Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Love of God

“The pursuing love of God is the greatest wonder of the spiritual universe. We leave God in the heat of our own self-desire and run from His will because we want so much to have our own way. We get to a crossroads and look back in pride, thinking that we have outdistanced Him. Just as we are about to congratulate ourselves on our achievement of self-enthronement, we feel a touch on our own arm and turn in that direction to find Him there. ‘My child,’ He says in great tenderness, ‘I love you; and when I saw you running away from all that is good, I pursued you through a shortcut that love knows well, and awaited you here at the crossroads.’ We have torn ourselves free from His grasp and rushed off again, through deepest woods and farthest swamp, and as we look back again, we are sure, this time, that we have succeeded in escaping from Him. But, once more, the touch of love is on our other sleeve and when we run quickly we find that He is there, pleading with the eye of love, and showing Himself once more to be the tender and faithful One, loving to the end. He will always say, ‘My child, my name and nature are Love, to tell you that when you are tired of running and your wandering, I will be there to draw you myself once more.’

When we see this love at work through the heart of Hosea we may wonder if God is really like that. But everything in the Word and in experience shows us that He is. He will give man the trees of the forest and the iron in the ground. Then He will give to man the brains to make an axe from the iron to cut down a tree and fashion it into a cross. He will gave man the ability to make a hammer and nails, and when man has the cross and the hammer and the nails, the Lord will allow man to take hold of Him and bring Him to that cross; He will stretch out His hands upon it and allow man to nail Him to that cross, and in so doing will take the sins of man upon Himself and make it possible for those who have despised and rejected Him to come unto Him and know the joy of sins removed and forgiven, to know the assurance of pardon and eternal life, and to enter into the prospect of the hope of glory with Him forever. This is even our God, and there is none like unto Him.” Donald Barnhouse (The Minor Prophets)

How can we fully grasp the love of our God. When Lew read this to me last night I was so amazed to think, yes it is our God who would love us enough to send his Son to die for all of our sins, even though we had rebelled against Him in so many ways. And to see how our Creator made the very things that would be used to crucify His Son. It reminded me of the song by Caedmon's Call "You made the seed that made the tree, that made the cross that saved me!" It was all apart of God's divine plan...and even though I had turned by back on Him, he saved me in His love.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Lunch with the Ellis'

Yesterday we were able to have lunch with Sam, Priscila, and Gianna. It was so much fun to catch up with them and see how little Gianna is growing up ;) Here are a few pics of her in her little chair:

Doesn't she look so happy!

She has Priscila's eyes...and Sam's mouth ;)

In this picture I couldn't get her to look at the camera because she was gazing lovingly at Sam ;)

It was so cute to watch her bounce in this thing because she was on her tippy toes so she looked like a little ballerina, so cute!

I made this walnut apple pizza for lunch (compliments of BHG) and we all enjoyed it so I thought I'd pass it on... enjoy!

Walnut Apple Pizza
1/2 package of active dry yeast (1 1/4 tsp.)
3/4 C warm water (not too hot!)
1 C all purpose flour
2/3 C whole wheat flour
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. cooking oil
3/4 cup blue cheese (3 oz.)
1 large tart apple (I used granny smith) cored and sliced thinly (about 1 1/3 cups)
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese (2 oz.)
1 1/2 tsp. snipped fresh rosemary (or 1/2 tsp. dried)

*I used my kitchen aid mixer to mix and knead the bread....but I am going to include the regular directions and you can adapt to a mixer if you'd like*

Directions: Stir yeast into warm water, let stand 5 min. to dissolve. In large mixing bowl add regular flour, whole what flour, sugar, salt. Make a well in center of dry ingredients and add yeast mixture and oil. Stir until combined. Turn onto floured surface, knead gently 20 times. Place dough in greased bowl. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled (45 min.). Punch down. Preheat oven 450. Grease pizza pan. Roll out dough to about 13". Build up edges slightly, Bake crust 10 min or until begins to brown slightly. Remove from oven, sprinkle with blue cheese. Add apple slices and sprinkle with Monterey Jack, walnuts, and rosemary. Bake 10 more minutes more until edges are lightly browned.

