The Theology of Weather: Seeing God in the Elements (Snowy Day Thoughts)

As I write this, snowflakes are gently falling, and have been all day, in my corner of the beautiful Pacific Northwest. I still get giddy like a little kid when it snows. Even more so when the snow sticks to the ground. Though my zest for snowball fights and building snow art has diminished with age, I remain filled with childlike wonder at the beauty of it.

As I observed the silent splendor on a morning walk, I began to think of God, and how the snow is a gift from Him, as is weather of various types. It is a gift, as well as a reminder of His character if we pay closer attention.

Snow is pure

The white that blankets the ground after a winter snowfall makes everything appear clean, beautiful and pure. It can be seen as a symbol of God’s work of redemption in our lives, through Jesus Christ.

“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are as scarlet,
They will be as white as snow; – Isaiah 1:18a

That alone makes me appreciate the snow even more!

Additionally, the beauty of the glorified Christ as revealed in Revelation 1 uses snow as part of the imagery to describe the purity and holiness of the Son of God.

Moving from the figurative to the literal, a practical observation about snow.

It disrupts our lives

Those of us that live in areas that are perpetually ill-equipped for snow regarding clearing roads, proper vehicles to navigate it, and a lack of knowledge about how to safely drive in it, find our lives disrupted by the beautiful white stuff. Schools get delayed or canceled, people can’t make it to work, kids (and some adults) cannot contain their glee.

For a substance that imparts such serenity, it sure can disorder schedules.  Not unlike the transformative work of God in the lives of Christians. For all the peace and joy it provides, when done right, it changes everything.

The beauty of God can easily be seen in other forms of weather as well.

Rain

Pacific Northwesterners have a love/hate relationship with rain. The consistent 8-10 months we get a year can be overwhelming. Especially when the temps are low, and we have stretches of dozens of consecutive days of drippiness.

Though there is a temptation to complain, an honest evaluation requires acknowledging that the stunning greenery and beauty we get to enjoy here necessitates the rainfall. I’ve had more experiences of profound worship of our Creator through beholding His creation than I can count. If rain is what it takes, then I say bring it on.

The wisdom of God in giving us the water cycle to keep our planet and its inhabitants hydrated also must not be overlooked.

Sun

I scarcely meet someone who doesn’t enjoy the sun. Yes, they are out there, but they are a scant minority in my observation. Sunshine is amazing!!

To once more draw on my native Northwest perspective, we cherish sunny days. We wait through months of cold, gray, liquid sunshine for those few months when that bright orb warms up our lives.  Seasonal waterfront restaurants open, and remain consistently crowded. People who have been hiding from the elements come out in droves. The best our region has to offer is on full display.

The sun is arguably the most poignant weather metaphor for the glory of God. Its warmth sustains life, its heat can be deadly, one cannot gaze at it directly, yet its light makes seeing possible.

Ancient cultures worshipped the sun. Yet, the Bible plainly describes it as part of God’s creation — and that through which we can rightly glimpse His character.

Psalm 19:1-6 is one of the best passages to tackle this:

The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words;
Their voice is not heard.
Their [a]line has gone out through all the earth,
And their utterances to the end of the world.
In them He has placed a tent for the sun,
Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber;
It rejoices as a strong man to run his course.
Its rising is from [b]one end of the heavens,
And its circuit to the [c]other end of them;
And there is nothing hidden from its heat.

To summarize, it is fascinating to observe how God reveals Himself to us through weather of all kinds. Not only do the seasons give what we need to sustain life (and themselves are a metaphor for the stages of life), but the weather contained within each is an invitation to investigate the One who gave life to us in the first place, and freely offers eternal life through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Thoughts on this subject? I would love to hear any questions or comments!

 

 

 

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The Miracle of Santification

“The Lord works in mysterious ways.”

This phrase, oft-used though it is, pertains to so many different situations. The mind and the ways of God are so incredible, there are really no words to describe them.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts. – Isaiah 55:8-9

Today’s topic is sanctification. It is not a word that is used much anymore, unfortunately. I don’t even hear it in church circles much. To use ye old Merriam-Webster, sanctification means:

1 : to set apart to a sacred purpose or to religious use : consecrate
2 : to free from sin : purify
3 a : to impart or impute sacredness, inviolability, or respect to
b : to give moral or social sanction to
4 : to make productive of holiness or piety

In short, it is the process God uses, in His mysterious ways, to make people more like Christ as they follow and seek Him throughout their lives. I call it a miracle, because, it is. How God can take a filthy sinner, save them from their evil ways, and begin a supernatural work in them to make them holy is truly beyond comprehension.

I had a conversation recently with a teenage girl who expressed frustration at the fact that she didn’t know if God was working in her life. She wanted to be a mature Christian but didn’t see that it was happening.

