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Archive for September, 2012

You can easily double this recipe for extra stew to pull out on cold days when you need a pick-me-up or to heat up for a lightning-fast dinner.

Fall is upon us and we are all about to start craving apple cider, sweet potatoes, and roasted turkey (well, I am)!  Here is a hearty stew that takes advantage of the end of Summer’s Bounty, using tomatoes, corn, and sweet potatoes for a rich flavor sure to knock you off your boot heels!  Not only does this stew make a filling entree, leftovers are easily turned into soup!  To find out how easy it is to make a nutritious and frugal dinner, check out my Cowboy Stew recipe!

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As I wrote earlier this week, regular hair care products can be extremely hazardous to your health.  I provided an all-natural shampoo and conditioning alternative that works great and is probably cheaper than anything you can buy in the store.  However, it takes Mama guts to transition from store-bought care products to homemade.  There is an easy solution that is no compromise: a liquid shampoo or shampoo bar from NaturOli!  (I am an affiliate of their store and was given some samples to try: I am so glad I had the opportunity to do so and I’ll tell you why…)

NaturOli Soap Nut Shampoo EXTREME Hair

This stuff works great! No conditioner needed 🙂

I love my baking soda cleanser…but I had forgotten how good shampoo feels and how fast it is to use!  This trial-size bottle has lasted me for over two weeks.  My stepdaughter tried it and loved it.  One of the first things we noticed was how well it lathers; a little goes a long way!

The second thing we noticed is that it does a great job of cleaning and softening hair, so that we didn’t need to use conditioner.  I noticed a little static, but that was remedied quickly with my ACV conditioning spray.  My hair was very soft and easy to brush.

This shampoo is one of the safest ones to buy, rated at a risk factor of “1” by the Environmental Work Group (the chief concerns being the use of Guar Gum, Citric Acid, and Aloe Vera Gel…pretty tame, wouldn’t you agree?).

This trial size (2 oz.) is perfect for camping and travel: it costs $5.60.  Or, you can buy the regular size shampoo bottle (16oz) for $19.95.  That sounds expensive, but it does last a long time AND you really don’t need to buy any conditioner ($AVING$).

Next time I get soap nuts for my laundry, I’ll think I’ll get some shampoo, especially if we travel to see family at Christmastime (I have yet to try lugging around my baking soda cleanser bottle…I think this shampoo will work a lot better for us, don’t you agree? 😉 )  This would make a VERY thoughtful and unique gift if you’re trying to impress a health- or earth-conscious loved one in the upcoming festive Season!

NaturOli Soap Nuts Shampoo Bar – Saponin Secret

This little bar will work wonders for your entire family…including your dog!

This is the most surprising product of all, I think.  Not only is it very economical (you produce as much lather as is needed to wash your hair from the bar) and compact (no bottles; this should pose no problem through security check points!), but it works just as well as liquid shampoo.  The crazy thing?  It worked wonders not only on our hair, but on our dog’s coat too!

Our dog Zeus gets a terrible allergic reaction to Ragweed in Michigan each September.  It is especially bad after a heavy rain.  All his skin turns bright red, gets swollen, and he has usually licked himself raw by October.  Gross.  However, we used the shampoo bar on him and he instantly felt, looked and smelled MUCH better.  He was obviously relieved.  Whether you use this on yourself, your kids (they can have fun making the lather too!) or your DOG, you will be doing your skin, budget, and environment a huge favor!

The Shampoo Bar costs $5.75, and there is a citrus version I haven’t tried but has a low-risk rating by the EWG (there is no rating available for the regular shampoo bar, but I imagine it is fairly close).  This would make a great stocking stuffer and conversation starter!  Make sure you pick some up for your loved ones (bipedal and quadrupedal) today!

Helping of Hope: you don’t have to put cancer-causing materials on your precious skin just to look and smell good!  Buying all-natural personal care products like these can help save your immune system without breaking your piggy bank!

If you enjoyed today’s SHOP-TIL-YOU-DROP SATURDAYS post, why not share it with a friend using one of the may options below?  Thanks!

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Is your focus on the concerns of this life obscuring your view of hope?

So far we have covered 8 of the 10 MIQVEH verses in Scripture.  Only two more to go (although I am contemplating going over each of the MIQVEH verses in Jeremiah in context and then a MIQVEH wrap-up or overview for a “broad picture” look at what that hope means for us today…so that’s perhaps another five posts.  We’ll see!)  The fifth occurrence of MIQVEH in Scripture is found in a prayer by the most famous King in the Old Testament:

For we are strangers before You, and sojourners, as all our fathers were; our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no hope or expectation of remaining.

