Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Point to Ponder

My mom forwarded me one of those "make you think" emails this morning, and I was struck by a statement at the end of the email:

"Too many Christians are no longer
fishers of men
but keepers of the aquarium."

When I first read it, I thought, "Aww that's cute. What a creative little play on words." But then I really thought about it and realized how much (sad) truth is in that statement. I'm pretty sure Jesus intended His followers to be the former, not the latter.

"And he said to them, 'Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.'"- Matthew 4:19

There is no extra statement that says "but some of you will be keepers of the aquarium instead." I don't mean to make light of the Word; it's just funny how we think sometimes. And it's disheartening how we live, even in light of what the Word says. Talk about convicting! So the point to ponder...am I living as a fisher of men or a keeper of the aquarium?


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My Name is Written on His Heart

This morning I am blown away by the fact that the holy God of the universe loves me and wants to know me. Who am I that He is mindful of me, who am I that He cares for me? Tiny, insignificant, completely sinful me...and the Lord Almighty calls me His own and desires to be in relationship with me. My God loved me enough to die for me, and I am made holy because of His sacrifice. Before the foundations of the world, He wanted to call me His own and use me for His purposes. What an incredibly humbling reality to know that my name is written on God's heart...

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea:
A great High Priest, whose name is Love,
Who ever lives and pleads for me.

My name is graven on his hands,
My name is written on his heart;
I know that while in heaven he stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look, and see him there
Who made an end of all my sin.

Because a sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God, the Just, is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Praise the One, Risen Son of God!

Behold him there, the risen Lamb
My perfect, spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I am,
The King of glory and of grace!

One in himself, I cannot die
My soul is purchased by his blood
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ, my Savior and my God
With Christ, my Savior and my God

If you have a relationship with Christ, I pray you live in the reality today that your name is written on His heart...


Sunday, September 19, 2010

A (Broken and Contrite) Heart of Worship

This morning at the Gathering, we spent time in song and prayer through one of my favorite models/methods of coming before the Lord: A.C.T.S.


We read through verses and sang songs that pertained to each section, and it was such a sweet time of intimate worship with my Savior. I am so grateful for the humble leaders who desire for us to have a true heart of worship. So many times we as believers rush into a worship song, say a prayer, and get started with the message, forgetting the state of our hearts and the fact that we are entering into the presence of a HOLY God. Even in my study of Isaiah this week, we are reading about meaningless offerings that the Lord detests. It breaks my heart to think that I too often bring empty words to my Lord...He is worthy of so much more!

We tell ourselves and others that the Lord hears our prayers (which He does), but we must not forget that God desires a broken and contrite heart. And the reality is that God doesn't hear all of our prayers....

"When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen." ~ Isaiah 1:15

Israel had been worshipping with meaningless words and empty hearts, and the Lord refused to listen to their prayers. They had not repented of the sin in their lives and He hid His eyes from them. It really makes me stop and examine my own heart when I approach God in worship/prayer. Is my heart pure enough to approach the God of the universe? Please understand that I realize I am washed in the blood of the Lamb, and am therefore pure before God; it's the only way I have any opportunity to approach the throne of God. But my sin still mars my communication with the Lord. If my heart is not right before the Lord, my songs and prayers are meaningless. I love Psalm 51- we read it this morning and I have been meditating on it today...

"Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love, according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.  For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; build up the walls of Jersualem; then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar." 


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things...

This post is completely random, but here are a few of my favorite things right now :)

1. My New Bible: I recently decided that I wanted a new Bible. There was nothing wrong with my old one...it has been my trusty companion for 10 years now! I was sitting in church the other day, reading the notes in my margin from when I was in high school and college. It's amazing to see where I was during that time in my life! But I decided that I wrote down the most random things in the margins. And I apparently went through a phase where I underlined everything haha. So I decided that it was time for a new, more "grown-up" Bible. After some research, I settled on the ESV, and I love it! We're starting the Isaiah study for BSF soon, and we have already started the Acts study with the 20s group, so it's fun to start these new studies with a fresh (clean-paged) Bible.

2. Pumpkin: whether it's a spiced pumpkin latte from Starbucks, a sweet roll or muffin, a table decoration, or a great scented candle...it reminds me that fall is just around the corner!

3. This Kid: ok- this kid is hilarious! He's 15 and he does music videos in his room...he's just fun to watch haha! If I have had a stressful day and need to laugh- he's a good antecdote. the videos marked "with me" are the best because he just lip-synchs lol. Props to you, kid, for having fun and not being afraid to be yourself :)


4. The Everlasting Treat: "Provides hours of mental stimulation; virtually indestructible for the toughest of chewers" = Sasha. This is one of the suggestions Laura gave me for keeping Sasha occupied while guests are over. It didn't last forever, but it did keep her occupied and quiet for a couple of hours :)

5. This Card (and the boy who gave it to me): it makes me smile every time I pass by it; it's so cute. Mike left it for me with a sweet note inside, and it's a reminder of how truly blessed I am to be with him!


