Thursday, August 29, 2013

Opening Our Eyes to Injustice

Dear Friends,

Unrestrained evil can overwhelm us and make it difficult to speak.  Job 29 says, “The chief men refrained from speaking and covered their mouths with their hands; the voices of the nobles were hushed, and their tongues stuck to the roof of their mouths” (vs. 9-10).  Our fear and anxiety can make it feel like our tongues are stuck!  We need to believe, one, there will be a final accounting and until then we do our part.  Two, God will give us hope and courage even when the whole situation seems hopeless.  And three, we must lift up our heads and trust we will see somewhere at some time in some place, the “goodness of the LORD in the land of the living” (Ps. 27:13).

The devil, who is prince of this world, is busy stirring up social chaos but wants us distracted so we don’t do anything about it.  But even though the devil is the prince of this world, Jesus is the King!  So when the evil one hands us a pair of blinkers we need to resist his promptings, open our eyes to the situation, and tune in to the voice of the Holy Spirit instead.

The devil is the master of delusion and confusion.  God is turning a blind eye to injustice, he says, so why should you bother?  Go ahead and let the world cry.  Keep out of trouble.  Stay away from people’s pain.  If you hear a child’s cry ignore it, if you see a man starving pass on by.  If you witness blatant injustice distract yourself.  Don’t ask for trouble.  “Life is a beach!” he shouts in our ear, and keeps asking anxiously, “Are we having fun yet?”  Don’t get involved in his mantra!

We who profess to align ourselves with the King and His kingdom here on earth should pray daily, “Thy Kingdom come!  They will be done–as in heaven, so on earth!”  If we remain silent in the face of gross injustice and refuse to raise our voices in protest, then when our turn comes to be the victim we may find there is no one left to defend us.

Our enemy uses pleasures as well as pain to distract us from other people’s needs, including the pleasure of relationships.  We want to matter to our friends, so how can we speak the truth in love if we see them doing something wrong?  When our enemy sees us seeking significance and needing to matter to someone, he tries assuring us, “You matter to someone–you matter to me!  I want you to come home to my place.  Sleep over!  I want to play with you here so I can play with you there.”

If pleasure doesn’t distract us, pain and relationships will.  As God allows troubles to come our way, we can be overwhelmed.  Yet meaning is found in opening our eyes to injustice and trying to speak up about it.  Satisfaction comes in trying to stop wickedness and stepping in to protect the innocent from abuse and violence, even if we get ourselves hurt in the process.  It’s called taking up your cross and following Him.  Where is God calling you to take up your cross and follow Him today?

In His Love,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine

Monday, August 26, 2013

Escape the Parent Trap for a Night...Even When the Pennies are Tight

Rachel) After our son was born, my husband Jared and I had to budget every penny we made, and there was nothing left over for fun.  I’d stopped working, and hospital bills were starting to pile in.  Still, by the time Jackson was two months old, we were in desperate need of a date night. We had plenty of grandparents pushing us to go out and leave the baby with them, but no money to go anywhere.  So, instead, we got creative and turned our house into a romantic escape from parenting.

We called Grandma and Grandpa and asked if they could watch Jackson at their house for a few hours on a Saturday evening.  They, of course, pounced at the opportunity.  Before we dropped him off, we cleaned the house and cleared out all the baby items from the living room and kitchen.  I looked at what we had in the pantry and the refrigerator and came up with a menu.  With Jackson riding kangaroo-style in a baby wrap, I put Jared to work chopping vegetables while I baked, simmered, mixed, and taste-tested.  Then we took turns getting showered and dressed up for our date.  I put on a dress and heels for the first time since getting unpregnant.  Just before we left the house, Jared set up a card table on our patio, covered it with a pretty table cloth, and turned on some classical music.  On our return home, we splurged on a bottle of my favorite Pinot Noir.

Jared opened the door for me.  “Welcome to La Villa de Randolph, the hottest (and only) vegan restaurant in town,” he said.  “I hear the food is delicious, but wait until you see the chef.  I wonder if I could get a slice of her for dessert?” he flirted.

I grinned, throwing him my best come-hither look.  “I don’t know; I heard she already has a thing for her sous chef.  Pretty racy stuff, I hear.”

I dressed some Brussels sprouts, cut in half, with oil and balsamic vinegar, and a generous sprinkle of salt.  Then I popped them into the oven to caramelize and roast, while I served us our first course: thinly sliced ribbons of carrot and broccoli marinated in a sweet and tangy vinaigrette.  Jared poured the wine, and together, with beautiful strains of music taking the place of the cries of a fussy baby, we sat and talked (like grownups!) as we ate and enjoyed the pastoral view from our back-porch table for two.

Just as we finished the first course, we heard the timer in the kitchen go off.  I pulled the Brussels sprouts out of the oven, which were now perfectly crispy and richly caramelized.  I served them alongside mugs of stewed late-summer veggies with white beans.  There was a chill in the air, but the creamy beans, new potatoes, and yellow squash, simmered in a chunky cherry tomato base, along with one another’s company, kept us warm.