1 Chronicles 29:15,  Amplified Bible (AMP) Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation

King David spoke these words as part of his exuberant prayer of praise to God; the people had responded to David’s generosity in donating his wealth and resources to building the Temple by bringing similarly sacrificial offerings.  Everything had been set up for Solomon, David’s son, to succeed him.  The day after David praised God for the outpouring of riches and splendor, Solomon was confirmed as King and reigned in his father’s place.  David had lived to see his son sit on the throne in a peaceful transition from one administration to the next: a rarity in that culture and time.

David had come to realize a very important truth that Solomon would later spend the majority of his life ignoring: we can’t live (here) forever.  David acknowledged that he had no “MIQVEH” of remaining.  Unlike his father, Solomon never had to hide in a cave for his life.  He fought neither the bear nor the lion as his father had done as a child-shepherd.   Solomon was surrounded by peace and riches for the majority of his life; a surprisingly deceptive circumstance that left him unprepared for his departure.  Yet David, his father, was fully prepared to pass from the scene.  Solomon died a disenfranchised and “back-slidden” cynic; David died full of hope for a future he had no control of.  What was the difference?  David knew God personally.

There is significance in the use of the word MIQVEH in the verse above: we have already discussed that MIQVEH means to gather something together in a collection or reservoir.  This provides vivid imagery in understanding what hope is: MIQVEH speaks of the source on which our hopes and dreams depend, the substance of our hope.  Imagine that a plate of water is set before you and you use your fingers to gather it together; will it stay put?  Can you grasp that water in your hand and keep it?  For a short time, perhaps, but it runs and dries out too quickly. It has no MIQVEH of remaining.  That is what you and I are like: we cannot keep it together in this place!  We cannot anchor our lives in this plane of existence.  Like it or not, we are going to pass from this scene.  We cannot hold onto this life no matter how hard we grasp at it.

Jesus spoke about those who hold onto this life too tightly by gathering and storing all their hopes into this material place:

Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being. “Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!

Matthew 6:1-4, The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Solomon put his MIQVEH into horses and material possessions, forgetting Who had given him those blessings and the futility of storing up the wealth for someone else to take advantage of!  For all his wisdom, Solomon became darkened in his understanding because he looked to a scatterer of light as though it were its source.  Everything you and I can see is scattering or reflecting light; if you hold your wallet close to your eyeballs, it will become dark because it is now blocking light from entering your eyes.  If you hold it back so it scatters the light from a lamp or ambient light, you can see it.  God wants to meet our needs, but His blessings are not a substitute for their Source!  The blessings we ask Him for ought to reflect Him to us, not become a substitute for God so we may use them as if we were God!  If our ultimate desire is not for “his kingdom and his righteousness”, then we are very darkened in our souls indeed.

It is easy to understand that principle with material possessions, but harder to see it with our attitude toward the hereafter.  After all, how can we invest in a future we’ve never seen?  What’s the point system associated with my good deeds?  How do I know what to expect after I die?  How may I die in hope if I have no hope of remaining?  I think we invest in this life by default, out of fear of the unknown; it is easier to put death and the afterlife out of mind and focus on subscribing to some arbitrary system of success than it is to contemplate how my soul is really doing and how hope-filled my future is really going to be.

But there is hope.

We may not be able to hold onto this life by storing up treasures and living here forever, but we can experience a new life both here on earth and in the hereafter:

You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?

John 11:25 The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

We may not have any MIQVEH of remaining by ourselves, but guess what?  We don’t need it!  Jesus is our MIQVEH; in Him we have all the hope we need!  He is the Source of our eternal life!  That’s why believing in the resurrection (coming back to life, a dynamically different life) is essential to being “saved”:

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Romans 10:9 New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.

It is that resurrection life in Jesus that gives us hope for salvation!  His resurrection is the basis of our claim to eternal life!  That life isn’t just useful for eternity, either: it is good for the “here-and-now”:

I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead.

Philippians 3:10 New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.

And this is eternal life: [it means] to know (to perceive, recognize, become acquainted with, and understand) You, the only true and real God, and [likewise] to know Him, Jesus [as the] Christ (the Anointed One, the Messiah), Whom You have sent.

