21 July 2011

A Night Owl's Growing Convictions on the Importance of Daylight

"I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness." (John 12:46)

I woke up at 2:38 this morning with an incredible headache. And I'm not sure why, but a headache is one of the few things that actually will get me out of bed in the morning and keep me there. Perhaps that is why God allows me headaches in the night. Perhaps not.

Regardless, I took something and went back to bed, and slept for approximately three more hours. Considering that I only slept for a total of about five hours (and most of that was intermittent), it's quite an amazing thing that I'm not still in bed at the moment. I don't often function on five hours of sleep.

After letting the dogs out and putting the kettle on to boil water, I settled in with my Bible and the study I'm using as an opening devotional (since I completed it a few years ago and want to review some of the incredible truths that lie within - "Knowing God by Name" by Mary Kassian). I read my day's worth from the One Year (I'm in Leviticus and Mark, I think). Leviticus normally excites me, which I'm well aware of as being strange, but it just wasn't hitting me in the heart this morning as I emerged from my headache-induced fog.

As I sat there, I pondered over something that I prayed while Chris and I walked through our neighborhood the other night - that I hadn't thanked God for the season that He has just walked us through - and the following verse popped into my head (thank you, nearly 10 years of summer Bible camp):

"In everything, give thanks."

Which of course led me to the question, "Where the heck is that passage?" and "What around it might give me a better understanding of what that means?"

Amazingly, I still remember that reference pretty well (not a normal occurrence - the references are always the difficult part for me). I flipped open to 1 Thessalonians 5 and spent the next few hours steeped in the wonderment of trying to figure out verses 4-24, and what they mean to me.
But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
There are more than a few things that I took away from this passage as convictions for my own life, but I'll only highlight a few (to avoid an even longer post, but perhaps I'll share more at another time).

The first is simply this: I need to belong to the daylight.

I have long been a 'night owl' and have attempted to justify my life in that respect. It is easy for me to stay up all night as long as I make it past midnight, but I rarely do anything that is worth doing so late. Now don't get me wrong - I understand fully that the meaning implied here is more metaphorical than literal - but I think (at least in my case) there's an actual reason for the metaphor that can be applied to the way I think about life.

It hit me this morning that there is a stillness in the early morning, just as there is in the middle of the night - but it is more glorious. The stillness of the night is magnified because I can see clearly what lies around me, and I am less apt to dwell upon myself and more apt to see myself in the light of who God is and what He has made me to be.

Additionally, I came to the realization that people live in the daylight. If my aim in life is to cultivate relationship with those around me in the hope that we each might each be justified and sanctified by the blood spent on the cross on our behalf, I can't expect that to happen when most people aren't awake or available! It is difficult to "admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, [or] be patient with them all," if I am not part of the daylight when opportunities to do so are most likely to present themselves.

How easily I have catered to my flesh, attempting to rationalize my need to sleep for (up to) half of the day because I didn't get to bed until late after having done little (if nothing) of sufficient worth for which to remain awake!

Part of why I think I struggle to "hold fast to what is good [and] abstain from every form of evil," is that I cannot see through the darkness. This can be metaphorical for me, as I have periodically battled with depression, but I think it can still be literal, as well.
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. (John 3:19)
The society in which we live glorifies the darkness. When reading the verse quoted in the last paragraph, I found myself wanting to know where the loopholes were for "every form of evil." It is easy to think that my life must contain evil things because the culture in which we live is evil. But we deceive ourselves if we think we cannot abstain.

Darkness is striving into the daylight, and what was once hidden in shame is now socially acceptable to be seen and known. Let us not be deceived, for God will not be mocked - we will reap the destruction of sowing to our flesh (Galatians 6: 7-8).

The beauty of it all is this:
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5)
In truth, the darkness cannot overcome it. What a marvelous thing! The glory of the risen Christ will always drown out the darkness. He is greater.
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9) 

12 July 2011

Peaches & Recipes!

In honor of all the lifestyle and food blogs I've been gravitating toward lately, I digress from my usual program to bring you this:

I love Colorado peaches. Having spent many of my summers growing up on the Western slope as the crops came in, I'm all sorts of supportive for peaches and sweet corn.

So I purchased some peaches when I last went to the store, and we've been enjoying them. Sometimes right out of the fridge (cold and refreshing) and sometimes like this:

And sometimes like this:

We love peach crisp. Tasty stuff, especially fresh from the oven with a bit of (or a lot of) vanilla ice cream...

Seriously, though, we're enjoying our new kitchen and have been trying to eat at home more. A few examples include carnitas in the crock pot (left) and honey chicken (right). Both are modifications off of recipes - the carnitas comes from a slow cooker book recipe for shredded beef, but I use pork and whatever peppers/chilies I can find, and the honey chicken is a Rachael Ray recipe, but with a lime-for-lemon juice substitution and some bell peppers for added flavor (and we don't make the rice the way she does - just white for us, please).

If you're interested, you can find the Rachael Ray recipe here:

The Reynolds' Carnitas
(based on "Shredded Beef for Tacos" from Fix It and Forget It, p. 126)

4-5 lb pork roast, scored deeply on top (if smaller, just decrease veggies)
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves
1 tsp. salt
pepper to taste
1 cup water

Mix & match chilies based on desired heat level:
(Last time for us - mild chilies and four jalapenos, as we couldn't find serranos)
2 serrano chilies, chopped
1 can (small - 4 oz, I think) mild chilies
2 seeded green jalapenos
2 seeded red jalapenos

Grease slow cooker (I prefer an olive oil spray, as it's easy) and add meat (scored side up), onions, chilies, garlic, salt, and water. I prefer to put all of the veggies together before adding them in, but it shouldn't make a difference in the outcome. I just make sure that they fall into the scoring, so the flavor seeps in through the middle of the meat as well as the outside.

Cover. Cook on High 6-8 hours. You can also cook on High for 4 hrs and then turn it to Low for 4 hrs - totally up to you.

Shred meat with forks. Put into tortillas with sour cream, cheese, rice, beans, lettuce, salsa - whatever your heart desires really. Leftovers are great for quesadillas, tacos, and a variety of other tasty foods.