Advent Day 2: The Age of Prophets



The first prophecies from God were spoken as early as 800 B.C.  That is not to say that only then were God's peoples warned because we have Noah and the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah and a few more examples to prove otherwise.  God warned  his people many times throughout the ages to remember who HE was and who he had called them to be, a people  created in His own image, a people to be set apart.

A prophet is a mouthpiece and he may use various means to convey his message.  While others might doubt his calling, the prophet has no doubt that he has heard from God.   He is so convicted by what he has experienced that he could not veer left or right from his message even though it might mean ostracization, imprisonment or death.  All prophecies began with warnings of the consequences of sin and while there were some messages that were meant to comfort and give hope, the main purpose of prophecies were to warn God's people of the impending disaster if they continued in their reckless ways.

Following the reign of David and Solomon, the nation of Israel fell further and further away from God.  The  period from Amos through Malachi spanned a little less than 300 years and  was called the Age of Prophecy.

The Age of Prophecy may be divided into three categories.   Pre-Exilic, Exilic and Post Exilic.  

God had a lot to say in that  three century timeframe.  He used different men, each with a different message to try and reach his people.  Scholars have pondered that many of the men used the same key phrases and words to spread the message even though they were often distant from one another in education, rank of birth,  as well as eras.  Their messages were similar enough to bear taking notice of.

The prophecies  at this time warned the people and the nation Israel of coming judgement because of their disregard of God.  The Israelites had ceased to worship God or to follow His Torah laws.  Often the priests and kings were even more corrupt than the people whom they were meant to lead.  But at the heart of every prophet's message was also the consoling voice of a God who loved them enough to shepherd them.   

In the Hebrew there are two words used for repent.  The first is the word NACHAM.  According to Strong's Concordance the word means 'to be sorry' and comes from an ancient root word that means "To sigh,  with a heavy breath."   Another definition is to grieve or lament.  This word is used often in the books of the prophets but only once in Isaiah.  The second word is "SHUB" and means to turn back, return.  It is SHUB that is most often used in Isaiah.  Return.

But it is NACHAM that speaks to me this week.  It is a deep sigh of sorrow, it is a sigh filled with longing.  It is a sigh that comes directly from the aching heart within me. I have been so removed from God.  I have been lost.

In examining the five tumultuous years behind me, I see that God wasn't distant from me.  He has been there all along. If I felt  God was distant, it was because  I distanced myself from God a little more with each hard thing.   It was because I didn't want to hear from Him, I didn't want to continue to examine the painful moments of my life, or understand why I must go through the things I did.    I wanted to shelter in my routines and my busyness and not be bothered with the tasks of self examination and earnest seeking.


Scripture: Psalm 23 KJV

Advent Day 1: Journey of the Heart




Lately I've had a deep yearning that I couldn't quite put my finger on.  There were slight irritations, a sense of anxiety that threatened to overwhelm me at times and a tension in my shoulders.  I often found myself lying awake in the middle of the night, no matter how tired I'd been upon going to bed.  

Something was missing in my life.   I've felt I was distant and far removed from God.  I read my Bible and I say my prayers for others each morning and for my family each night, but I cannot deny any longer that I feel I am far away from my God.  

I sat down one morning this week with these thoughts on my heart and confessed to John that I'd lost heart. 

 As I had thought on this earlier in the week, I blamed our church.  I blamed John.  I blamed God.  I'd cried out "Where are you?"  "Where is the fire?  Why did you let it go out?"  "Why don't you speak to me?"

But this particular morning, I had to look at facts.    My church was still preaching the Word.  My husband was still leading our household in daily prayer and sharing scripture and thoughts of his spiritual life, as was his duty as priest of this household.  

But when the fire within goes out, whose responsibility is it to see that it is lit and stays lit?

 I had grown distant.  I had turned away. I had gotten lost.

In my daily prayers, I said the same things over and over.  I was no longer petitioning God on behalf of others,  I was merely listing down names.  This many need healing, this many have other requests, this many are grieving, Amen and I'll come back tomorrow.

In my daily Scripture reading, my mind was occupied with that day's menus, what I could hear of John's current tv program, thoughts of family, schedules, work that needed to be done.   Even my nighttime prayers were the same words repeated over and over, night after night.  I had them memorized.

Prayer and daily reading had become just one more thing I did each day, a habit of routine that I followed.  I did the right things, I said the right words but I'd grown inattentive and insincere. 

