Sunday, March 27, 2011

You Have Reached Our Automated System

Thank you for calling....  You have reached our automated system...  Please listen carefully as our menu options have changed...  For English press #...  For account information press #...  For directions and hours press #...  To speak to a customer service representative press #...

We are all familiar with this phone call.  It's the never ending maze that we have to find our way through just to get some information.  For me, this call ended up lasting about an hour and a half.  Not because I was on hold waiting for my call to be answered in the order it was received, but because I had the chance to share the gospel with the person on the other line.

I was pleasantly surprised when I spoke to Diondre.  He was cordial and helpful and actually seemed enthusiastic to give me the information that I needed.  I was sure he was a believer, and after complimenting him on his service, I asked.  He gave me the answer that I have been hearing more and more these days.  He respects all religions and all walks of life but has not come to any solid conclusions for himself.  I asked him if he was raised with any particular religion and he said that he was raised in the Christian church.  Upon asking him why he did not continue with his church he gave these three reasons:
  1. The hypocrisy of the church
  2. Authenticity of the bible
  3. Christianity claiming to be the only way to heaven
The next hour gave me the occasion to demonstrate to him that we are all sinners and are continuously going through the process of sanctification.  The church naturally has the semblance of a group of hypocrites because we are all "works in progress".  Authenticity of the bible led to the mention of the Trinity and how the Holy Spirit works through us despite our human deficiencies.  God was able to work through the authors of the bible to bring us His word by His Spirit, the Spirit of God.  I addressed his final objection by explaining that religion is man's attempt at reaching God.  At its core, each religion requires its followers to do certain actions so that one may find a right standing with God.  They are all similar in that they require one to discipline themselves to achieve righteousness.  The bible teaches that we surrender ourselves to God by "confessing with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believing in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, then you will be saved" (Romans 10:9).  Salvation comes not by what we do, but by what Jesus Christ has done for us, and by His power we become new creations (2 Corinthians 5:7).  It is something very different from a man-made religion, it is God's way that He provided for us to have a relationship with Him.  Even to those who have not had the opportunity to hear the gospel are being reached out to by God through His creation. 

By the end of the conversation there was no certainty that he was persuaded, but I did give him the challenge of reading the book of John on his own by sincerely asking God to reveal Himself through the pages.  He said he would read it but that he couldn't promise me that he would read it right away.  I told him that I would be praying and asking the Lord to send him another indication that it is He that is ultimately seeking to woe Diondre to Himself.  Diondre reassured me that if he saw another sign that he would be compelled to read. 

Lord, I pray that you would send another sign to Diondre to show him that You are seeking him.  Please give him that change of heart that can only come from You to seek You.  And may he find You in the pages or Your scripture. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Overcoming the World - Rhema Marvanne

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world...John 16:33
I remember feeling the heat of the the long summer days as my sister and I chased butterflies in our backyard.  My Mother would call us in from outside to wash up for dinner and we raced to the front door as we heard my Father's keys unlocking the door.  We couldn't wait to kiss his cheek and ask him how his day went.  Then we would all gather into the kitchen and enjoy the delicious meal that my Mother had prepared.  Things were so simple then.  The world seemed so wonderful in those days.  If you had told me that there would be tribulation, I would not have understood the meaning of that word. 

Now that I am an adult, I have a better understanding of what the word tribulation means.  Not only can I define it, but I could relate to you the heaviness that the human heart endures during the process of tribulation.  I also understand that children are not exempt from tribulation, and that by God's grace, I did not suffer through hardship in my childhood. 

The good news is that through Jesus, we could have peace and joy in the midst of difficulty and pain.  By putting our trust in Him and believing that He has a plan for our lives despite the loss we have endured.  God's word has so much to say about this topic and we find comfort in familiarizing ourselves with the different examples.  I recently stumbled upon an 8 year old girl who lost her mother to ovarian cancer.  Rhema Marvanne has an extraordinary singing voice and she uses it to encourage others to trust in the Lord in their difficulties. 

Lord Jesus, thank You that You have overcome the world and that we have peace despite our pain and suffering.  Please continue to use Rhema mightily for Your kingdom.  Just like Rhema, help us to see that we could have joy and peace in the midst of tribulation.  We pray that You would continue to bring Your peace to the people of Japan. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Committed Relief Japan

The earth trembles beneath their feet.  Waves completely engulf them.  The searing pain of loss.  The bitter sting of harsh weather.  The stony ground on which to slumber.  The looming threat of nuclear crisis becoming unmasterable.  Some moments seem too overwhelming to delight in. 
Hear my cry, O God; attend to my prayer.  From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I...Psalm 61:1-2
In moments of uncertainty, of fear, of loss...when our hearts are overwhelmed, we can come to the Rock that is higher than us.  Jesus Christ is that Rock. 

But what happens when crisis strikes and you don't have that Rock? 

This contemplation reverberates through my mind, my heart, throughout the day.  The stark reality is that 0.1 percent of the population of Japan professes Christianity.  This means that in the face of disaster, less than 0.1 percent of those affected know where to turn. 