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Ground Zero

It's been 9 years since the fateful "9/11." Even though some time has passed, I still want to lift up in prayer the family members and friends that were lost in that attack. Their lives changed that day, and because it was such a public and national event, they will always have to re-live it in the spotlight.

My heart breaks at the idea that so much hate has surrounded this one event. Even in recent weeks with the controversy over the plans to build a mosque near ground zero...I can't help but be embarassed and disappointed in the responses that have ignited. Logically, I don't agree with the need to build a mosque there. I personally feel it is in bad taste, and I don't agree with the teachings of Islam simply because it is not Truth. I struggle with a "religion" that teaches/tolerates hatred and violence...and yet how many things have been done in the name of Christ that Christ had no part of?

Frankly, I have been astonished at the outcry from the so-called "Christian" community. Do we not understand the concept of religious freedom? While I don't agree with the teachings of Islam, I don't think we have a right to deny them their religious freedom to build a mosque. When we start banning their religion (or any religion for that matter), we start down a slippery slope that I don't think "Christians" are prepared to face. I am grateful for my religious freedom, and for the soldiers that leave their families and fight for me to have it. I recognize that it is a unique blessing to live in a country where I have no fear of meeting with fellow believers, praying, reading the Word. If we were really honest with ourselves, and really took a look around the world, we would realize we don't know the meaning of persecution in this country.

Aside from the religious freedom, I have been angered by the hate-filled words and actions that have been thrown around in recent weeks- from people claiming Christ. And I'm not just talking about the people who get their 10 minutes of fame in the media. I'm talking about conversations I have had recently with friends, co-workers, and even strangers. Again, I am not defending Islam or even the decision to build the mosque near ground zero; it is important for believers to stand for Truth. But what would Christ say about all of this hatred and abuse? I truly believe that recent words and actions are far from the heart of God and are only grieving His Spirit. We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves (which includes our Muslim neighbors, by the way), and we are to do so with humility and grace.

We need to remember that we are in a battle for the souls of men...is this truly how we are called to "fight"? And do we really think that hate-filled words and actions are going to show the love of Christ and win over a perishing and lost world? Please think before you speak; pray before you act; love in word and deed in a way that honors and glorifies Christ.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Enchilada Success!

So Mike has been asking for chicken enchiladas for awhile now. Despite telling him that I am not a super great cook (and have even been known to start small kitchen fires), he thinks that because I am half Hispanic I should know how to do these things. Eh- maybe I should. The Polish half of me says it's ok that I don't haha. I'm not a complete dunce in the kitchen...let's just say it's not one of my strong points- something I can definitely work on. Part of it is that it's hard/no fun to cook for one person; I definitely enjoy it more when I am cooking for other people. And of course, Mike is all too willing to be someone I cook for :)

So I set out to make chicken enchiladas...and it was a success! There are definitely some things I would tweak about the recipe (like making more sauce), but overall they turned out great and were really yummy! It's not a quick recipe- no truly great Mexican dish is- but it's not difficult. It is a little time intensive, but I can already recognize some ways to save time. It's also not super healthy (again- no truly great Mexican dish is haha).

Anway, it was fun to cook for him, and I am really excited that they turned out pretty good! Maybe there's hope for me after all ;)

Photo/flowers courtesy of Mike :)

Here are the recipes- enjoy!

Chicken Enchiladas with Roasted Tomatillo Chile Salsa
Recipe courtesy of Tyler Florence (+ a couple of my own tweaks)
Roasted Tomatillo Chile Salsa:
1 lb. tomatillos, husked
1 white onion, quartered
4 garlic cloves
2 jalapenos
2 serrano peppers (if you want to make it spicy!)
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1/2 lime, juiced

~Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 cups chicken stock
chopped cilantro leaves
1 deli roasted chicken, boned, meat shredded*
10 large flour tortillas
1/2 lb. monterey jack cheese, shredded
2 cups sour cream
~chopped tomatoes and cilantro leaves, for garnish

*Deli Roasted Chicken: Place 3 balls of foil at the bottom of a crockpot. Rub full chicken with Lawry's Seasoned Salt, then place in crockpot and cook on low for 10 hours. The chicken is really flavorful and practically shreds on its own after being in the crockpot all day!

For the Salsa:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. On a baking tray, roast tomatillos, onion, garlic, jalapenos, and serrano peppers for 12-15 minutes. Transfer the roasted vegetables and any juices on the bottom of the tray to a food processor. Add the cumin, salt, cilantro, and lime juice and pulst mixture until well combined but still chunky.