John 17:3 Amplified Bible (AMP) Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation

Knowing God, having a relationship with him right now, allowing the same power that raised Jesus from the dead to live in you and change your life, is having eternal, limitless life within you.  With that Source of Life available to us, how could we replace that with wealth or scraping to “get ahead”?  You and I have no MIQVEH of remaining in this fallen world with its broken systems; if you have become aware of the dullness and darkness associated with the unattainable pursuit of happiness apart from the love and life of God, why not devote yourself to the pursuit of knowing Him as David did?  Then you will be able to say as David did:

Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness
    while I am here in the land of the living.

Psalm 27:13 New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.

Through Jesus, you and I can come to know God.  Through Him we have a MIQVEH, a hope, greater than any this world alone can provide!  

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Check out the system we have been using (and loving) for almost a year!

This week’s Mama Mondays post is going to take guts.  Mama guts.

Many women have a preferred hair-care regimen.  Few of us would continue with it, however, if we realized exactly what it is we are putting into our scalps.  To find out what your shampoo, conditioner, and hair-styling products are putting into your system, type it in the search field at the Environmental Work Group Cosmetic Database here (make sure you type in the brand first, followed by the name of the product). It has over 95,000 products and complete listings of ingredients and what those ingredients may be doing to you right now.

Here are some common  chemical components in conventional hair care products:

  • One of the worst chemical components of regular hair care products is the one thing we like most about them: the scent.  Artificial fragrances are dangerous neurotoxins that can impair your neurological (brain) functioning.
  • Another incredibly dangerous aspect of shampoos are the conditioning agents.  Retinyl Acetate (Vitamin A Acetate) causes developmental and reproductive toxicity: this means it can cause cellular changes in you and your developing baby, increasing your risk of cancer and your baby’s risk of birth defects.
  • Those ingredients you can’t pronounce (or have no idea what they are)?  Most of them are immunotoxins, meaning they impair your body’s ability to fight off disease and cancer.

A lot of people are wondering why cancer is becoming more and more prevalent in our society.  Part of it may be living longer, better screening and diagnosis, etc., but I think the largest reason is because we are not only eating carcinogens in our diet, we are rubbing them all over the largest organ of our body: our skin.  We are literally bathing our bodies with cancer-causing products that weigh down our immune systems.  (I am not suggesting that all cancers are caused by our choices; cancer is endemic to an imperfect and fallen world that I believe God will heal and make new again.  However, since cancer is a reality of our present human experience, especially for wealthier nations, we need to be careful not to ignore our contribution to the problem).

Helping of Hope!  Right choice: find personal care products that use 100% from-nature (not “all-natural”, as the term can be misleading) ingredients that are non-toxic (some are listed on the EWG page in the link above).  Bright future: healthier immune system to fight off allergens, diseases, and cancers; reduced risk of allergic reactions, diseases, and cancers; healthier babies and longer lifespan.

For an option you can easily switch to TODAY, see my Baking Soda Hair Cleanser & ACV Conditioning Spray page.  Not quite ready to take the plunge to make your own care products?  This Saturday’s SHOP-TIL-YOU-DROP post will offer a couple all-natural hair solutions that you’ll be glad to try; make sure you stop by on Saturday to check it out!

If you found this Mama Monday’s post informative and helpful, please share a “helping of hope” with your friends using the options below.  Thanks!

 

 

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What is your hope riding on?

Today we are going to look at the (possible) fourth and sixth occurrences of the Hebrew word for hope MIQVEH–collection or gathering–in the Bible to learn more about where hope comes from, what it is, and what it ought to be based on.

Solomon’s horses were brought out of Egypt, and the king’s merchants received them in droves, each at a price.

Solomon’s horses were brought out of Egypt; the king’s merchants received them in droves, each drove at a price.

1 Kings 10:28; 2 Chronicles 1:16.  Amplified Bible (AMP) Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation

I say “possible” because there is some discrepancy between Hebrew texts whether the word ought to be MIQVEH or QAVEH, the masculine noun form of QAVAH (the word for “wait” that we looked at in the Faith Friday’s | Bound in Hope post and will be discussing in more depth in the future).  MIQVEH, QAVEH, and TIQVAH all come from the verb root QAVAH, to bind.  They are all related through the main idea of bringing and combining something together. They are almost identical in spelling, also.

  • MIQVEH: מקוה, HVQM;
  • TIQVAH: תּקוה, HVQT;
  • QAVAH/QAVEH: קוה, HVQ.

Same last letters reading right-to-left, different first letters (vowels are implied).

