Around Christmas time, I always find myself reflecting on the season. Amidst all the festivities and the flurry I wonder: What is all this for? I guess the more accurate question is: Who is all this for? In the Christian tradition we know this long-awaited day is for and about Jesus. We recognize and remember his momentous, yet humble entry into the world. It is the day God entered onto the scene of our human story and brought salvation to all who believe in him.
The expression and celebration of this Christ event over the centuries has taken on many forms: the lights, the parties, the music, the gift-giving and more. It is all lovely and magical isn’t it? And yet, if you’re anything like me, there is always that temptation to get “caught up” in making Christmas about those things: what gifts to buy and for whom, what outfits to wear, what food to serve etc. How do we strike the balance between Christ and chaos? Between the reason and the romance of the season?
Though it is easy to neglect God’s Word in this busy time, I am convinced that it it is often through the meditation of Scripture that can snap us back if we’ve gotten off track. This passage in Isaiah did that very thing for me today and perhaps it can for you too:
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters…come buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live.” Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while he is near. -Isaiah 55: 1-3a, 6
Food and gifts cost money, only last a short time and meet only physical and material needs. But God offers us free nourishment that feeds our soul. When we come (55:1), listen (55:2), seek and call on God (55:6), he promises to delight us with the “richest of fare.” God’s salvation is freely offered but to continue nourishing our souls (as we do our bodies), we must choose to go to God and receive from him.
This message hits particularly close to home for me this year as my husband and I live and serve in a country where many are poor and without physical food and gifts this Christmas. What good news it is that true nourishment and satisfaction comes only from the Lord and it costs nothing but our time and our hearts to go to him.
Our schedules may be full, but how about our souls? May we pay attention to our deeper spiritual thirst this holiday season and take time to be still in between the festivities and the flurry to come, listen, seek and call on the Lord our God, the Savior and Provider of our precious souls. Only then will we delight in the richest of fare.
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.
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!
- 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
- 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.
- While noodles are soaking, in small bowl, combine chicken broth, curry powder, turmeric, salt and sugar. Set aside.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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
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.
- 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
- In large strainer, rinse quinoa well.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Evenly divide spinach or lettuce wraps among six plates and top with quinoa mixture. Garnish with nuts or seeds and serve.
- 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.