When I first came to Christ I was zealous for his word.  It wasn't enough to pray and read just so much in my Bible each day. I devoured chapters.  In later years, I was so grateful for the opportunity to look up references from other pastors to see what they had to say about what I'd read that day.  I listened to sermons all evening long each evening.   I couldn't sing a thing except hymns and worship songs because it was all I ever listened to.   I was so hungry, so eager to know God.  When I prayed I was often moved to tears, as I earnestly sought him.  Even in the busy times of our lives I willingly sought out God.    But where were those sermons now?  And that worship?   Humbling questions that required humbling answers.  

I'd forgotten to fuel my fire.

As Thanksgiving drew near this year, I  made a determination to follow a daily Advent reading this month.  I contemplated several that I own.  I sought out more online.  I read the story of Christ's birth in Matthew and Luke.  I struggled and struggled and finally prayed that God would show me which Advent reader to use.   But then God impressed me to go on my own journey this month,  a journey of the heart.  And when I asked "How do I do this?"  he brought me to Isaiah.  "Start here. This is where you begin."

I balked.  I had read many Advents and none of them really began with the prophets.  They were all nice and neat little stories of how each day some personal experience had driven them steadily forward toward Christ, a 5 minute devotional.

And the request came right in the midst of my granted time off.  Seriously? 

So I started with Isaiah.   As I studied, I was humbled.  I saw that indeed, for me, this is the beginning of a journey, one that arrives at the foot of the manger and then continues to the foot of the cross.

Verse:  "I call to You from the ends of the earth when my heart is without strength." Ps 61 (HCSB)

Music: My Soul Longs For You by Shai Sol

Scripture:  Psalm 163

Prayer:  Abba, I long to be near you once more.  Guide me on the pathways that lead back to you.  

The Week Ahead: Almost There



I think we've all been waiting with bated breath for 2020 to come to an end and we're very nearly there now.   I can't say that for us it's been a particularly horrible nor particularly good year.  It's been different, a kind of different I don't necessarily want to repeat whatever the lessons were this year.   Just before John's actual retirement date we started spending a lot of time at home, more than we ever had.   Add to that his actual retirement, the 'big' event of the year,  getting accustomed to being paid once a month and slightly less than when he worked, family in and family unable to visit and homeschooling and....Well, it was never a stable year, really and I'm glad it's coming to an end. Agreed?   

I felt very much that I needed the time off this past week.  Thanksgiving was tedious for part of the day and a pleasure for part of the day.  Then on Friday, I felt emotionally wrung out with all the news Amie had to share.  I'd thought I'd decorate for Christmas but all I had heart to do was to exchange last year's wreaths for this year's fall wreaths. 

But ideas will surface even when tired if my mind isn't occupied with work.  I began to make plans for 2021...Now there's optimism!  

Work: 


 

Zone 1: Kitchen, back entry and laundry  No job in particular stands out.  After all I spent a goodly portion of the previous month wiping out cabinets, courtesy of the ants.   I think I'll just look for the obvious tasks and if none present themselves I'll do a good general cleaning and wiping down.

Christmas decorating.  I don't have to finish it all this week.  I just want to do something each day if only one thing.

Balance the check register, write out some bills due around the first of the month, and just generally get an idea of where we are after this month of spending.

Plan for a possible family Christmas day. Menu, gifts, etc.

Birthday cards and Christmas cards sent out.

Go pay our property tax.

Plan a grocery shop next week.  Plan Christmas baking so I can add the necessary things to my shopping list.  Plan the month's meals so I will have what I need on hand to prepare those, including family day, Christmas and New Year's Day meals.  Yes. All that.

Plan my 2021 Budget.

Write out my goals for 2021.

All the usual day to day chores and routine work.

Kitchen:



I'm starting this week's menus off with what we had on Friday and over the weekend.  Most everything on my menu is on hand except the chicken thighs I hope to purchase this next week.  We'll see.  Some of the menus are repeats from last week that I didn't use.

Sausage and Rice Stuffed Acorn Squash, Salad with Red Cabbage, Apple, celery and Lettuce, Green Peas

Pot Roast with Cherries, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans

Poultry Rice Soup, Homemade Apple Cobbler

Steak, Baked Potato, Salad, Rolls

Goulash, Green Salad, Crusty Bread, Applesauce

Black Beans, Yellow Rice, Orange, Olive and Onion Salad

Chicken Thighs, Sweet Potato Patties, Green Peas

Mac n Cheese, Salad, Steamed Broccoli


Leisure:



After taking time off, I feel rather shy about suggesting I'll need leisure time in the week but I know that I shall because I can't work all of the time.

I hope to finish Adler's book An Everlasting Feast.  I've also begun reading Gladys Taber's  Country Chronicle.

