Friday, March 28, 2014

I Told You So

Have you ever decided ahead of time how mad you were going to be about something before it even happened? Told yourself, “I don't want to do X because Y person is only going to do Z. And when they do Z, I’m going to be sooo mad!”? I have. I refer to it as getting “pre-angry”. Deciding ahead of time that I’m going to be extra-angry when someone fails to do what I want AGAIN, in the exact way that I’m expecting them to. I’m not sure why I think I can get extra-angry in these situations. Probably just because I predicted it and had time to stew about it before it even went down. By the time that they fail me (i.e., don’t do what I want), I’m ready to POUNCE! OR my only solution for preventing my anger (instead of just deciding: 1) to believe in the person and 2) to not be angry if they do something other than my wishes) is to decide ahead of time that I won’t be sucked in again. That I just won’t do X this time. 

That’s Jonah in this story. He was angry that God made him go to Ninevah to make this big pronouncement that he was going to destroy the whole place because of how evil they were and then didn’t live up to the promise that he had Jonah make. Jonah was mad because he knew God would want to forgive them. He knew God’s nature. He had God’s number. And the thing is: What he predicted was that God would do something amazing, not horrible. But if God was not going to destroy Ninevah (which Jonah knew he wouldn’t), then he didn’t want to waste his time making the threat. In Jonah 4:3, Jonah said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” 

Paraphrase: “I told you that you were going to do this. And now you’ve done it! That’s why I was justified in disobeying. Because I didn’t want to be sucked in again for no reason. I didn’t want to have to talk big about what you were going to do – knowing you’d never do it – and then look like a fool when you didn’t do it. But you did it! You sucked me in again, after I convinced myself that you had changed, and here we are. I’m so humiliated I could die!”

But God never changes. The good thing about that is: He’s always good. It’s not like being sucked into the messy lives of those we love who might fail us. God never fails. We may fail in wanting the right things from God. But God doesn’t drop the ball on who he is. He’s consistent. His gracious, merciful, patient, loving, relenting-from-disaster character will always hold true. Jonah was right about that. But what Jonah seemed to forget was: He didn’t deserve forgiveness (or that plant that sprouted to keep him cool) either. He’d known God long enough that he’d become entitled. He thought his relationship with God was about him. He thought he made the rules. He thought it was about what he could get out of God. 

But it’s never about us. It’s always about God. Everything. All the time. And that’s part of what Jonah got pre-angry about. Because he was going to obey God’s wishes for one reason – to tell those awful people how God was going to destroy them and everything they loved and then sit back and watch the filthy place burn like they deserved. But if God dared to make this about him again, if he dared relent, Jonah was going to be mad.

But thank goodness God dares. Thank goodness he gives us what we don’t deserve. I just pray that we Jonahs out there – who know God and the mercy and grace and love and patience and relenting that is part of his very being – don’t forget that we didn’t always know God. We didn’t always know his character. And we weren’t always the “good” people we envision ourselves to be. Thank goodness someone was willing to tell us about him – not because we deserve his grace, mercy, love, etc. – but because God is bigger than all of the things we’ve done that need grace, mercy, love, etc. 

May we never lose sight of our undeserving nature. And may we never grow weary of the steadfastness of God’s.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Crack and Cheese

I told my husband I would write down this recipe immediately, so I wouldn't forget it. And then, I don't know, life happened. Or at least something more important than writing down a recipe did. But I've had it on my mind for the last month or so. So, here it is.

It all started with this: Warm Crack Dip. I regularly make recipes from the Plain Chicken blog. It's actually written by a friend of a friend. But that's just an interesting bonus tidbit. I follow this blog for the FOOD. This chick knows how to make tasty things that are simple. And the Warm Crack Dip, which I made for the first time ever for our 2014 Super Bowl party, is just another example of one of her tasty, yet simple delights.

Once people started eating the Crack Dip, a crowd formed and hovered around it until it was gone. Well, technically, it wasn't gone. But they stopped eating it once it got hard to get, i.e. someone was going to have to be bold enough to assert themselves and turn the dish on its side to get the baked-on goodness off. But our friends, thankfully, aren't crude. So, the dish was abandoned when it got to this point. And when I say "thankfully", I partially mean: Thankfully FOR US! Because that crack dip turned into some of the best mac and cheese I have ever had!

I don't like to waste. So, when the party was over and we were cleaning up, I could (without being judged) turn that dish on its side and scrape all the rest of the goodness into Tupperware for future enjoyment. But I never actually planned to consume it the way we did.