Some people will choose to look at such a minor discrepancy as evidence of the Bible’s fallibility; far from it, the insignificance of the difference confirms the Bible’s unprecedented accuracy despite the fact that translators have no access to the original documents, the only literary items considered infallible by adherents to Verbal Plenary Inspiration (generally, the idea that every word of the Bible is inspired by God).

All the Hebrew documents we have are in a whopping 85% agreement; hardly a case of “Chinese Whispers” after being preserved for approximately 2,500 to 3,500 years (Chinese whispers is typically 0% accurate after only a few iterations).  Most translation errors come from minor copyist errors, like the one above, with a few caused by obscure words that are resolved by earlier texts as they are discovered.

If you’re still not sure about those minor discrepancies, stick to the 85% undisputed Hebrew words and keep an open heart to the 15% of disputed texts as translation issues are resolved (these disputes are often noted in the center columns or endnotes of various English translations; alternate translations, manuscript differences, and other difficulties are openly discussed so you can weigh them in context).  The essential teachings of the Bible are not going to change; with 66 books in tow, including the New Testament, there are so many undisputed parts of the Bible that they more than adequately cover subjects from the minor passages that have translation nuances.

The Bible you hold in your hand (or scroll through online) is the most accurate historical book to date with no theological contradictions, all reputable texts being considered.  It is more accurate than anything you will hear on the news or the TV; it is up to you to decide if those outlets are more dependable than the Bible

Using human intellect to criticize the Bible is like trying to calibrate a laser with a yard-stick: we are far less accurate in our speech and ideology than the Bible.  In science, one cannot accurately measure an object with a larger one (this is why atoms are often “viewed” with electrons instead of light).  Since human beings are so poorly self-defined, we are not fit to measure the Bible (to scoff at its accuracy or perceived lack thereof); however, the Bible is more than adequate to measure us (in conduct and consistency since it remains essentially unchanged)!

The Bible has survived thousands of years of caustic contention as well as reasonable inquiry.  It provides rigorous answers to inquisitive minds and silences the career skeptic.  The contemporary Bible can hold its own, copyist errors and all!  Imagine what voices of criticism would be forced into complete silence were the original documents found…

Therefore, I have no problem calling the Bible we have today the Word of God even if there are copyist errors or minor translation obscurities.  Personally, I believe God thinks the Bible is accurate enough for us to pay attention to every single wordJesus and the apostles quoted from the Septuagint, a Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures that varied slightly in wording to make it more readily understood to Hellenized Jewry.  Several of Jesus’ teachings and the apostles’ references come from or agree with the Talmud, which isn’t even in the “Canon of Scripture”. Jesus had no difficulty quoting or relying on the “modern” translations of His day.

Sometimes we invent arbitrary rules to disqualify God; nothing exists that could satisfy our unrealistic expectations of accuracy (least of all ourselves–there’s true hypocrisy!).  Those self-sabotaging rules of accuracy are the byproduct of our modern, litigative thinking.  (We have jumped out of the frying pan of the Pharisees into the fire of the Scribes!)  The greatest Biblical accuracy is this: put its teachings into practice, by faith, and watch God transform and bless you as He promises!

Back to MIQVEH (thank you for patiently bearing with my discussion on Biblical accuracy).  The MIQVEH/QAVAH debate is resolved by the simple fact that they both translate literally to similar words:

  • MIQVEH translates as “yarn” (King James Version, which uses the ben Chayyim 1524/5 edition of Bomberg’s 1516/7 Rabbinic Bible); It means a collection and hope.
  • QAVEH translates as “line” (not used literally in any version, but appears in Kittle’s 1912 Biblia Hebraica used by both the New King James Version and New American Standard Bible). It means a measuring cord used for binding.

Yarn and Line both speak of “roping off” or measuring “by the line”; the translation is made clear by the Amplified Bible (see verses above) which expounds original wording rather well within a word-for-word framework and that is why I am using it for this post!  (If you see “from Keveh”, “from Kue”, “from Cilicia” in your favorite translation, know that the translators are trying to make sense of QAVEH in these obscure verses by suggesting it could be a place-name.  I’m sticking with the AMP! –A.M.)

So what was being MIQVEH-ed (or QAVEH-ed)? What was being gathered together in hope in these nearly replicated verses in the books of the Kings and the Chronicles of Israel and Judah?

Horses!

(My husband likes to modify his autocross race-car to gather his “horses” together…that gives him lots of hope (!), but I’m not so sure that’s what Solomon was going for…)

Solomon was so wealthy that he didn’t purchase a horse the same way you and I would purchase a car.  We would purchase with careful inspection, pitiful price bargaining, bank wheedling, begrudging document signing, and cautious driving.