Later, as I sipped coffee and ate a pumpkin pretzel tart under the starry sky, I gazed at my husband, really seeing him for what felt like the first time in months.  “Hey, we’re talking!  Like, really talking, and actually able to concentrate on what the other person is saying … in complete sentences!”

“It’s nice,” Jared said.  “I’ve missed this.”

“I’ve missed us,” I replied.

Excerpt from We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook: A Mom andDaughter Dish About the Food that Delights Them and the Love that Binds Them  by Becky Johnson and Rachel Randolph.  Used with permission. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Lost in Mom Space

(Rachel) “My cat has been staring at the fireplace door for ten minutes.  He thinks if he keeps staring I’ll open the door and it will lead him outside.  My infant son Jackson is drooling and staring in fascination at my water bottle.  He gets upset when it gets out of his eye line,” I scribbled in my journal one morning.  “I better get out of the house today before I too start staring blankly into the distance, my brain having turned to complete mom mush.”

If you aren’t careful, the first year of motherhood can be surprisingly isolating.  Between multiple feedings, two to three naps, bath time, tummy time, and getting your child to bed, there’s really not a lot of time left to socialize with people of the adult persuasion.  And when getting out of the house means packing up and carrying around a diaper bag roughly twice the size and weight of the actual baby, you begin to wonder if it’s even worth the trouble.
However, I was determined to at least try to interact with other mothers.  So I hoisted my baby and super-sized diaper bag to attend a local MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) meeting.  The coordinator closed the meeting with a prayer and then said, in her friendly Texas accent, “Bye! See y’all next time.”  I was sitting in the front row with forty other grown women, but I found myself holding both hands up next to my face, opening and closing my palms, saying “Bye Byeeee” in cute baby talk.  The coordinator, a mom of three kids herself, laughed. “Rachel, sounds like you desperately need a Moms’ Night Out.”

Mommy Brain makes you indeed wonder, Am I slowly getting dumber?  Can I even make intelligible conversation with human beings who are taller than two feet anymore?

I went to heat up a bowl of spicy butternut squash soup one afternoon.  In some sort of out-of-body auto-pilot mode, I went to the fridge, grabbed the soup, poured a bowl, heated it in the microwave, and set it aside to cool.  Then, without batting an eye, I grabbed another bowl, filled it with another serving of soup, microwaved it for 60 seconds, set it on the counter, looked down, and realized I had just served myself two warm bowls of creamy soup.

My mom has done things like this as long as I can remember.  Growing up, it was almost habit, before putting my Hot Pocket in the microwave, to remove the cup of cold coffee or tea she had reheated and promptly forgotten about.  Though my Granny, her mother, insists that my mom was always a bit messy, ditzy, and forgetful, I now wondered if motherhood was actually the source of her scattered brain.  As her daughter, I feared pregnancy and birth had activated in me some latent gene, the same one that made my mom absently throw her keys in the trash, or drive 20 miles an hour on the highway as cars zoom by her, completely unaware of her crawling speed.

In an attempt to stave off this gene, I’m learning to give myself a little timesans babynow and again.  Without “Mommy’s Time Out,” as I call it, my brain just doesn’t work right.  It’s like a computer on overload that begins working slow and wonky.  All it needs is some time to shut down, and then it can go back to solving high functioning problems like Just where did I put that pacifier?  or  On which side did I last nurse?

Excerpt from We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook: A Mom andDaughter Dish About the Food that Delights Them and the Love that Binds Them  by Becky Johnson and Rachel Randolph.  Used with permission. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Are You in Need of a Marriage Miracle

Dear Friends,

I remember one such call that I received.

“I want a divorce!” the lady announced loudly and angrily.

“My husband doesn’t do divorces,” I replied. “He is a pastor. He institutes Christian marriages. He tries to help people who are in trouble in their relationships as well.”

“It’s too late,” she replied brusquely. “We are incompatible.”

“Don’t you know that incompatibility is the reason for marriage, not divorce?” I asked.  “Let’s talk.”  I told her that Jesus can turn water into wine!  “Sometimes,” I said, “when the ‘wine’ runs out of a relationship and everything becomes flat and ordinary, Jesus can bring the taste and sparkle back, whatever the problem is.”

“Have you seen this happen?” she asked me seriously.

“Yes,” I told her.  “Some marriages are down to a miracle, but God is really good at miracles. He invented them!”

Like the desperate lady on the phone, many people have lost hope of anything happening to save their marriages.  Many couples have set off in grand style to live happily ever after, only to see their highest hopes and dreams crumble.  They have put all their human energy into making it work, but phileo love (friendship love) by itself cannot sustain a relationship.  It can sustain it on a certain level, but when trouble comes, something more than mere human love is needed.  And when the marriage is in trouble, eros love is completely set aside.

But God is a God of miracles.  I have watched some couples turn to God in desperation and ask Him to save their marriages.  As they have invited Him to take His rightful place as Master of their lives and loves, He has done His healing work.

