Have I Not Commanded You?

Joshua 1:9

Joshua 1:8-9

8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

The phrase “have I not commanded you?” really stuck out to me this time because it is a reminder for me that I should be doing what I need to be doing…loving God, loving others, casting off sin, and putting on the fruit of the Spirit. Now I know that the verse is saying be strong and courageous, but bear with me and we will come back to this point.

In verse 9 the author is referring to the countless times that God has commanded the people of Israel to be strong and courageous. In fact my Bible lists at least five times that God instructed Israel to not fear in Deuteronomy (1:21; 7:29; 20:3; 31:6, 8). They were not trusting that God was there with them, that He would do what he promised, and that He had their best in mind. I hear this stern but gentle reminder to them to read the Law again, to not forget, to rely on God.

Here I am sitting on a comfy orange couch reading the words– be strong, be courageous, be not dismayed. I am not facing death or war or conquest. My battle is the sin in my life, how to live in the world but not of the world, and how to love others that are not like me.

Be strong and courageous to cast off the sin that so easily entangles.

Be strong and courageous to put on the fruit of the Spirit– love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22).

Do not be dismayed for the Spirit has enabled you to no longer be a slave to sin (Romans 6:17-18).

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Disruption of Harmony #SheSharesTruth

Our sin brings consequences. David makes that very clear in Psalm 38– illness, humiliation, shame, anxiety, weakness, pain, disunity. The result of his one action has brought immeasurable pain upon himself as well as separation from God and those around him. Such is the price of sin; it is a big deal! Cornelius Plantinga Jr. in his book Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin shares these biblical images about sin:

“Sin is the missing of a target, a wandering from the path, a straying from the fold. Sin is a hard heart and a stiff neck. Sin is blindness and deafness. It is both the overstepping of a line and the failure to reach it — both transgression and shortcoming. Sin is a beast crouching at the door…Sin is disruption of created harmony and then resistance to divine restoration of that harmony” (pg 5).

However, even in view of sin, we are not hopeless. David has not resolved to let his enemies overtake him and discourage him. His ‘woe is me’ is interlaced with waiting and hope. Does hope not require waiting?

Verse 15 says, “Yet I wait for you, O Lord! You will respond, O Lord, my God!” (NET Bible)

Verses 21-22 say, “Do not abandon me, O Lord! My God, do not remain far away from me! Hurry and help me, O Lord, my deliverer!” (NET Bible)

David knows that the Lord is not absent, that the Lord has delivered him, and that the Lord protects him. Because of these promises and experiences he has hope that does not disappoint (Romans 5:5).

Psalm 27:1 “The Lord delivers and vindicates me! I fear no one! The Lord protects my life! I am afraid of no one!”

Note: Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin is a deep look at sin. It is convicting, but it brings you to a place to see how awesome and perfect our God is. It is more on the academic side, so it is certainly not light reading.

The Disparity Between Light & Darkness

I have been reading a lot of books recently- children’s and adult fiction books alike. There are those stories that are understandable and even interesting, but I am caught by the adjectives that disrupt the flow but are trying desperately to paint a vivid picture. Contrastingly, there are some books that stick with me and captivate my attention that feel as if I am listening and watching a beautiful story play out before my eyes. I find that in those moments when I am captivated by a book that I am able to think more deeply about life. Maybe it’s the depth of the story or the openness of my heart or the trust in the characters, but whatever it is, it can be life changing.

As I began Book the Second in The Tale of Despereaux, I was sad to be leaving behind the tales of a passionate mouse. However, I was struck with a beautiful picture of the disparity between light and darkness.

John 3:19-20 (ESV)

19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

In The Tale of Despereaux, Kate DiCamillo paints a fascinating picture of two rats, Roscuro and Botticelli, who were both born into darkness and are urged to love the darkness from their very beginnings. Yet Roscuro, which is short for Chiaroscuro (meaning “the arrangement of light and dark, darkness and light together” p.85), is enraptured by the hope and meaning that light brings. Botticelli, illustrative of the tempter, seeks to convince Roscuro that darkness has worth and meaning— “The meaning of life is suffering, specifically the suffering of others. Prisoners, for instance. Reducing a prisoner to weeping and wailing and begging is a delightful way to invest your existence in meaning.” (pg. 88)

Roscuro believes the lie of darkness and asks for the next prisoner. He is given his first prisoner to torture but not before he sees a glimmer of afternoon sunlight streaming down into the dungeon. He is captivated once again. Even so the lies of darkness quickly overtake him—“’Listen,’ said Botticelli, ‘this is what you should do: Go and torture the prisoner. Go and take the red cloth from him. The cloth will satisfy your cravings for something from that world. But do not go up into the light. You will regret it. You do not belong in that world. You are a rat. A rat. Say it with me.’” (pg. 96)

As I sit here thinking about New Years resolutions and moving forward in 2014, I am caught by the questions— In what areas in my life am I believing that the darkness is better than the light? Am I living like the true light has come? Do my words, thoughts, and deeds clearly show that it is God in me? Ponder this with me.

“What a disappointment it was! Looking at it, Roscuro knew that Botticelli was wrong. What Roscuro wanted, what he needed, was not the cloth, but the light that had shone behind it. He wanted to be filled, flooded, blinded again with light.” (pg. 102)

In all respects I want to choose the light over the darkness.