Solomon, however, said, “I’ll take the entire lot!” He ordered his horses “by the line”, in droves as the AMP translates.  I think we are hard-pressed to imagine how inordinately wealthy that is; buying things in bulk just to own them, not even having the opportunity to use them.  Storing them from place to place and in the end, just reselling them to other people…for even more money!

Of course, horses were not really for transportation.  They were for war.  But here’s the thing: Solomon ruled at a time of great peace.  In fact, that was what God promised him (through Solomon’s father, King David):

But you will have a son who will be a man of peace. I will give him peace with his enemies in all the surrounding lands. His name will be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel during his reign.

1 Chronicles 22:9 New Living Translation (NLT) copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.

Why did Solomon purchase so many horses?  Because he could.  His addiction to spending and trading was rivaled only by his addiction to women and accumulating money.  Solomon had the cheat code to the single-player strategy game and he was racking up coins, horses, ladies, and treaties.  Everything he needed for a high score, right?  Wrong.

Four hundred and fifty years earlier, Moses had warned the Hebrew people against such a king:

“You are about to enter the land the Lord your God is giving you. When you take it over and settle there, you may think, ‘We should select a king to rule over us like the other nations around us.’ If this happens, be sure to select as king the man the Lord your God chooses. You must appoint a fellow Israelite; he may not be a foreigner. “The king must not build up a large stable of horses for himself or send his people to Egypt to buy horses, for the Lord has told you, ‘You must never return to Egypt.’ The king must not take many wives for himself, because they will turn his heart away from the Lord. And he must not accumulate large amounts of wealth in silver and gold for himself.

“When he sits on the throne as king, he must copy for himself this body of instruction on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. He must always keep that copy with him and read it daily as long as he lives. That way he will learn to fear the Lord his God by obeying all the terms of these instructions and decrees. This regular reading will prevent him from becoming proud and acting as if he is above his fellow citizens. It will also prevent him from turning away from these commands in the smallest way. And it will ensure that he and his descendants will reign for many generations in Israel.

Deuteronomy 17:16-20, New Living Translation (NLT) copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.

Solomon did more than buy horses from Egypt (the nation that oppressed the Hebrew people as I discussed in an earlier post, When Hope Turns to Blood); he made a treaty with Pharoah and married his daughter.  The very nation that had oppressed them four centuries ago, from which God delivered Israel with signs and wonders and having removed them from Egypt, spent another forty years in the wilderness removing Egypt from them, was now being treated as Israel’s best friend because they were wealthy.  This kind of Machiavellian expediency seems puzzling in a man who wrote so many proverbs and was raised under the godly influence of a passionate man like King David.  Moses might have turned in his grave; all that plague and tragic loss of life due to one kings’ stubbornness (Pharoah of Moses’ time) all trivialized by another’s (Solomon’s).

Why would Solomon, supposedly so wise, do the opposite of what God had commanded almost half a millennium before him?

The answer is so incredibly simple that it makes this wisest of kings seem silly.

Solomon forgot to read his Bible.

According to this passage, Solomon was supposed to copy the law on the scroll and read it daily.  Solomon’s wisdom rivaled that of any man but it did not rival God’s.  The same Solomon who in the book of Proverbs asserted that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” forgot that God’s Word is a treasure that far exceeds that of power, sex, and money (blessings which come from God and are best enjoyed according to His principles).  Solomon unwittingly fell into the same trap that all people fall into if we are not well guarded; seeing God’s blessing as an end in itself, and through over-indulgence, coming to see ourselves as an ultimate end.

Why did Solomon stop reading the Bible (or the Scriptures he had available to him at the time)?  Probably for the same reasons you and I do.  When things are going well and God’s blessing seems to be flowing steadily into our lives, we feel as though we have all the answers; we perceive the Bible to be a problem-solving book and when we don’t think that we have any problems, we feel no need to read it.  We are like mental patients who feel that since things are going so well as a result of following our medication regimen, we must no longer need it; we take personal ownership of the positive results and forget it is the medication that keeps us grounded.  The spiritual results of forgoing daily reminders of Truth are no less dramatic or harmful than rejecting needed antipsychotic meds.