Sometimes that master of ceremonies of a wedding in Jesus’ day would sit between the bride and the groom to preside over the event and make sure nothing went amiss.  When Stuart and I married, we used that picture when we bought our wedding rings.  We purchased three stones.  The middle one represents Jesus, and the ones on each side represent Stuart and me.  Every day I am reminded that if we keep Jesus at the center of our marriage, it will work!

How does this play out?  Well, if you lose your temper with your spouse, you will remember that the Bible says, “Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Eph. 4:26).  In other words, don’t go to sleep without putting things right.  Say your “sorrys” before you put out the light.  Keep short accounts with your spouse, and don’t let a whole lot of unresolved things pile up, creating unseen barriers between you.

Perhaps you are upset with your spouse.  You begin internally justifying yourself and mentally putting your partner down.  You judge his or her actions, giving a day or two of stony silence for punishment.  But the Bible says, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged.  Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.  Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Lk. 6:37).  Christ is sitting in the judgment seat and Christ alone.  So let Him be the judge of your spouse’s behavior.  By all means, express your feelings and what you think about the matter, but in love!  Then always be willing to forgive as God has forgiven you.  Love is gentle and kind, forgiving and forbearing.  It doesn’t keep a running record of the other person’s wrong but is quick to see the best in people.  Letting agape govern your reactions to your spouse will transform your marriage.


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us magazine

Monday, August 12, 2013

Stocking Up, Nesting, and Losing Control

 (Rachel) At eight months pregnant, not only was my body out of control, but lately, I felt as though I were losing control of simple brain function.  Decisions paralyzed me.

Normally, I’m all about the Boy Scout Motto, “Be Prepared.”  But four weeks before the Big Day, I hadn’t washed a single onesie or even bought a car seat.  Motivated by my midwife’s prediction of an early labor, I got my pregnant self into gear, crossing off items on my task list with renewed gusto every day.  Waddling as fast as I could, I painted the nursery, set up the crib, took inventory of gifts, ordered remaining essentials, made several trips to the big-box baby store, installed the car seat, and washed, folded, admired, and put away adorable pint-sized clothes in soft shades of blue and green.  And I did this mostly on my own as my husband coached and traveled with a summer-league baseball team.

Once the nursery was set up, I was not quite ready to come down from my nesting high.  So I turned my focus to the kitchen, preparing and freezing meals for the weeks following the birth.  I roasted a purple eggplant, then chopped it up, mixing the fragrant cubes with crumbled tempeh and caramelized onions.  Finally I simmered it all in a spicy tomato sauce and seasoned with a hint of licoricey fennel seeds, turning it into a rich, Greek-style filling.  Then I portioned this luscious mixture into small pie tins and topped them with a rustic homemade biscuit dough.  When I pulled the eight individual pies out of the oven, their bumpy mountain-top crusts steaming with goodness, I was filled with deep satisfaction.

A side of mashed potatoes would be nice with these, I thought.  So I reached for some russets, and began chopping, boiling, and mashing them with vegan butter and almond milk.  I was so proud of the yumminess coming out of my kitchen that I grabbed my chef’s knife and began peeling back the layers of an onion.  Before I knew it, the mirepoix (diced onions, celery, and carrots) was sizzling in olive oil.  Soon lentils and diced tomatoes joined the party.  I lined an empty spaghetti-sauce jar with quart-sized baggies, one on top of another, then filled each baggie, removed and sealed it, one after another.  “Lentil Veggie Chili,” I wrote on the bag, with instructions to “Defrost, reheat, serve with cornbread.”  Cornbread ... hmm ... might as well whip up that recipe for vegan jalapeƱo cornbread I’ve been wanting to try.

And on it went.  I couldn’t turn off my culinary burst of energy.  I just wanted to cook and cook and cook.
I know a part of my cooking spree was to keep my mind and hands busy when all I had left to do was wait for labor to begin.  When life makes you the watched pot, I say, throw in some sweet potatoes and make a breakfast casserole.  Which I did, smiling as I watched the maple-pecan crumble topping caramelize under the broiler.  I went on like this for days, freezing recipe after recipe.  Waffles and hummus and muffins and soups and enchiladas and lentil-loafs and cookies and coconut covered cherries.  My freezer was so full I had to remove the ice basket.

By the time I finally wound down, hung up my apron, and patted my bulging belly, I’d prepared more than twenty recipes.

A few days shy of my due date, I looked down at my Master Task List, smiled, and sighed.  My tasks were almost complete.  My house was spotless all the way down to the baseboards.  (My midwife suggested I clean them as a way to help the baby’s head settle into the correct position.)  The nursery was finished.  And my freezer was so full that there was danger of a food avalanche when I opened the door.  All that was left was to simply give birth.

Piece. O’. Cake.

Excerpt from We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook: A Mom andDaughter Dish About the Food that Delights Them and the Love that Binds Them  by Becky Johnson and Rachel Randolph.  Used with permission.