It was a weeknight. And for some reason I had actually told Mr. Love what I was cooking. Probably because some days there's nothing more that he wants than Kraft mac & cheese. And since it's easy, some days that's quite alright by me. I can't even remember the rest of the meal. If I had to guess, I'd say pork chops and green beans ... So anyway, after making an unlikely announcement about my plan for the meal, I went to the pantry to pull out said mac & cheese. And to my dismay, there was none. So, I panicked. No, so I thought: How can I make a substitute that Love will enjoy? (He honestly prefers Kraft over so many other types of mac & cheese.) I see shells. And I start thinking about what's in the fridge. Crack! We have Crack in the fridge! This is going to be (better be!?! hopefully will be!?!) amazing, I think!

Oh, and, it was.

If my memory serves me correctly, other than the Crack dip, all I added to the cooked shells was milk. And probably salt and pepper. I got a bunch of other ingredients out, but didn't need to use them. And I honestly didn't measure the amount of milk. I just poured until it looked right. (Sorry, not much of a recipe.) Y'all - THIS STUFF WAS AMAZING! I mean, really, starting with Crack dip, it would have been hard to mess up. But still. I never imagined it would be this good.

I was going to (lamely) name it Miracle Mac because it was a miracle that I made a mac & cheese from scratch that Mr. Love liked. (I'm telling y'all, he loves my cooking. But he has this weird uber-strong comfort food association with the Kraft stuff.) But my Love (more cleverly) said it should be called Crack and Cheese. So, while I take full credit for the creation, my hat is off to him for his gift of nomenclature. Here is a pic of her delicious now:

(Sorry, I didn't think about taking a pic, until I was packing away leftovers. Yes! Leftovers! Crack dip is the gift that keeps on giving!)

All I can say is: Make Warm Crack Dip. And if you happen to be lucky enough to have any leftovers, please make Crack and Cheese. It just might change your life. You're welcome.

(NOTE: If you missed the imbedded link above to the Warm Crack Dip recipe, click here.)

Friday, March 21, 2014

Rocking the Boat

Read Jonah 1

Jonah was to be on a mission from God. He was meant to turn the people of Nineveh to the Lord by telling them that God was going to ROCK THEIR WORLD, if they didn’t repent. And what did God do when Jonah went the other way? He ROCKED THE WORLD of those that Jonah surrounded himself with instead. Literally! That boat ROCKED! Those men were throwing off everything they could think of to survive. The whole purpose of their trip likely - their cargo - was tossed. And what was the only solution for stopping the boat from rocking? To toss Jonah! 

I find it so amazing that these men, who worshipped all kinds of different gods amongst them and probably none of them had given any thought to believing in the God of Heaven before, learned to fear and ultimately trust in the one true God that day. At first, they were afraid to follow Jonah’s own instruction to throw him over. I’m sure they didn’t want to make THIS God any angrier. And then, when they threw him overboard and the sea became completely calm, 1:16 says, “Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.” 


Even in his running, Jonah’s presence was used by God as a prompt for repentance. This just shows that God didn’t need something spectacular from Jonah. He just needed him to go. He just needed him to be there, and he’d do the rest. Because God can use even the weakest vessels – often especially the weakest vessels – to get his work done. In fact, it just brings God more glory when the small and weak things are used. We just have to be willing to obey and follow him. And this story just proves, that even when we aren’t willing to follow him, God can still use the vessel (sorry, I’m a dork. so, yes, the pun was intended) to ensure his will is done. 

What an amazing story those guys had from that trip! But the best part was: They came to know the God of Heaven. And truth be told, if Jonah had never run, those guys may have never come to know the Lord. They probably wouldn’t have. I mean, unless something really rocks your world, why would you switch from what you know? 

Ultimately, God was able to turn Jonah’s story into a way better one than if Jonah had just obeyed in the first place. Now, I’m not saying we should run from God because it’ll probably just be better that way. But I am saying that God can do magnificent things to bring himself glory in the most surprising of ways. And that God can and will use our journeys, even when we intentionally or unintentionally take them off course, to bring about our own and others’ redemption. 

So, thank goodness for those storms. For the rocked boats. Because God is bigger than the storms, and he can definitely deliver grace through them.

~ Signing off under my SRT identity “JessicaLoves___”*

*The blank is meant as an intentional reminder to myself that I am to actively love Christ and all those he puts in my path.