Solomon had once cried out to God for wisdom to carry out his duties; however religious Solomon may have been during these Golden years, his hunger for Truth was being temporarily placated by temporal blessings.  Unfortunately, when we try to use sex, money, and power to fill or distract us from our need for God those blessings become our gods and we become their slaves.  Solomon’s ravenous appetite only underscored the greatness of his spiritual neglect.  The obesity epidemic in America today is similar: our bodies are crying out for nutrition and receiving sugar instead.  The more depleted we are of the nutrition we need, the more sugar we crave.  As long as we can keep functioning, we don’t want to change…but change will come, for better or worse.  The body isn’t designed to run on sugar.  We can’t live on blessings alone, either; we need the Word of God.

There’s a more sinister twist to Solomon’s fate than merely being distracted by “good times”.  Solomon actually became fairly deceived.  The nations Solomon had made treaties with–and the “seal-the-deal” wives he had accumulated as a result–all came with a hefty price.  He had married them to bring Israel peace; they had married him and stolen his.  True inner peace only comes when we keep God first; with every wife Solomon acquired, there was a new deity and religion to accommodate.

When we abandon the Word of God as our primary source of hope, our hearts are no longer guarded against falsehood.  Anything might be true without its absolutes. Sometimes in our attempt to reach out to skeptical or resistant people, we overburden ourselves with the need to explain our faith; we take responsibility to fix their problems with accepting it.  We can certainly reason with others, but we cannot do their wrestling with the Truth for them. With the struggle comes a metamorphosis: new identity and hope!

I wonder if Solomon overextended himself in his attempt to be understanding of other cultures, hoping his wives would convert to Judaism, only to find himself wrestling with a myriad of contradictory and charming traditions that seemed to weigh more heavily in him than they ought to?  I’m sure the pretty faces that came with those ideas did not help to encourage his theological resolve!  Perhaps he felt that so many other nice and wonderful people could not possibly all be wrong.  In his insecurity, he invalidated the God who had been victorious in battle against all of the nations represented in Solomon’s Harem.  Some of those nations would attack Israel not long after Solomon’s death.  They hadn’t forgotten who they were or what was in their best interest.  Solomon had.

Solomon had not maintained healthy boundaries in his relationships and pursuits: he had an “out-of-control soul”.  He was like a city without walls or gates; while he was focused on expansion, his wives were used to loot him of any identity he had in God.  The wealthy king who gave lavish gifts to all his visitors and impressed dignitaries with his opulence had become spiritually and emotionally impoverished.  He had forgotten his own proverb:

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.

Proverbs 4:23 New Living Translation (NLT) copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.

Solomon had put his hopes, economically and militarily, in droves of horses.  If he didn’t need them, he could sell them; if he did need them, he could grind opposition in the dust (or so he thought).  There was only one thing that really could have defended Solomon: only one thing that was needed to keep him truly safe.  His father David knew what it was:

Do not snatch your word of truth from me, for your regulations are my only hope.

May all who fear you find in me a cause for joy, for I have put my hope in your word.

I am worn out waiting for your rescue, but I have put my hope in your word.

You are my refuge and my shield; your word is my source of hope.

I am counting on the LORD; yes, I am counting on him. I have put my hope in his word.

Psalm 119: 43, 74, 81, 114; 130:5. New Living Translation (NLT) copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.

David knew there was only one thing holding him together: God’s Word, His promises and regulations.  David meditated on them, wrote songs about them, prayed them day in and day out.  They convicted him, reassured him, and helped him to live within the boundaries that God would bless him in.  Even when David messed up royally, God’s word helped him to repent fully and be restored quickly.

That wasn’t the case with his son.

Solomon’s sad, anticlimactic, and inevitable demise is recorded in 1 Kings chapter 11.  After melding Judaism with paganism and refusing to honor God’s warnings about his wives’ influence on him, Solomon is told the kingdom will be torn apart by the divisive forces he has introduced.  Solomon the international peacemaker had become the domestic peace loser by accepting ideologies that were always at war with his.  Three enemies plagued Solomon until the day he died; there was a civil war in the early days of his son’s reign that tore the nation of Israel apart.  Solomon had amassed unparalleled wealth, but left nothing of real value to his children; they grew up without wisdom, without identity, and without God.  Without these protections, the physical blessings they had were soon stripped away.  The wealth Solomon had accumulated from trade with Egypt was shortly plundered after he died…by Egypt.  The horses sold to the Arameans were used against Israel.  The idols that Solomon had made room for in order to accommodate others’ belief systems remained a snare for his descendants for over 400 years.

So what about you?