*To use a pizza stone (this is what I used and the nice thing about it is it makes the crust crispy on the outside but still soft on the inside) preheat stone for 15 minutes in oven. Then put dough on stone and add ingredients. Then cook pizza in oven about 8-10 minutes until cheese is melted well and dough is slightly browned.*

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


17"For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth,and the
former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. 18But
be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create;for behold,
I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a
gladness. 19I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my
people;no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and
the cry of distress. (Isaiah 65:17-19)

I was reading this passage this morning in my quiet time and I was refreshed with a wonder of what Heaven will be like. Verse 17 in the passage above states that in the new heavens and new earth the things of this world will not be remembered or come into mind. It's like saying that our greatest times and happiest memories can not come close to competing to what God has in store for us in paradise. In paradise there will be no more weeping, but a never ending joy and gladness.

Laura and I have been reading "The Heart of the Cross," and one of the things that the author makes clear is that what makes paradise truly paradise is the fact that we will be with the risen lamb who has redeemed of us our sins. Paradise isn't paradise because of the new heavens and the new earth, but it's being in the radiating light of the source of our joy, basking in the glory of Him who sits on the throne forever and ever. Finally being united with the King who is worthy and whom the angels proclaim "holy, holy, holy," because He is to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing.

Weddings are a time of great joy and and only a minor reflection of how glorious our union will be when we are completely conformed to image of the one that knows us the most intimately. I remember getting ready for my own wedding and how God had created me for Laura and bound our hearts together. More importantly then that, God created me for Him. He has sealed taken my heart and sealed it by His Holy Spirit to give me the hope dwelling with Him eternally in His kingdom.

Totally unrelated: If you check out the sidebar, I've added some songs from revoLEWtion. A lot of times when people talk about my debut CD the songs that everyone love are "Oh Yeah Buddy," and "Two-Ply, Two-Ply." If it was up to me, the songs that would get more attention are some of my instrumental songs like my arrangement of "Refiners Fire," and "ballad in C"

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Who can comfort?

Today's reading from Charlie (as my Mom likes to call him) Spurgeon's Morning & Evening

2 Corintians 7:6

“God, that comforteth those that are cast down.”

“...He is the God of all comfort.” There is no balm in Gilead, but there is balm in God. There is no physician among the creatures, but the Creator is Jehovah-rophi. It is marvellous how one sweet word of God will make whole songs for Christians. One word of God is like a piece of gold, and the Christian is the gold beater, and can hammer that promise out for whole weeks. So, then, poor Christian, thou needest not sit down in despair. Go to the Comforter, and ask him to give thee consolation. Thou art a poor dry well. You have heard it said, that when a pump is dry, you must pour water down it first of all, and then you will get water, and so, Christian, when thou art dry, go to God, ask him to shed abroad his joy in thy heart, and then thy joy shall be full. Do not go to earthly acquaintances, for you will find them Job’s comforters after all; but go first and foremost to thy “God, that comforteth those that are cast down,” and you will soon say, “In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul.”

When I read this it reminded me of a verse I was meditating on yesterday: James 4:8 "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." How comforting it is to know that as we seek to draw near to our God, especially when feeling down cast, that it is then we can also experience his nearness. He simply calls us to draw near...and drink of His everlasting well, it is there we will find the comfort our souls long for!

Also for those of you who don't know yet, Lew has a big job interview today at 2pm....we would love prayers!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Winter Stew...

Friday night I was able to have 2 of my really good friends Katherine and Rani over and we had some good girl time..we had a lot of catching up to do ;) it reminded me of the days of old when we would get together every other week at starbucks for accountability, these two ladies have cared for me spiritually for years...and I couldn't thank them enough for their friendship!

Anyways I am usually a little skeptical about trying a new recipe when I have people over for dinner, but I bit the bullet and tried this stew recipe I had been eying in my Southern Living "Light and Easy Comfort Food" cookbook....and it turned out great...Whew! So here it is:
Pork & Squash Stew:
  • 1 pound pork shoulder (I used pork butt instead....worked just as well...and I imagine you could also just substitute with beef as well)
  • 3 tbs flour
  • 4 teas. oil
  • 3 cups chopped onion
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped carrots
  • 1/2 teas. dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 (12oz) beer
  • 2 cups (3/4'') peeled cubed butternut squash (about one pound)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley (1 teaspoon dried was fine)
Trim fat from pork, cut into cubes. Set aside. Place flour in ziplock plastic bag. Add pork, shake to coat. Discard flour. Heat 2 teas. oil in nonstick skillet on medium-high heat. Brown pork on all sides (about 8 minutes), then remove and set aside. Add remaining 2 teas. oil to pan, add onion and carrot; saute 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Add pork, beer, rosemary, salt, and pepper to skillet. Bring to boil; cover, reduce and simmer 30 minutes. Add squash; cover simmer 25 more minutes until squash is tender. Sprinkle with parsley.

