Becoming a Dweller

 

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The immediate view out my window is an indoor/outdoor shopping mall. As I sit hovered high above, I’ve been able to detect two groups of people: the shoppers and the dwellers. The shoppers are those who are moving around swiftly, sometimes frantically, looking to buy things, while the dwellers are those who are sitting leisurely in outdoor cafes, not buying, just being. I have definitely been a part of both these groups, but what dawned on me this morning as I sipped my coffee and began my time with God, was that perhaps this mall scene is a little snapshot of how I approach my relationship with God. I couldn’t help but wonder: Am I a shopper or a dweller?

If I am honest, I often begin my prayer time (which I write in my journal) with:

Good morning Lord, I seek you, expectant that you will speak to me. 

Though subtle, I think this might reflect a consumer mentality. I sort of cringe even as I write it out. Its not that seeking God to speak to me is a bad thing. But there’s a motive of coming to him only to get something in return. Whether it’s clarity over what I should focus on that day, or peace over a conflict I had with a loved one or healing from a nagging sickness or direction on what course of action I should take…I often enter into my time with God seeking not him, but to get something from him. Yikes.

But how does God want us to approach our relationship with him? Does this consumer mentality offend him? After all, he does tell us to “ask and it will be given to you” (Matthew 7:7). And in asking for things like wisdom, guidance and forgiveness, we are promised it will be given “generously” (James 1:5). Making requests and petitions of all kinds is an important part of the faith journey, is it not (see Philippians 4:6-7)? It is. But perhaps it’s not all our relationship with God should be about. Imagine if I went to my husband only seeking to get things from him. I don’t think that would go over too well. One of the best things about close relationships–be it a best friend, a spouse, sibling or parent–is the fact that we can just be in each other’s presence. There is an ease, a comfort, and a deep sense of satisfaction just being together. Words don’t even have to be exchanged.

I think it might be the same with God. Or at least how he intended it to be. Perhaps a major part of our time spent together should be…just being. I’ve always loved the NASB version of Psalm 46:10:

“Seize striving and know that

I am God.”

Other versions say, “be still.” Sometimes we need to go to God and just be still, letting our asking, expecting and requiring of him seize for a while, so that we can become dwellers in God’s presence, as Scripture invites us to do:

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”

– Psalm 91:1

To dwell means “to live in, reside, be settled, stay, abide.” It is as if God is saying, “Come, take off your shoes and stay a while. Leave your titles, your agendas and your worries at the door. Just be here with Me in the warmth and safety of My shelter.”

The neat part about choosing to come to God as a dweller instead of a constant consumer, is that the one thing that will bring true satisfaction –rest for our bodies, minds and souls–is a promised outcome. Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Dwelling with God and rest for our souls go hand in hand. But rather than a motive of ours, it is an outcome of his.

As we approach God in prayer today or this week, or even as we attend church on Sunday, may we be determined and even eager to go as dwellers, rather than consumers, saying nothing other than:

Lord, I am here dwelling today. Thank you for… You.

 

 

Singapore Noodles: Going for the Whole Grain

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Singapore Noodles

Since I have a special place in my heart for Singapore, and all things Asian in general, I got excited about trying this dish. It is rich in whole grains and veggies. Whole grains, unlike their refined counterpart, contain all the essential nutrients of the entire grain seed. They’re also rich in dietary fiber. The recipe calls for “mai fan” noodles made with brown rice, but you can use regular whole grain noodles as well. While this one calls for veggies, shrimp and chicken (which I think is a bit overloaded), you can easily substitute any kind of mix-in you have on hand. I left out the shrimp and the chicken and felt the egg was more than enough on the protein. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz. thin brown rice noodles (or any whole grain noodle option)
  • 1/2 cup reduced-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1-2 Tbsp. curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar (you can leave this out)
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. peanut oil, divided
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. finely chopped ginger
  • 1/4 cup scallions, green part only, cut into 1-inch strips
  • 1 ½ cups napa cabbage cut into thin strips
  • 1 cup sliced red onion, cut into thin crescents
  • 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin 1-inch strips
  • 1/2 medium green bell pepper, cut into thin 1-inch strips
  • 2 large eggs, well beaten
  • 2 tsp. roasted sesame oil
  • Optional: 1/4 lb. small (51-60 count per pound), frozen shrimp, cooked according to package directions and/or 1 cup (4 oz.) roasted chicken or turkey breast, shredded into 1-inch pieces

 Directions:

  1. Break noodles in half and soak according to package instructions. Drain noodles in colander, run cold water over them and drain well. Transfer noodles back to bowl.
  2. While noodles are soaking, in small bowl, combine chicken broth, curry powder, turmeric, salt and sugar. Set aside.
  3. In medium skillet over high heat, add 1 tablespoon peanut oil. When oil is hot, add garlic, ginger, scallions and stir-fry until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add cabbage, onion, red and green peppers and stir-fry until vegetables are barely crisp-tender, 2 minutes. Add contents of pan to bowl with drained noodles.
  4. Return pan to heat, reducing it to medium-high heat. Add remaining 1 teaspoon peanut oil to skillet. Add egg and scramble loosely. Add egg to bowl with vegetables and noodles, scraping up any egg sticking to pan.
  5. Pour broth mixture into skillet, scraping out bowl. Add contents of vegetable and noodle bowl, plus shrimp and chicken to skillet. Stir, lift and chop until all vegetables, shrimp, chicken and egg are distributed through the noodles, 1 to 2 minutes. Drizzle with sesame oil and season with salt to taste. Serve immediately.

 Makes 4 servings.

 Per serving: 326 calories, 12 g total fat (2 g saturated fat), 34 g carbohydrate, 22 g protein, 2.5 g dietary fiber, 474 mg sodium.

*Adapted from American Institute for Cancer Research.

(Physical) Fuel for the Journey

I started this blog with the initial aim of providing “spiritual fuel” to nourish the human soul. But ever since my beloved mom was diagnosed with cancer in early 2014 and has been bravely fighting her battle to overcome it, I have joined her on the journey of educating myself on “physical fuel” to nourish the human body. There has recently been a whole new area of research on how nutrition and exercise have played and continue to play a significant role in our nation and world’s state of health. The problem I have found is that we live in such an information-saturated age that it becomes difficult, overwhelming and confusing to sift through and know who to believe!

I don’t know what the answer is other than to pray for wisdom and share pertinent information we have found helpful or impactful in some way. Hence, I am starting a new section of this blog entitled Fuel for the Body, which will include what have been identified as “cancer-preventing” recipes of nutrient-rich foods (in honor of my mom), along with tips I am discovering in my own exercise routines.

One caveat is that I know not all people have access to these nutrient-rich foods. They also tend to be more expensive than regular processed foods. However, given that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 2 men (in America) will face cancer at some point, I think it is worth continuing to at least educate ourselves on what the human body needs to be healthy, as one small preventative measure that we can take. I will be sharing statistics and facts I am learning along the way in hopes that the information will at least “fuel” the fire to learn more and take steps in a direction of health.

My prayer is that with this new topical category, this blog will continue to serve as a portal of inspiration for daily living–both spiritually and physically–so that we truly can live a life “worthy of the calling” we have received in Christ (see Ephesians 4:1).  So here we go, with the first featured recipe I just tried this afternoon and I think is too good not to share…

Warm Quinoa and Red Pepper Salad 

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This plant-based, protein-packed salad features warm quinoa and crunchy raw sunflower and or pumpkin seeds. Quinoa is one of my favorite grains and actually a seed that’s high in protein and fiber. Seeds and nuts contain healthy fats and have antioxidant properties. A classically simple dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest and tarragon tops off this nutritious dish.

 Ingredients:

  • 1 cup red quinoa
  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh tarragon, chopped (2 tsp. dried)
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon zest, freshly grated
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup jarred roasted red peppers, drained and coarsely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup of seeds or chopped walnuts
  • 1 pkg. (5 oz.) baby spinach OR package of lettuce wraps

Directions: 

  1. In large strainer, rinse quinoa well.
  2. In large pot over medium heat, toast quinoa until it starts to crackle, about 5 minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and gently simmer for 20 minutes. Carefully drain any remaining liquid. Set aside and let stand for 15 minutes.
  3. In large mixing bowl, add tarragon, zest, olive oil and juice. Gently stir to combine. Reserve 2 tablespoons. Add red peppers and quinoa mixture and toss to combine well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. In another large mixing bowl, gently toss spinach with reserved dressing or if you plan to do lettuce wraps, leave dressing for all of mixture.
  5. Evenly divide spinach or lettuce wraps among six plates and top with quinoa mixture. Garnish with nuts or seeds and serve.
  6. You can also make this in the beginning of the week and use it as a daily lunch item.

 Makes 6 servings (lunch for the week!)

 Per serving: 270 calories, 14 g total fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 30 g carbohydrate, 10 g protein, 6 g dietary fiber, 150 mg sodium.

Many of the recipes I try are adapted from the American Institute for Cancer Research, here. I recommend checking it out.

 

 

Beyond the Doom and Gloom of the Tomb

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I can hear the soulful music playing down below as I sit on my 24th floor terrace. It is beautiful, and yet, there is a sense of mourning and loss. As we look ahead to the Easter celebration of our resurrected Lord (tomorrow), today (the Saturday before), we pause in somber remembrance of his death. Over 2,000 years ago, on this day of the Church calendar, Jesus was in the tomb. His followers and family members could do nothing but mourn. Their Lord was dead. I imagine they were riddled with confusion and doubt, wondering in the quiet of their own hearts: God, why didn’t you rescue your Son from a horrendous death on the cross? Why didn’t you prove you were God? Where are you in this pitiful portrait of human death? 