Have you decided that you don’t need the Word of God, the Bible?  Do you feel successful enough on your own?  Are you above other people; do different rules apply to you?  Despite your success, do you feel like there is something more to life that is missing; do you notice that there are things you are addicted to that seem to be praiseworthy, but have actually enslaved you so that you “can’t change”?  Are you accumulating false hope in droves, only to see it steal real peace from you in droves?

Perhaps the Bible seems silly to you; it couldn’t possibly be true!  Not with all the different belief systems out there!  Not with human error.  The only way for everything to be true is for none of it to be really true; if each person is determining what truth is, then the only god we serve is ourselves: powerless to save, powerless to protect, powerless to truly satisfy.  Not much hope there.  At the root of idolatry is the worship of self; could it be that God is real, but you cannot see Him with yourself in the way?  Have you added unrealistic expectations on truth to disqualify it from ever challenging you?  Have you cut yourself off from Hope?

There is hope in the Word of God.  Hope to restore your identity; hope to define, keep, and guard your boundaries.  Hope to protect you from marauding ideologies.  Hope to pass on to the next generation so they will not be plundered of the blessings you have worked hard to provide for them.  The biggest treasure and the dearest hope in the Bible is found in knowing God and having the priviledge of calling Him by name (Lord Jesus):

Some nations boast of their chariots and horses, but we boast in the name of the Lord our God.

Psalm 20:7, New Living Translation (NLT) copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.

If your hope is gathered in droves, set it aside and spend some time with God today.  Sing  Him a song, pray for a few minutes, and read the very accurate Word of God.  It won’t be long before it starts speaking into your life and giving you fresh hope that will last beyond your lifetime.
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As Summer draws to a close, here are some great recipes to celebrate the harvest of garden herbs and veggies:

Delicious!

Greeny-Beany Burgers are a delicious, nutritious, very filling, and dare I say *cheap* substitute for overdone grill-fare.  I have yet to get it *husband approved* (that’s going to be hard since it isn’t meat…the dog, however, wolfed four down while I wasn’t looking; he didn’t seem to realize it wasn’t meat!  As angry as I was, I suppose I ought to take it as a compliment…)

Fast!

Sweet Basil Vinaigrette Dressing is as easy to make as 1-2-3…I can make it in five minutes after pulling together a last-minute salad only to realize I forgot to make Ranch Dressing.  Ooops!  My kids actually like this dressing and didn’t mention anything about the Ranch…

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Let these guys make your life a lot sweeter…and digestion much easier!

I’m back to my old habits again, posting late on a Tuesday night (this is quickly becoming a Transformation WEDNESDAY post)!  This weeks Transformation Tuesdays post is a follow-up to the very first, STEP ONE: Avoid Corn Syrup and Artificial Sweeteners.  If you have already followed the advice therein, by now you should have swapped most of your foods containing toxic sweeteners for sugar-sweetened ones, with a few corn syrup-laden favorites “on notice”.  Perhaps you took the plunge to make some of those favorites from scratch! (Please let me know how that process is going in the comments section below –A.M.)

Today I’m going to discuss two natural sweeteners that have some health benefits and are significantly less damaging to the body than refined sugar (which is pure sucrose, a non-nutritive chemical that can create dependency).

The first of these is my favorite, RAW HONEY.  It is available at many Farmer’s Markets and health food stores; you can also call a local apiary to find out if their honey is processed raw and if so, where it is sold.  “Raw” means the honey hasn’t been heat-treated, a process that destroys one of honey’s most valuable assets: ENZYMES (particularly amylase, from pollen).  Enzymes provide energy and overall good health by making the nutrition in food more readily available.  That’s why raw honey on whole wheat toast, in moderation, is actually good for you.  In fact, because of its amylase content,  raw honey it is the perfect sweetener for grain-based carbohydrates because it helps the body to better digest them.

If you are going to use raw honey, make sure you do not heat it above 117 deg-F (just above “lukewarm”), or the enzymes will be destroyed.  Add it to oatmeal that has already cooled slightly and try to incorporate it into desserts (like homemade ice cream) without heating.  It may also be used in warm coffee or tea instead of sugar to sweeten; if you need a “hot cuppa”, you may still use honey but you’ll lose the enzymes.