Friday, March 14, 2014

BUT for you, O Lord ...

Written as part of the She Reads Truth #SheSharesTruth experiment

Read Psalm 38

Psalm 38 is just not my thing until I get to vs. 15. I’m generally a pretty upbeat person and really don’t like whining and self-pity. And verses 1-14 had a WHOLE LOT of those two things that I don’t like!

BUT in vs. 15 – the only verse I marked in this passage, there’s a shift. “But for you, O Lord, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.” YES! This turning to God part is something I can grab ahold of. Something I can relate to. Well, technically, I can relate to verses 1-14 too: I have been and certainly still become burdened by my sins and guilt. I can see myself for what I am and am really disgusted by my natural man sometimes. I can be foolish. And I’ve certainly had the feeling of having no one understand what I am going through. BUT wallowing is just not my way. I’d rather WAIT for God to ANSWER than wallow. I think it’s because there’s something hopeful in waiting.

Waiting implies expectancy. It implies that the answer is coming – just not right now, or maybe I just don’t know when. BUT if I’m waiting, it’s because I BELIEVE it’s coming in some form or fashion at some point or other. And I can believe in believing.
The rest of the chapter, he still bemoans his state; BUT it’s different. It’s from the lens of the wait, the hope. And there’s confession. In the first 14 verses, there was an acknowledgement of sin in order to point out that God was punishing him for it. BUT the remaining verses show real penitence, which is what we are called to. Not just owning up to the fact that we sin, but turning from it, and recognizing that God is THE ANSWER to our need for salvation.
I also relate to the “Make haste to help me” request in vs. 22. Because at the end of the day, he’s still human. And he still needs relief. And we always want help to come as quickly as possible. So, he’ll wait; he knows God will answer. But if he could just have one other small request, it would be that it happens tomorrow.

May we not lose hope in our tomorrows, no matter how long they last. And may we continue to lean on the confidence that he is our Lord and God “who WILL answer”.

~ Signing off under my SRT identity “JessicaLoves___”*


*The blank is meant as an intentional reminder to myself that I am to actively love Christ and all those he puts in my path.

Friday, March 7, 2014


Written as part of the She Reads Truth #SheSharesTruth experiment

Steadfast is not a word that we often use. I think the reason for this is that so few things in our lives are actually steadfast. Steadfast generally means fixed, firm, unwavering. In fact, in my dictionary app, the word “firm” is used in three of the five definitions: 1) firm in purpose, resolution, faith, attachment, as a person 2) firmly established, as an institution or state of affairs and 3) firmly fixed in place or position.

God’s love is not going anywhere! It’s there. It’s steadfast. We may come and go in loving him, or in showing that we love him by following him. But at the end of the day, if/when we come to him (or come back to him, as the case may be), he’s there. But the thing is: he never leaves us. He is always there. We don’t escape him when we pull away. We don’t escape him when we sin. We don’t escape him when we lose a bit of ourselves to the world. We just escape feeling the love that is always there for us. We put a barrier between ourselves and God when we stop living like him that makes it hard for us to feel his love. But it’s not because the love lessens or goes away. In fact, there’s nothing that can shake his firm, fixed, unwavering love for us. But how can this be?

Because of his abundant, plentiful redemption. We know that, in our relationships, they don’t work if we aren’t willing to forgive. They just don’t. People aren’t perfect; and if we can’t forgive them, we don’t really love them. But God’s redemption is more than that. It’s more than us saying “sorry” and him saying “I forgive you”. Our understanding of God’s mercy and redemption is often limited to us having guilt, apologizing and getting an “It’s OK. I still love you” feeling.

But the redemption of our lives from sin and the resulting eternal death is SO MUCH BIGGER than this type of forgiveness. Redemption comes at a cost. When we redeem a coupon, the company that lured us to the store to buy their item had to take a hit to their bottom line for us to purchase said item. Our acceptance of their offer actually hurts them in some ways. But it’s worth it to them for us to have their product. And let’s be real: What God’s offering is SO MUCH BIGGER than anything we could ever redeem from any store on earth; and the cost to him – the sacrifice of his son Jesus – is so much greater. But it was WORTH IT to him. Because he loves us! And the awesome thing is: his redemption is there for the taking. It’s always there, just like his love. We have only to come to him, confess to him and let him in. He is always there, waiting, to make good on his offer to love steadfastly and redeem with abundance.