Today, we remember our Lord Jesus who was crucified on the cross. All we can see is the doom and gloom of the tomb.

This serves as a sobering reminder to us, that just as we observed with the disciples, our faith will also be tested. In the “death” of broken marriages, failed health, lost jobs and sufferings of all kinds, we mourn on this day. But that is not all. We also wait, knowing the darkness of the tomb is not the end of the story. When all we see is the doom and gloom of the “tombs” in our lives, it is a call to persevere… in hope:

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” – James 1:12

How is your faith being tested today? What trials are challenging your ability to trust and hope in God? Whatever “doom and gloom” you are facing, be encouraged that today — on the eve of Easter — as we gaze upon the tomb of our Lord, it is in our sadness, confusion and grief, that we can also stand firm in the fact that resurrection is coming. Light is coming. Life is coming. Hope is coming. Freedom is coming. Rescue is coming. Joy is coming. Healing is coming. Restoration is coming. Reconciliation is coming. Renewal is coming. Easter, yes, the celebration of our risen Lord, is coming!!!! That, we know, is a fact. So Today, as we are tempted to despair in the midst of our darkened tombs, may we remember:

“HIM who endured such opposition…so that YOU will not grow weary or lose heart.”- James 12:3

Today, we rightly gaze upon the doom and gloom of the tomb of our Lord. But may we be determined not to grow weary or lose heart. Resurrection is coming. It is coming indeed!

Lifting of the Fog

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I was walking my favorite path along the Oxford canal, pondering deeply, as I usually do this time of year, what kind of year its been–specifically as it pertains to my spiritual life. Suddenly the question popped into my mind, like the gentle whisper of a friend: What was one thing that kept you from being as close to God as you would have liked this year? 

Several answers swirled through my brain as I continued to walk, my knee-high red “wellies” sloshing in the wetness of the dead leaves, the morning fog setting in thick. Somehow the fog seemed to serve as a metaphor for how I’ve felt this year with God. My prayer times–the times I set aside each morning (well, most mornings) to meet with Him–have felt, well, foggy. Maybe it is the hurriedness of city life. Or the tiredness from long nights of writing as a theology student. Or the distractedness of trying to be many places at once. I don’t know. All I know is that what became clear that cold winter’s morn is that a new prayer was shaping in my heart for 2015: Lord, please clear the fog…

How about you?

Is there a thing a two, or perhaps a word or two that you would use to capture this past year–spiritually? Bumpy…grumpy…grim..great? I love the rolling rhythm of each New Year. It’s as if God knew we would need times (every 365 days or so) to look inside the window of our souls, and ask: ‘Hey there precious soul of mine, how are you doing? What’s feeding you? What’s depleting you?’ Some may call this “taking stock” or “checking in.” However we want to think of it, this time of year is a perfect time to allow God to form new prayers in our hearts, new rhythms in our days, new habits in our ways of seeking Him.

A wonderful book I am reading, by Julienne McLean called, Towards Mystical Union, which is a modern commentary on St. Teresa of Avila’s ‘The Interior Castle‘ (which I highly recommend), calls stillness the “essential pathway” to connection to and with God more deeply:

“The essential quality of stillness, of the body, mind, emotions, has the capacity to restore our ability to remember, to recollect, to remain ourselves and not be distracted… That is why prayer, meditation, contemplation are the essential pathways to connecting to, and living within, this deeper dimension.” (32)

These words, to me, present a challenge, but also serve as breath of fresh air to this fog-filled soul: stillness… restoration…. remembering… recollecting… living in deeper dimensions.

I don’t know about you but I need help bringing in and holding on to this quality of stillness in my life as I swim with God against the overwhelming current of our bustling world.  I need help in setting aside time, meaningful time, to meet with the Creator of my soul. I need help clearing out the clutter of my heart, so there is room for God’s Truth to run through every fiber of my being, going deep enough to feed, nourish, change.

I love God’s command to the Psalmist,

“Be still and know that I am God. ” (Psalm 90:12)

I pray that as we ask God for the grace and discipline to slow down, making stillness a welcome companion in our lives this year, I pray that He–in our times of prayer and meditation–would give to us a renewed taste of His beauty…splendor…holiness…love…comfort….compassion…that keeps us going back, craving for more.

I realized that towards the end of my morning walk that day, the fog started to lift with glimmers of sunlight–God’s light–breaking through, a seemingly beautiful and soul-warming promise of what kind of a new year it was going to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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