On December 1, I will begin an Advent reading.  I have three to choose from immediately and may find another as I troll about online.

Plan for 2021.  I like planning and making lists and it's fun to me to do them, so onto leisure list that goes as well as...

...Decorate a little each day for Christmas.

Do some family research.  Amie gave me details on a relative of hers that I'd been trying to trace and I hope to find that information.

The Week Behind: Who's Tired?

 



Saturday/Sunday:  It says a lot when we get to the end of a family day and John congratulates me on not losing my cool or being twisted up in knots.   Everything went to plan.  All but the turkey breast cooked on Friday.  I warmed the sausage balls (will NOT be using that recipe again...need to make a note in the cookbook I got it from that it's not the best).   John and I had the kids table out in the kitchen, aka my sewing table, and had moved the pack n play to our bedroom so there was a baby napping zone.  He ran to town to get ice.  I laid out my platters and we had nothing to do for a bit over an hour except to wait on family.  

Gathering Fragments: Kitchen Magic

 


Sunday:  When John told the kids I'd make them pancakes this morning, I had no qualms saying "Of course.'   I immediately thought of the Whey in the fridge that Bess has given me.  It makes beautiful pancakes, all light and fluffy.  I remembered to add that little bit of baking soda since the Whey is from yogurt and has the same acidity that buttermilk has.

John made us Turkey sandwiches tonight.  He also added sausage balls to the plate and deviled eggs and pickles and it was a regular feast of leftovers but by no means did it use up all the leftovers.  He did use up the olives, pickles, deviled eggs and sausage balls.


I'll actually check the fridge tomorrow to see what else I might have and then the planning will commence.

Waste:  I tossed a partial loaf of homemade bread that I believe to be 2 or 3 weeks old.  I have plenty of croutons and breadcrumbs on hand and just don't need more this week.

1 cup of mashed potatoes that were too old to consider using.

Monday:  I cleared each shelf in the fridge this morning and here's what I have that needs to be used up:

Top shelf:  Whey and Buttermilk.   

Second shelf:  I tossed some mashed potatoes and put the stuffing that was leftover last week into the dog's bowl of scraps.

I put the chili I made yesterday and the chicken pot pie filling into the freezer for future meals.

I have: sliced apples and oranges.  

Small piece of cubed steak.

1 -1 1/2 cups turkey bits

a dozen slices of Tortilla pinwheels

Ranch dip, French onion dip and sour cream: all opened and all will need to be addressed this week or next.

a few pieces each of chocolate cake and Apple blondies

cooked brown basmati rice

cranberry sauce that is open

Baked beans

1/4 cup of salsa

single serving of chicken pot pie

Meat drawer:  4 uncut Tortilla rollupsHalf a Beef Kielbasa

Bottom shelf: cut up celery and carrot sticks

Veg crisper drawer:  broccoli heads, green onions

On the counter: 3 ripe bananas, an acorn squash

I come to this week with a plethora of things I should use and some that will possibly carry over to next week for use.

Immediate ideas: Stir fry rice with the rice, some of the carrot and celery sticks, and green onion.   I have chicken tenders in the freezer, so that would be a quick meal for lunch or dinner.   Orange slices will be nice as a side dish.

Unroll the four tortilla rollups and put chopped turkey on them, then roll them up and heat them in the oven with salsa.   I'd serve with a salad and black beans.

Some things can be translated into a quick lunch: chicken pot pie and the already cut tortilla roll ups.

The cake and blondies will be easy desserts to have this week.

The cubed steak will be served alongside eggs and biscuits for breakfast.   

The biscuits will use up some of the whey and buttermilk.  I'll make up an extra lot of biscuits and put those in the freezer for easy use.  I'll also be making Shabat bread this week and that will use another cup of the whey.  I suppose I could mix up one batch of dough and use to make rolls and freeze them.  Do I have that much freezer space?

Make applesauce with the apples.  I can use as a simple dessert or put in the freezer to save for another day.

I have an idea to use the French onion dip in a chicken pasta dish. Trouble is I have no chicken at present, but if I happen to have leftovers of chicken from Thanksgiving, I could use it in that dish.

Happy accident!  My stainless steel loaf pans just arrived and in the insert is a recipe for a Banana Pineapple Nut bread.  I was just thinking I was over the banana nut loaf and the chocolate chip banana muffins, so this might be worth trying as a new to me recipe.  That will use up two bananas.

I can use some one banana, 1/2 an apple and a couple of orange slices to make a quick fruit salad.  That might be nice with the Stuffed Acorn Squash I thought I'd make one night this week.  I have sausage and rice stuffing in the freezer already.