Searching for Cornbread

As a child I didn’t like cornbread for two reasons. First my sister liked it, and secondly it was cut into triangles. Silly I know, but cornbread tastes better cut into rectangles. As I got older I realized that it is simply ridiculous to forgo my Grannie’s southern cornbread just because of a few hard feelings. Before moving to Moscow I was a cook-it-straight-out-of-a-box kinda girl (not just for cornbread). After moving to Moscow I realized that cornbread is one of my comfort foods, so I needed to learn how to make it. During the past year I have had a difficult relationship with cornbread because I just couldn’t seem to get the right texture, flavor, or moisture. I almost gave up on cornbread after a terrible experience at Thanksgiving, but as a foreigner failure is no stranger. I decided to combine a few recipes and a little bit of my new baking experience to finally settle on a good recipe. After about 6 unfortunate cornbread recipes, I have finally settled with my very own.

cornbread

Cornbread Recipe

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup melted butter, plus 1 Tablespoon for the pan

1 cup buttermilk (or 1 T vinegar, then fill to the 1 cup line with milk)

2 eggs

1/2 cup canned corn, drained

Preheat the oven to 400F (204C). Melt 1 T of butter in an 8×8 inch pan in the oven being careful not to burn the butter. Combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Combine 1/3 cup melted butter, buttermilk, and eggs in a small mixing bowl. Lightly beat the buttermilk and egg mixture. Then add to the dry ingredients. Stir just until all of the dry ingredients are wet but still lumpy. Fold in the corn. Bake for 20-30 minutes until the top is golden brown.

Two Different Things

It had been raining all day– the clouds were gray and moving quickly overhead. The uneven sidewalks were littered with puddles. Yet the babushkas and dedushkas (grandmas and grandpas) had already emerged to sell their home produce carefully displayed on cardboard boxes and plastic tarps.

I passed a group of two babushkas and one dedushka each selling different types of produce. I glanced back as I recalled the comment my husband had made earlier in the week about the corn looking good on the walk home from school.

“It’ll go well with taco salad,” I thought to myself.

As I did a double take the man selling the corn turned to talk to the babushkas near him. When the women saw me approaching, they shooed the man back over to his cardboard box displaying two small piles of corn.

“Do you have a bag?” He inquired.

“Yes,” as I pointed to my backpack. He looked slightly discontent with this answer, but I wasn’t phased because after all it was only two ears of corn.

“I would like two,” I said confidently as I got out forty rubles in coins.

“Do you have bills?” He asked.

“Yes,” I answered slightly confused until I realized that he had been saying two hundred instead of twenty. That should have been a red flag because  two ears of corn should certainly not cost two hundred rubles (about $6). I pondered how I had seen corn for twenty rubles across the street just the other day.

Nevertheless, I handed him two hundred rubles.

Backpack full of corn

I took off my backpack, and I opened the outside zippered pocket to put in the two ears of corn that I thought I had just purchased. He placed the two ears of corn into my backpack much to my delight, but he didn’t like how it fit. I showed that there is an open pocket that he could place it in instead. He added 3 more ears of corn to that pocket. My backpack was starting to get a bit dirty, and if he added any more corn my other groceries were sure to be squashed.

He motioned to the bigger compartment which was already full of groceries. By this time, I was already smiling at how comical this must look trying to fill a full backpack on the wet sidewalk with half husked corn. Plus the dedushka was so happy to be helping me pack up the corn that I couldn’t help but smile at him.

Then he proceeded to shove the other pile of corn (five more ears) into the open compartment. I just stood back and smiled trying not to laugh at how two people can try to communicate and inevitably understand two completely different things. I had just bought two piles of corn (ten ears) instead of two ears! To top it all off he transferred the other five ears into the big compartment to the point that it would barely zip. I bent down to help him zip the backpack the rest of the way. When I looked up he was beaming, and it looked as if he was just going to jump in the air and give me a big hug.

He certainly made my day a little brighter! Oh, the joys of cross cultural (mis) communication.

From Fretting to Trusting

God is sovereign.

God is good.

If I am to go on with the next few thoughts, then I must believe those statements.

“Fret not yourself because of evildoers…” (Psalm 37:1) But wait a minute if I don’t worry, who will? Worrying gives me a sense that I am in control of the situation. Still I don’t find a good outcome in the Bible for those who worry. “Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil” (Psalm 37:8b)– God knows that worry is a waste of energy and it slowly corrodes the heart and mind. If I choose to stay fretting and worrying, I am saying that God does not have control over this and he may or may not act in my best interest.

However if I choose to turn from fretting to trusting, I am saying to God– You are sovereign; you know what is best; you are good. The Lord has given us such a strong promise for those who trust– “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.” (Psalm 37:5) HE WILL ACT! (I get a picture in my head of Aslan acting on behalf of Peter, Susan, Edmond, and Lucy. When Aslan roars things go right!) When I imagine God acting on my behalf, my worry just fades away.

It is easy to remember that I am not supposed to worry, but it is difficult to actually not worry. Today I heard a question that really shook me up– do even 99% of things that we worry will happen actually end up happening? No, but there are those times when they do happen or they were worse than I feared. In those moments God is still sovereign. God is still good. Why then do I cling so desperately to worry which God so clearly abhors?

Fret not yourself. Psalm 37:1

Do not be anxious about your life. Matthew 6:25

Do not be anxious about anything. Philippians 4:6

He does not leave us with a list of things not to do, but He gives us a promise of what will happen if we turn our worry into trust in Him.

Psalm 37:3-4 “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Hand them over to the Lord with prayer knowing that Our God never fails, never runs out, and never grows weary. He is big enough to handle all of our worry!

Psalm37