If you can find it, UNFILTERED RAW HONEY is best; it’s the one with the little specks in it and the tiny bits of beeswax that have worked their way to the top.  Those “specks” are bee pollen.  According to Sally Fallon of Nourishing Traditions (2001):

Bee pollen contains 22 amino acids including the eight essential ones, 27 minerals and the full gamut of vitamins, hormones, and fatty acids.  Most importantly, bee pollen contains more than 5,000 enzymes and coenzymes. (p. 617)

The benefits of bee pollen have been linked to incredible longevity; bee pollen is a potent detoxifier (and can trigger allergic reactions if too much is consumed too quickly) and a natural remedy for all sorts of ailments.  While bee pollen can be consumed as a supplement, which is probably very useful for treating certain conditions, I’d rather take it “as God intended” by consuming unfiltered raw honey every day, especially on my steel-cut oats and whole wheat sourdough bread.  Unfiltered raw honey has a slightly different taste than filtered raw honey (I can taste mild hints of wax and pollen, but those “flavors” are not very noticeable; it gives the honey an overall more “earthy” note); on toast or in oatmeal, it is barely noticeable (and pretty good even on its own).

Even if honey is heated, it is still easier on the Endocrine system than refined sugar, resulting in a lower “sugar-spike”.  The difficulty comes in incorporating it in recipes that call for over-processed and refined ingredients.  Here are some guidelines for switching from refined sugar to honey (it will not produce the same results, but the recipe should still “work”…sort of):

  1. Reduce the liquid in the recipe (if possible) by 1/4 cup for each cup of honey used (honey is 17% water)
  2. Use 1 cup of honey to replace 1 cup of sugar; the taste will be slightly sweeter.
  3. Recipes calling for creaming butter with sugar will not adapt well to honey; the “crumb” will be more dense.
  4. Honey absorbs water over time; this keeps baked goods moist.  Some suggest this reduces the shelf life; I think it depends on the baked good.

If your recipe really doesn’t work with honey, try to use Rapadura (dehydrated cane sugar juice that is the least processed and the most nutritious out of ALL “natural” sugar-cane based sweeteners, explained here). One of my favorite honey recipes is for HEALTHIER MARSHMALLOWS (try finding THOSE without corn syrup at the grocery store!)

Of course, every honey post has to point out that infants’ stomachs cannot kill bacteria spores that may naturally occur in honey; please do not give honey (raw or otherwise) to any child under 12 months old.

Another beneficial sweetener is a Michigan-favorite,  PURE MAPLE SYRUP.  It contains many beneficial vitamins and minerals (including manganese and zinc) that maple trees extract from the ground through their roots.  Two notes of caution: avoid pancake syrups and buy organic.  Most “Maple Syrups” are corn syrup with maple flavoring; there should only be one ingredient listed (e.g. Grade A or B Amber Pure Maple Syrup).  Non-organic maple syrup is more likely to contain formaldehyde.  While using formaldehyde to keep tap holes from closing is illegal in the U.S. and Canada, there is little to no guarantee that this practice has entirely ceased.  USDA-certified organic maple syrups have to go through rigorous screening that would hopefully catch any clandestine formaldehyde use.  To convert to baking, follow the honey guidelines above but reduce the liquid by 1/3 to 1/2 cup per cup of maple syrup used.  Of course, the nice thing about maple syrup is that it can be converted to maple sugar!  Maple sugar can be substituted for refined sugar 3:4. Maple syrup doesn’t come with the same warning as honey: recommendations for its usage vary.  It is produced by boiling; this supposedly kills off mold and bacteria, but does not address possible contaminants in the packaging process.  If you are concerned, contact your child’s pediatrician.  I have read that 9 months may be a safe age to introduce maple syrup (read my disclaimer –>).

I love the taste of Maple Syrup, but it is significantly more expensive than honey, especially for baking.  It’s primary nutritive component is manganese.  For most of my needs, honey is my sweetener of choice and unfiltered raw honey is the most nutritive.  Except for the organic white sugar I bought to start my Kombucha Tea culture, I haven’t bought regular sugar in almost a year and I am not missing it at all!

Helping of Hope!  Right Choice: as you are able, gradually give up all the products containing refined sugar (the ones you recently switched to from corn-syrup laden alternatives) by replacing them with products sweetened only with organic honey, maple syrup/sugar, sorghum syrup, and rapadura.  This may require making many of your favorites by scratch (I hope to provide some recipes on this site that will help). Bright future: reduced risk of sugar addiction and insulin resistance; increased vitamin, mineral, and enzyme content of diet leading to better overall health.

I hope you enjoyed this Transformation Tuesdays post! If so, please share using one of the many features below.  Have a sugar question or suggestion?  Ask/comment below.  Thanks!

 

 

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