Two passages immediately came to mind which address that topic, more or less.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. – Philippians 1:6

That verse has brought me comfort over the years. Knowing that God is continuing His work in my life, even when I can’t tell, is quite encouraging.

But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. – 2 Peter 3:8-9

While this passage isn’t specifically about sanctification, it does help us refocus our perspective on time. While a year feels like a year to us mere mortals, the God of the Bible has the advantage of looking at the whole continuum of human history, from start to finish.

With that perspective, we can begin to appreciate that God sees the long game. He saw all our days long before we were born (Psalm 139:16). He knows each step we will take, and therefore can see how our walk with Him is going to turn out.

Having traveled a few more miles down the highway of life than my young friend, I took the opportunity to reflect on the years that elapsed since I was her age. I can say, it has been an incredible ride.  Thinking about the status of my faith 20 years ago versus now reveals to me how much God has been at work, shaping my attitudes and growing my love for Him.

To those Christians wondering or perhaps concerned about the process of sanctification in their lives, I would offer the following admonitions.

  1. Be Patient.  Considering the passages above, we know that God is working in our lives. The fruit of His labor will unfold over the years, and may not be evident right away. It wasn’t for yours truly.
  2. Be Prayerful. To borrow from a country song, “Don’t let your praying knees get lazy.” With the command to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) in view, let us continue in fellowship with our heavenly Father, seeking His ways as we pour out our hearts to Him in prayer.
  3. Be Persistent. Don’t give up on your walk with God. Become a student of the Word, reading it daily, and see #2. 🙂 Continue to seek Him first (Matthew 6:33) and watch what He does in your heart. Keeping a journal of things you are learning along the way helps a great deal to track your progress.

The fantastic thing about sanctification is that it is an ongoing process, for as long as we live. If I can see the differences in 20 years, I can only imagine what 20 more years will bring.

God is truly good, and His works are wonderful. I pray dear reader that you will experience this for yourself if you have not already.

 

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Understanding Introverts: A lesser known fact or two

Life for introverts has a unique set of challenges. I feel fortunate that I have learned more about introversion over the years so I can embrace the way God made me, rather than be ashamed of it. This post shares some of the things I’ve learned, that may well help fellow introverts. It is also helpful for extroverts because it includes advice for interacting with the introverts in your life.
I originally posted this one year ago.

Summer Sorensen

Hi, my name is Summer, and I am an introvert.

No, I didn’t recite that line while sitting in a circle of metal folding chairs in a high school gym at a 12-step meeting. Sometimes it seems like that is how it is, though. As if I need help. Fortunately, I don’t.

That’s right, I am OK with being an introvert. After years of struggling and self-doubt with my introversion, in recent years I have come to understand, accept and embrace it as who I am. Not only that, but I’ve learned how valuable it is to be an introvert, and I’ve also realized it has saved my bacon more times than I can count. I’ll explain shortly.

I’ve noticed that the topic of introverts/introversion has been covered in articles and memes more in recent years. I applaud that. Most efforts to explain introversion seem to be a good thing…

View original post 1,475 more words

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The Good News Isn’t Good Without the Bad News (A Brief Look at Gospel Implications)

Sometimes, you cannot comprehend how wonderful something is until you are aware of or experience the opposite, to glean an appreciation.

“You don’t know what you’ve got until its gone.”

“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”

“There are unknown unknowns, things we don’t know that we don’t know.”
Courtesy of Donald Rumsfeld

“I didn’t realize how much I cared about my ex, until I saw her with someone else.”
– A paraphrase of 50% of country songs

I think we can all relate to that idea.

I want to talk about how it pertains to the Gospel, the greatest story in the history of mankind.

Dictionary.com defines the Gospel as:

“the story of Christ’s life and teachings, especially as contained in the first four books of the New Testament, namely Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.”

If I may be so bold to write about the Gospel, I’ll start by using the famous verse(s):

 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” – John 3:16-17

The Gospel is the miraculous account of how God offered up a plan to redeem the world from its fallen state, through the sacrifice of the Son of God incarnate, Jesus Christ.

Rather than go into detail about what the Gospel is, I will list a few resources for further study.

  • Ligioner Ministries has a good article here.
  • Grace to You (John MacArthur) goes into detail here.
  • Here is a four-minute video with Ravi Zacharias explaining it.

I want to briefly touch on what preceeds the Gospel: our need for salvation, one and all.

The noise and confusion of our current time, as well as abundant erroneous messages found in pop culture, serve to distract and mislead the searching soul from the truth found in God’s Word.

The truth of God’s law isn’t pretty. It tells us in no uncertain terms, that God is holy and perfect, and that nothing that falls short of perfection can be in His presence.
(Romans 3:23)

Furthermore, it spells out in terrifying detail that everyone, and I mean EVERYONE is born into sin as a result of the curse brought on by Adam and Eve. (Genesis 3)

We are all sinners by nature, and are slaves to sin.

“Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.‘” – John 8:34

Lest you hesitate to believe that, consider the law itself, in its original form, the ten commandments.

Ever done something disrespectful to your mom or dad?

Ever stolen anything?

Ever taken the Lord’s name in vain (yes, saying “OMG,” but the whole phrase, counts)?

Ever considered everything in life as more important than God?

Ever told a lie?

Even doing one of those things, one time makes you a sinner, guilty before God and unable to redeem yourself. Yet all of us commit sins, constantly. Often as second nature. Because sinning is our nature.

Because God loves us so, so very much, He longed to redeem us from our sins to restore our fellowship with Him, as he intended for humans.  That is why He offered a divine, miraculous intervention through the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

God, in His great mercy, made a way for us to avoid the damning justice we all deserve for our sins. There are no words fit to adequately describe what God freely offers to all who receive Him.

The problem is, so many are deluded into thinking that they don’t need God or the salvation He offers through Jesus. Or they think they can appease God and earn their way to heaven through being good.  Fortunately, God was gracious enough to give us the law so we’d know the depth of our depravity and our desperate moral bankruptcy apart from Him.

“…On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’
– Romans 7:7b

“as it is written,
There is none righteous, not even one;
There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God;
All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
There is none who does good,
There is not even one.’ – Romans 3:10-12

The unspeakably glorious truth of God’s plan of redemption is there for anyone to find. We just need to be made aware of our helplessness (the bad news), before we can truly appreciate the Good News, that new life comes from God through Jesus Christ.

Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” – John 14:6

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Waste Fewer Veggies, Save Money & Make Your Fridge Look Amazing

This is my tale of how I made the subject of this blog a reality in our home.

For years, I bemoaned the fact that I couldn’t get to many my fresh veggies before they spoiled. This was disappointing to me not only because I was wasting food, but because it was not cheap in the first place. The pain of wasted food becomes much acuter once you enter into adulthood and have to start paying for your own.

Part of the problem, admittedly, was that I didn’t plan my meals. I didn’t have a strategy for how to incorporate my produce into my daily eating.

Another part was that they just don’t last that long in the first place.

Thirdly, I relegated them to the crisper drawer at the bottom of the fridge. They were bought, deposited and promptly forgotten.

This was a three-point formula of inevitable waste.

Here is an example of what not to do:

IMG_E4830[1]

Messy crisper = forgotten veggies

I am pleased to report that my discontent at the status quo chipped away at me persistently enough to activate my search for a solution.

Concurrently, my husband Mike had, on more than one occasion, mentioned how amazing the veggie fridge at Panda Express looked, with bin after bin of fresh veggies chopped and ready for action.

Like this:

veggie fridge

It all came together for me when I heard a podcast that suggested that putting veggies in glass or plastic bins not only extended their life but also, placing them on the high shelves of the fridge keeps them top of mind. If they are top of mind, they are less likely to get lost in the mess of the crisper drawer until they are brown and mushy.

I eased into it by starting with cilantro — the one that seems to go downhill the quickest. Placing it in a glass bin remarkably extended its shelf life. That made me extremely happy because wilted cilantro is a real shame.

Gradually I eased into doing other veggies too. I haven’t transferred ALL of them to the top, but it is getting mighty close.

Overcoming the challenges

I’ll be the first to admit that reorganizing was difficult.

First of all, using the bin system meant washing the veggies before putting them in containers. That created a wrinkle in my “system” of cramming in a trip to the grocery store either late at night or with barely enough time to put things away before I had to head out the door for something else. In either case, I was too tired or too rushed to wash and dry the veggies in the same block of time in which I unloaded my groceries.

So they were often doomed to obscurity in the crisper drawer.

A few things that helped

To minimize problem one above, I made a determination to start planning meals a week or two out. That way I had a much better idea of what I would need, and could buy accordingly to minimize waste.

Secondly, I had a realization. If I didn’t have time to wash and dry the veggies for storage immediately after shopping, I could always do it later. For some reason, I had a mental block that suggested I had to do it all at once or not at all. Giving myself the permission to do it later, even sometimes the next day, was a breakthrough for me, small though it might seem.

Sometimes examining the voices in your head that tell you why you “can’t” do something need to be critically analyzed to see if they are actually true.

I took this breakthrough and applied it.

fresh veggies

Look at those beauties!

My fridge won’t ever be quite like Panda Express, obviously. But it is satisfying to open it and see this:

IMG_E4831[1]

Vegetables for days.

That sure is pretty if you ask me.