We served it over risotto.

Also for those who aren't familiar with preparing/storing butternut squash (this was my first time buying the whole squash...I usually buy it already cut and ready to cook) here is some helpful info I got from www.digsmagazine.com

choosing and storing butternut squash
Choose a squash that feels heavy for its size, with blemish-free skin, and no soft, moldy spots. Thanks to its thick skin, butternut squash keeps for a good long time (up to a month) when kept in a cool, dark place. Don’t store squash in the refrigerator, as the cold temperatures will actually cause the squash to go bad much more quickly.

prepping butternut squash
Unlike summer squash, the peel of winter squashes is too tough for eating, even when cooked. To peel a butternut squash, cut off the ends of the squash. (You’ll need a good heavy chef’s knife to cut a butternut squash). Quarter the squash – I find it easier to cut latitudinally first (the short way), then to cut each section in half. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and fibrous innards from the bulbous bottom ends and discard. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel.

Here's my happy hubby enjoying his left over stew ;)


Friday, February 16, 2007

Confessions by Augustine

I've decided to start a new series on this blog called "Weekend Read." My goal is to publish the weekend read near the end of the week. It's main purpose is for all the people who are contemplating a weekend trip to Border or Barnes and Nobles to pick up a book to start for that weekend.

Initially I thought about maybe the "Weekend Read" being something I posted monthly. My goal is to do it weekly, but honestly with my schedule I'm not going to be legalistic about if I miss a week or anything like that. I had thought before about doing it monthly, but I've read a lot and don't plan on slowing down.

Here are something to expect:

1)This will range the whole gamut from theology, classic literature, plays, sports books, etc.
2)Wide spectrum of quality of books will be covered, so all book will be graded. Just an fyi, only two books will receive a 100%
3)I can sometimes be turned off when I come go to Amazon.com and someone has written a review that is a novel in and of itself. None of these reviews will be ultra long, but don't expect one sentence earlier.

My first weekend read was inspired by Robin's review of Confessions in the CLC newsletter. If you read Robin's endorsement of Confessions and are still undecided about if it is for you, then hop off the fence and join the many who have read Confessions and realize why it isn't just theological, but a classic as well.

Confessions begins with the famous line: "You made us for yourself and our hearts find no rest in you." The plot of Confessions is simple (unlike Augustine's other famous work, "City of God), it tells the tale of Augustine's conversion. Essential to Augustine's conversion is the goodness of God (evidenced by the quote above) and the nature of sin. Augustine, like all of us, was a hedonist, but unlike the rest of us, Augustine does not make excuse for his sin but says that the reason why he sinned is because it was his desire.

The beauty of reading Augustine is that he was a great thinker and philosopher. In his Confessions we see how the philosophy of his day influenced him in his younger years, but as Augustine gets older we also see the care and love of Monica (his mother) which aids in his conversion as Augustine is confronted with the supremacy of God's Word over any philosophy. Confessions, unlike modern conversion stories (see: Blue Like Jazz) is theologically sound and presents a holy God that is the source of man's joy.

Grade: A 95%

Few things that I would change about this book. It doesn't reach the perfect standard, but few books do. This is one of those books that not only affected my theological understanding, but also application specifically related to my joy found in God.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Snowy Days!

We have had quite the snow filled week! It has been interesting having the first big snow with the Hendricks family being gone...we have had to fend for ourselves in this nasty weather. The snow started yesterday morning and lasted into the night then turned into sleet and it still was sleeting this morning. Then when we woke up we had no power. Apparently thats common out here in the "country". So we were able to get a fire started with the help of a neighbor which kept us warm most of the morning. Then we set up some of the generators for the refrigerators so we could keep the food from going bad. Finally around 11 the power went back on...Yay! So to celebrate we went sledding, so much fun ;)

This was Lew yesterday morning leaving for work when the snow was just beginning to stick.

Getting ready to go down the hill...


Lew's turn....

Good times ;)

We only lasted about an hour outside because it was so cold and my clothes were all wet...no fun. I don't know how I ever made it as a kid when I would play in the snow for hours, but it was fun to go sledding. I think its been like 8 or 9 years since I last did that. Now the plan is to do some cleaning...laundry...and then make dinner for my Valentine ;)

Happy Snowy Valentines Day!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Weekend Fun

This Saturday we had a lot of fun family time. We were able to have my sister Charissa, her roommate Libby, my sister Hannah, my Nephew Isaiah, my brother-in-law Enoch, and my Mom over for some ice skating fun. The Pond that is on the property next to our house had finally frozen over (apparently only happens every couple years) so we took advantage and braved the ice. We had such a good time!