Meanwhile, heat a 2 count of olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and caramelized- this should take 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cumin then cook for another minute. Sprinkle the flour and stir to ensure the flour doesn't burn then graduatlly add the chicken stock to make a veloute. Continue stirring over a low simmer until the flour cooks and the liquid thickens. Turn off the heat, add half of the roasted tomatillo chile salsa, some additional fresh chopped cilantro and fold in the shredded chicken meat. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Change the temperature of the oven to 350 degrees F and begin assembling the dish. Take a large baking dish and smear the bottom with some of the reserved tomatillo salsa. Now take the flour tortillas and briefly flash them over the stove-top flame (or put them briefly under the broiler if using an electric stove). Using a shallow bowl, coat each tortilla lightly with the reserved salsa mix. Put a scoop of the shredded chicken mix on top of the tortilla followed by a sprinkle of the shredded cheese. Fold the tortilla over the filling and roll like a cigar to enclose it. Using a spatula place the tortillas in the baking dish and continue to do the same with all the tortillas. Finally pour over some more of the salsa and top with the remaining shredded cheese. Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes until bubbly and cracked on top. Garnish with cilantro and tomato.

Serve hot with Spicy Black Beans and Yellow Rice, the remaining tomatillo salsa, sour cream and fresh guacamole, if desired.

Spicy Black Beans
1 cup dried black beans, picked over, soaked overnight
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf

In a large pot, soak beans overnight covered in water by 2 inches. Drain and set aside.

In the same pot, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, jalapeno pepper, garlic, and bay leaf and cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the beans and cover with water by about 1-inch. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the beans are tender. Remove the bay leaf and discard. Taste the beans and season with salt and pepper.

Yellow Rice
1 cup long grain rice
2 cups water
1 clove garlic, smashed
1/2 tbsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. salt
1 bay leaf

Put all the ingredients into a heavy-bottomed pot, stir well, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook over low heat until the rice has absorbed the water, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Discard the garlic and bay leaf, fluff with a fork, and serve.

A few thoughts to save time...
1. The night before: soak the black beans; you can also do your chopping/dicing if you want to save time when you are ready to make the meal
2. The morning of: season and place chicken in crock pot to cook all day
3. When you're ready to make the meal: make the black beans first, as they have the longest cook time, then the enchiladas, and then the rice

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My Name is Erin, and I Have a Disobedient Dog

They say the first step is to admit you have a problem, right? I am usually pretty disciplined in most areas of my life, so to admit to the blog world (and all 3 of my readers haha), I feel silly for having a weird sense of broken pride and embarassment in admitting this. Sigh. But here it is: I have a problem, and her name is Sasha...

Anyone who knows me well, knows I love my dog. From the moment I brought home that bundle of fur, I was smitten. There have been enough posts along the way that highlight my obsession love for my dog. In the 3 years that I have had her, she has been my running buddy, my roommate, my protector, and a sweet presence to come home to every day.

But in the 3 years I have had her, we have developed some bad habits that have turned into behavior issues. As much as I love my dog, she's crazy. A few days ago, she had one of her worst days in which she had every behavioral issue she has ever had in a matter of 2 hours. I was so frustrated with her and at a point where I was even ready to find her another home. I readily admit my lack of discipline in certain areas of her behavior training, but have really reached the end of my knowledge on dog training. I don't believe that pets should be flippantly disposable, so I reached out to my friend Laura for help.

So Sasha is spending the week with Laura so that she can learn my dog's personality and figure out how to motivate her. The hope is to come away with some positive, tangible things to work on. Sasha is smart; she just can be too stubborn for her own good. Laura said a lot of her dismissive and carefree attitude is a result of her boxer traits...she said boxers are really difficult to train because they pretty much do their own thing (ummm...Sasha). So at least I know what I am up against...

The main issues that we plan to work on are:
  • Learning how to politely greet people when they come over
  • Learning how to occupy herself and leave company alone if they don't want to pet her (essentially learning that everything is not about her haha)
  • Breaking the habits of barking/whining when she just wants attention
  • Learning how to calm dawn when she gets into one of her "crazy" modes
Please understand that I am completely aware of the fact that owning a dog is a luxury. I recognize that my dog lives better than most of the world's human population. I have to constantly remind myself of this when I start to become too focused on/obssessed with her. The thought of ever having to give my sweet puppy away breaks my heart, but I recognize that she is just a dog. So I am really hoping that Laura can help us get back on track so that I can have a sweet, submissive puppy back :)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Perfect Evening

I love the rain. Perhaps I love it even more tonight because we have had so little this summer. It is just such a welcome relief to the endless heat we have had. But I have always loved rain. I really enjoy a good thunderstorm too! It's such a fun reminder of how awesome our God is. I just seem to feel His power in the rolls of thunder. When I was little, I used to be really afraid of thunder. But now that I am older (and more grown up haha), I really look forward to hearing it. It means a good storm is coming! Lightning shows are fun and who doesn't enjoy seeing a rainbow when it all clears?

While I enjoy playing in the rain as much as anyone, I enjoy it more when I can stay home, curled up with a good book and cup of tea, and just watch/listen to it fall. It's so calming and relaxing. And probably one of my most favorite things in the world is to fall asleep to the sound of rain on the window.

So tonight I was able to stay home and enjoy the rain...curled up with the Word, candles lit, tea steeped, rain gently tapping on the window...the perfect evening :)