Please pray for Japan.  Pray for the Lord's mercy upon them.  That He will manifest Himself to them even if they have not known Him.  And pray for those that do know Him, that they will have the supernatural ability to reach out and touch those around them through the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Our church has a relief organization that has responded to natural disasters all over the world since 1995.  Kobe Earthquake in 1995, 9/11 response in New York, Thailand Tsunami in 2004, Hurricane Katrina in  2005, just to name a few.   We are currently praying about how to be involved with the crisis that is happening in Japan.  If you would like to get involved you can visit the Committed Relief website here.  There is information about how donate to the relief efforts through their site.  Their goal is to offer aid and assistance, with a long term desire to minister to the people of the areas they reach out to. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Prayer for Japan

I lived two years in Japan.  Two very short years that made a very large dent in my heart.  I went in obedience to a still, small voice I heard in my heart that asked me to leave my home, my Father and my Mother, and all things familiar, to follow Him.  Not only did I fall deeper in love with Christ, but I fell in love with the people that He asked me to dwell amongst.  So it is with ardent affliction that I receive the news of what has occurred there. 


Although I cannot be there in person to offer relief, I know that our Heavenly Father will pour out His comfort upon the people of Japan.  Our church is currently praying about how to get involved.  Join us in prayer as we await leading from the Lord.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Learning About Paint

Another area of unchartered territory for me is in paint.  Perusing through blogs and magazines, I often admire the use of color that so many talented designers have utilized to bring into their works of art.  Being an apartment tenant, I do not have the liberty to paint my walls, so I am given the challenge of bringing color into my home using other means. 

I went into Home Depot the other day and picked the brain of the helpful store associate in charged of the paint section.  I learned so many things!  I picked up the two sample colors that you see below and another that I had them mix from a color swatch that I brought with me. 

Dark Granite

New postings to follow as I figure out how to incorporate these new colors into my home.... 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bringing Her Food From Afar...Gyoza

When I lived in Japan as an English teacher, I felt like I learned so much more from my students than I was able to impart to them.  Coming home from that country, I brought back more than just the luggage that I had come with.  One of my favorite souvenirs was this recipe for gyoza.  Gyoza is the Japanese version of a Chinese dumpling or pot sticker.  It is a favorite of those living in our house.  They do require some work, but often make our dinner a delight.  Here's my recipe:
Gyoza (Makes 50 pieces)

1 lb.       Ground Meat (Pork, turkey, chicken, beef
1 C        Cabbage finely chopped
1/2 C     Nira finely chopped
1/2 C     Green onion finely chopped
2 Tbsp   Garlic minced
2 Tbsp   Ginger minced
1            Egg
1 Tbsp   Sesame oil
2 Tbsp   Soy sauce
1/2 Tsp  Salt
1/4 Tsp  Pepper

Chop the cabbage very finely.  A food processor can be used to chop all your vegetables.  I prefer doing it the old fashioned way just because I don't like to clean all of the attachments on the processor. 

Nira is found at Asian food markets.  It is sometimes called chieve or a Chinese leek.  It looks like green onion but it is flat and has a very strong fragrance. 

I just love green onions!

I recruited one of my little darlings to be my helper and what a wonderful helper she has turned out to be.  This slows down the process a little but we have a wonderful time together.  One day, I may actually get to eat the gyoza without having prepared it myself :)

Add ground meat, vegetables, egg, soy sauce, sesame oil, salt and pepper, and mix well. 

Gyoza skins can also be found at the Asian market and come with about 50 per package.  They are a bit thinner than won ton wrappers.  Before adding the meat mixture, moisten the edges of the gyoza skin all the way around with a little water.   

Adding the meat is a little tricky and can only become perfected through practice.  Do not be too hard on yourself if it does not come out right at the beginning.  Place about a 1/2 tablespoon sized amount in the middle.  Close the edges making a crimping pattern on the top. 

I fry them in oil to make them crispy. 

Then I put a small amount of water in the pan and cover the pan with a lid to steam them a little. 

Enjoy with steamed rice and veggies sauteed in soy sauce and sesame oil.  I also make a dipping sauce consisting of 2 parts soy sauce and 1 part vinegar.   Good luck trying to put the gyoza on a serving dish and getting them to the table.  I still haven't figured out how to keep my family from eating them before dinner starts!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Backyard Renovation

Every time the Admiral and I travel to Cambria, we try to figure out what we could do to actually live there.  How would we make a living, where would we live, what school would the kids go to...  The four hour drive for us is pure bliss as we enjoy the ocean views and the rolling hills covered with grazing cattle.  It somehow makes you want to dream.

For now it is just a dream, but in the meantime, I try to bring back a little reminder of our wonderful time there.  This time I brought back a couple varieties of thyme and two beautifully colored varieties of nemesia that I have never been able to find around these parts.  Leaving such a glorious place becomes much easier because I know that I will have something fun to do when I get home. 

There is no picture of our backyard area before it was renovated.  It would've been a great before and after comparison.  The main problem was that the supports on the planters were weakening and the dirt was coming down becoming extremely unsafe to do any gardening.  Also, the soil was not soaking any water into the ground so planting anything back there was impossible because the new plantings could never get enough moisture.  We were just left with landslides coming down the side of the concrete. 

The landscaper did such a wonderful job for us.  We are very excited to get started with some planting back there.  I'm thinking that we will delight in making it an edible garden by planting veggies, fruits and herbs.  Items that I could use in my cooking.

I will keep you updated on what we decide to put back there...