Planning of course, is only have the battle.   

John and I ate the tortilla rollups (and then tossed the remainder of the cut ones as they were soggy...I think I put 3-4 slices in the trash) and he ate the chicken pot pie and cranberry sauce.

I made Fried Rice this evening using some of the celery, green onion, the thicker stems from the bottom of the broccoli, and the last of the baby carrots (apparently a far more popular item than I'd thought they might be, as there were only 3 left).

I also had several packets of sauces in the fridge and used one of those to sauce our chicken tenders to go with our fried rice at supper.  We ate the oranges as our side for that meal.  

Tuesday:   Without execution a plan is NOTHING, right?   I've been busy in my kitchen and here's what I've done with some of the above leftovers.  As things have been completely used up, I'm putting a line through them, so you can see my full progress.

This morning, I used one banana to make Banana Oatmeal.  I cooked the banana gently in butter, then added brown sugar and egg and milk to the oats.  This is quite good and very filling.

I used two bananas to make a Pineapple Banana bread.  I am out of cinnamon and walnuts and didn't want to use pecans in the bread, so it's not a nut bread.   The recipe called for 8 ounces of pineapple.  I had 5 ounces too much for the Cranberry Celebration Salad I was making for Bess so I used the 1/2 cup that was over measure for that recipe.   This is a cobbled together recipe as you can see... When these were baked and cooled, I wrapped and put them in the freezer for future snacking.

I used the whey to make biscuits and pieced out the remaining whey with buttermilk for the cornbread for our Thanksgiving dressing breads.  That took care of all the Whey.

I doubled the biscuit recipe so we will have biscuits in the morning for our breakfast.

I warmed the baked beans and fed them to John with hot dogs for our lunch today.

And finally for supper,  I unrolled the four remaining Tortilla rollups and topped with the turkey that was leftover from our sandwiches on Sunday.  I mixed the last of the salsa with a can of cream of chicken soup and layered the tortillas and sauce in a casserole dish, since the chunks of turkey were too big to allow me to roll them up again. I topped all of this with some Colby Jack cubes I'd found (! just when you think you've gathered all the fragments!) that I grated and when it all came from the oven, I put chopped green onions over each serving.   There's enough of this left to have for lunch one day this week.

And so ends another productive day in my kitchen.  And my list is greatly reduced by now!

Wednesday:  Used the piece of cubed steak this morning. I reheated it as biscuits baked and served it alongside fried eggs.   John was pretty happy with his breakfast.  He's big on eggs with steak...Me, not so much.   Anyone else think eggs and beef steak are made for one another?

For tonight's dinner:  I'm making Potatoes au Gratin with the Kielbasa on top of the dish.  Then I'll steam some of the broccoli as a side dish.

I'll leave off here with my Gathering because we all know that the landscape of what we have will change dramatically following our holiday meals.  I'll start fresh on Friday with leftovers and things I know I must use up.

The Week Ahead: Full of Thanksgiving

When this is sent, I'll have had my family day.   At writing, I am sitting with my feet up, much needed after a day spent standing on them.  Cooking, baking, cleaning all ensued since early hours and didn't end until about 4pm.  I volunteered John to cook supper.  

The family is yet to arrive, the food yet to be eaten and the day yet to be enjoyed.  But somehow, when one week ends, I find I must start thinking of the week ahead.   I won't think of it at all starting tomorrow morning when I'm again busy and likely won't think about it again until Sunday when my son and grandchildren leave to head home.   I think it's better to have a plan now, rather than then.

Diary of a Week: Deeper Thinking

 


Saturday:  

This morning, John went off to the men's meeting.  I had the house to myself for two hours or so and I can say most certainly I have missed having even a small window of alone time.   Since this is Shabbat, I don't use these precious moments alone to work, though I did fold the clothes we'd hung to dry yesterday.  Tasks such as that are not distracting, nor labor intensive.  They don't require the whole of one's mind but at the same time because they require no thinking, it's easy to turn your thoughts off entirely and simply BE in that moment of smoothing, folding, putting aside into neat stacks and if you do think to be mindful of how grateful you are for the clothes and the man who puts them in the washing machine, for the machine that washes them and the grace of fresh air to dry them.   It's a good time to think of the drawers and closet that awaits them and to know that you have to chase away chill and to cover you so that you remain reasonably modest when you do go out.

Advent Day 2: The Age of Prophets

The first prophecies from God were spoken as early as 800 B.C.  That is not to say that only then were God's peoples warned because we h...