Group picture! Unfortunately we couldn't get everyone in the picture b/c the ice started to crack from the weight of everyone!

My brother-in-law Enoch...he was the best ice skater out of all of us ;)

"Grandma" Ellis with Isaiah

Hannah and Isaiah all bundled up

Doesn't he make such a joyful ice skater ;)?

My Mom...pretending like she is...flying?

My sister Charissa (on the left) with her college roommate Libby

After all the ice skating fun we were able to have my brother Jeremy and his wife Rachel over for dinner. They have been such a blessing to us throughout our relationship and now in our marriage.

We had so much fun with you guys and we can't thank you enough for your faithful friendship!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

You Alone

This morning I was reading Isaiah 60 about God being my glory and that has continually been one of those things that God has had to remind me of. It is so easy for me to glory in other things and look to other places for my hope and worth. When I come to the cross I realize that my success, attitude and any blessings I will receive is not about what I do, but it is all about what God did on the cross. That led me to write this meditation about God's desire to bless me with who He is and what He has done for me and how my heart should respond.

Creator of the heavens and earth,
Eternal One from everlasting to everlasting,
Of infinite value and majestic in holiness,
You alone are my hope and glory.

I was blind and you became my light.
I was lost and you found me.
I was weak and you became my strength.
I was lost and you gave me life.

At Your right hand are pleasures forever more.
My soul is filled with abundance in You.
Kneeling before Your cross
I find joy and peace that know no end.

Calling You Father brings more security then any worldly stronghold.
Gaining You as my reward has greater worth then any monetary value.
Being in Your army is more prestigious then any secular position.

Aside from You I have nothing,
My life is for Your glory,
My words are for Your praise,
You alone are my portion and resting place.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Debtor to grace

I was reading Isaiah 59 and when I got to verse 12 I realized how I contributed nothing to my salvation.

For our transgressions are multiplied before You,
And our sins testify against us;
For our transgressions are with us,
And as for our iniquities, we know them: (Isaiah 59:12)

But thankfully, there is an Intercessor who has won my salvation for me by bearing my sin and shame. "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)." That led me to write this meditation on Isaiah 59 this morning.

Oh Lord, how amazing your unfailing love and unstoppable power!
Despite my wickedness and sin, You became my righteousness.
Although I was at war with You, You ended my striving;
Bringing me into the light by making peace
With sacrificing Your Son on the cross for me.

Best case scenario, I was blind to You.
Worst case scenario, I was dead and could do no good.
In each scenario I was helpless and had no hope.

You saw my transgressions rapidly multiplying;
You heard my sin railing against You;
You felt my iniquities attacking Your character;
You knew there was no salvation
That I could attain on my own,
Therefore You brought salvation to me
By making Your Son wear my imperfection,
Pouring out your holy and just wrath on Your perfect Son,
Allowing me to wear His righteousness
And be reconciled to you.

Even in this state of redemption
I still walk as if I don’t know You.
As my sin abounds,
Your grace abounds even more.
The power of Your love holds me.
There is nothing I can do to escape the grip of Your mercy.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Oh Yeah Buddy

All the fans of the revoLEWtion can keep their eyes peeled for a new recording of "Oh Yeah Buddy," that is soon to be released. It's crazy to think that the Oh Yeah Buddy song almost didn't get recorded onto my revoLEWtion CD. Both the original and writing of the song have quite a mythology behind them.

I wrote the music to Oh Yeah Buddy long before I wrote the words. The music was probably the first finger picking music that I had written that I knew I wanted to put words to. I liked the music so much that I didn't want to rush to write the lyrics. I wanted the lyrics to be something upbeat and happy to match the music. One night while working third shift at the oh so fond hour of 3 A.M. I was playing the music and began singing the words, "Oh Yeah Buddy." Before I knew it, the lyrics just came to me.

revoLEWtion was recorded shortly after my first live concert. I had close to two hours worth of material and had an idea of what material I wanted to record, but was torn about recording Oh Yeah Buddy. It almost didn't get recorded until I was close to the end of the session and shouted back to the guys recording and asked, "do y'all think I should record Oh Yeah Buddy," and they respond back, "Of course man, you go to."

The 2nd recording of Oh Yeah Buddy was quite different from the first recording. The first recording was done in one taking with the vocal and music together. I was in the sanctuary of Westminster Presbyterian Church and Chris Coy was in the back with his laptop plugged into the sound board. We recorded pretty much everything with one take and then he burned it from his computer onto a CD and the rest is as they say "history."

