.

Speaking of messes…

Thankfully, my brother never thought of this…at least not to my knowledge.  Ahem.


"The age of your children is a key factor in how quickly you are served in a restaurant. We once had a waiter in Canada who said, 'Could I get you your check?' and we answered, 'How about the menu first?'"
Erma Bombeck

"In America, a parent puts food in front of a child and says, 'Eat it, it's good for you.'
In Europe, the parent says, 'Eat it. It's good!'"
John Levee

"Even when freshly washed and relieved of all obvious confections, children tend to be sticky."
Fran Lebowitz, journalist