My newest recording was quite the different experience. It was explained to the producer that it should only take 10-15 minutes and it didn't have to be profesional quality. It actually took closer to an hour and I think the producer was aiming for profesional quality although I was biting my tounge trying not to say, "no matter how much mixing you do, my voice will still sound really bad." It was definitely an awkward recording for me because I am used to recording vocals and music all at once, but the producer wanted me to lay down the music and then do the lyrics. This was a slight problem because I don't think I've ever played the song same way twice in a row. It still came out good and didn't take long to record (editing was the long part).

There were several humorous moments in this recording. Without a doubt the funniest was near the end of the recording and the head of the studio came in and heard the song and asked, "So, who is buddy?" There was also a moment when the producer said to me, "there is a certain charm to being out of tune..." I sat there thinking he was going to say I had that certain charm, but instead he begans to do some editing to attempt to make my singing sound in tune.

Speaking of people who say, amen and hallelujah...

"That's not what's important. What's important is that Lovie Smith and I are friends, that we're both Christians, and that Jesus Christ gets the glory."
-Tony Dungy in response to what it feels like to be the first African
American coach to win a Super Bowl.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Thai style

I decided to surprise Lew tonight with a big dinner, originally I was supposed to have some of my good friends over to hang out but because of the snow we had to reschedule. So when Lew came home I had prepared a large dinner that he wasn't expecting! The menu was: Spicy Thai Chicken Skewers, Lemon Dill Rice, Spinach and Orange Salad, Thai Peanut Sauce, and Sweet and Sour Pineapple Sauce. The recipes are all pretty simple...and the nicest part...they can be prepared before hand, nice! They are also very colorful which makes for a nice display.
*Note some of them are spicy, but I think you could prepare them less spicy and they would still be tasty*

Thai Chicken Skewers:
1-2 lbs chicken breast
1/2 C sweetened condensed milk (I have used condensed milk or just skim milk, both turned out great!)
1-2 tbs peanut butter (optional)
3 tbs teryaki sauce
1 Tbs white vinegar
1 tbs. red curry paste (or curry powder with some cayenne pepper for same effect)

Cut chicken into 2-3 inch long pieces. Mix all ingredients and add chicken. Marinate at least 1-2 hours (better overnight). Soak wood skewers in water at least 1 hour prior to cooking so they don't burn ( I was in a hurry and only did 30 minutes which wasn't enough and they did burn a little). Put chicken on Skewers (you can add extra stuff in between like pineapple, green peppers, onions etc...) Broil 2-3 minutes on each side (depending on your broiler) 4 inches from broiler until well cooked.

Spinach and Orange salad
This is so versatile you can pretty much use any ingredients for the salad part...I just like the dressing because it's simple and a little bit sweet and tangy...so you can make it however you want..
but here is what I did:
Baby Spinach
Blood orange cut into segments
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup white sugar
2 Tsp. salt
1 pinch ground black pepper
(You can make this different ways...the original recipe calls for mandarin orange segments, red onion, and celery...that is also very good)

Lemon Dill Rice (in rice cooker)
1 cup jasmine rice (I actually used brown basmati which was very good)
2 cups water
Lemon rind and juice from 1/2 a lemon
1/2 tsp. dill weed
1 tbs dried parsley or 1 cup fresh
2 tbs. olive oil

Spray rice cooker pan with nonstick spray, add rice water and salt to taste. Stir in remaining ingredients. cover and cook 20 minutes. Allow to stand covered for 10 min. before serving. Serves about 4.

*Note about the sauces: These sauces are only good in the fridge for 5-7 days...we can usually never use them before then so they can be frozen and used for another meal*

Peanut Sauce:
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tbs. soy sauce
1 tbs. sugar
hot pepper sauce to taste (I just add 1-2 tsp. of cayenne pepper which is usually good)
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 cup cold water

Mix all ingredients except water into a bowl. Gradually add cold water until smooth and creamy (dipping consistency)

Sweet and Sour sauce:
2 cup water
2/3 cut distilled white vinegar
1 1/2 cup white sugar
1 (6oz.) can of tomato paste
1 (8oz) can of pineapple tidbits drained
3 tbs. cornstarch

In medium saucepan over medium heat mix water, vinegar, sugar, tomato paste, pineapple and cornstarch. Cook 15 minutes stirring occasionally until desired color and consistency.

That's all folks!