Even better, however, is our veggie waste has plummetted dramatically, and our actual consumption of them has increased. Win-win-win. Not to mention that this method does indeed keep them fresh longer. At least double the lifetime of hanging out in the bag in a drawer.

If that wasn’t enough, the psychology of it, that I learned from the podcast, is that your eyes (or your kid’s eyes) are most likely to gravitate toward whatever is on the top shelf. So if less healthy snacks get demoted lower, the theory goes, they won’t get eaten as much. And if you’re hardcore enough to pre-chop all your produce, they are even easier to grab for a healthy snack. If you’re into that.

Since this habit has made a positive impact on how we rock the vegetables in our house and is saving us money, I wanted to pass it along to you, the reader. Do with it what you will.

Does this seem crazy? Do you do something similar or aspire to? Your thoughts are welcome, as always.

 

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The Struggle Between Time with God & Working Out

I’ll admit, I prefer a story with a neat and clear-cut resolution. A little bow on it, with all the details wrapped up. For that reason, I would be a terrible movie critic, because I am too easily pleased with the neatly packaged endings in the majority of films. We’re not here to talk about movies though.

I want to talk about a scenario for which I don’t have a tidy little ending. It is an ongoing narrative, with a new chapter every day. The subject is the way I spend my precious morning hours before work. Specifically, the division of time between two things that are very near to my heart: spending time with God in His Word and in prayer (a.k.a. devotions), and exercising.

The scriptural context for this challenge is 1 Timothy 4:8-9:

“for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance.

I’ve thought about this verse often over the years, as I have continually wrestled with how to prioritize these two things.

Both things are necessary, and non-negotiable elements of my life. Both bring joy, life balance and health (spiritual and physical) that I desperately need in my life.

I’ve come to realize that I prefer to do both things in the morning, as it is easier to accomplish them before the busyness of the day and a non-stop stream of distractions enter into the picture.

The assertion of Paul in the passage above makes it clear what the priority ought to be, but the nitty-gritty of how that plays out on a day-to-day basis is where things can get tricky.

The Past

The frequency and priority with which I have put these things into practice varies with each season of life. Historically, when life gets hectic and stressful, both those items have been shuffled to the back burner, which is ironic, because those are the times when I need more of both the most!

Being a natural night owl, I have also historically struggled to get up with any, let alone plenty, of time to spare before work to engage my heavenly Father and lace up my sneakers. Intermittently, I hit strides where I could get up early enough to accomplish one of those, but time often ran out for the other. Usually, I would work out, then find that I had to rush through my devotional time if I got to it at all.

Fast forward to now.

A Change and a Challenge

An unexpected period of unemployment in the fall of 2017 and an eventual job transition to a part-time position for the time being gave me an opportunity to slow down and re-think my priorities. I had recently gotten back on track with exercising before work, but I knew shortchanging my time with God was a poor choice.  I had been given the surprise gift of more unscheduled time, and I willed to use it to reshape my habits.

With my laid-back, type B or C personality, I’ll admit that I’m a pro at starting my days off work at a snail-like pace and letting the day escape without enough getting accomplished. Through an unexpected series of events, I ended up taking a challenge to get up at 5:30 am for 30 days in a row.  Turned out to be just the impetus I needed to jumpstart my new habits.

That challenge started about two weeks into my three-week period of unemployment. I began getting up early, resolved to spend some quality time in the Word and in prayer before working out. Only after doing both would I step into the tasks for the day. I’m pleased to say, the results were delightful. Not only did I pre-empt my natural bent towards sleeping in and laziness, but I also began to reap rich benefits from pursuing the Lord and my fitness.

As anyone who walks with the Lord knows, investing the time to seek Him first (Matthew 6:33) is not only a command, but it is in our best interest to do so. It has been plain to me that cultivating this habit has heaped immense joy and peace into my life of late. It is hard to describe, but it is fabulous to bask in the presence of God.

Furthermore, taking the time to invest in my physical fitness through regular exercise has also been highly beneficial to my mood, energy level, and self-confidence. Endorphins are neat. 🙂

The 30 day 5:30 am wake up challenge is now long over. I’ve found that a new habit is underway, however. No, I don’t get up at 5:30 every single day. (Yes, I know you are supposed to cement the habit.) I do on many, many more days than I used to. I’m slowly turning into more of a morning person. I never woulda thought!

I’ve recently noticed that on days when I get up too late for devotions and a workout, my mood is a lot more volatile and I get irritated with startling speed. I don’t like it.

On the other hand, when I continue these new found habits, my spirit is almost as buoyant as a life jacket – pretty hard to keep down.

Going Forward

Here is where we lack the neatly packaged ending. It would be misleading for me to insinuate that life is now perfect, I check off all the items on my to-do list every day, and I am now in shape for a marathon. None of those things are remotely true.

I am well aware that right now is a season just like any previous time. I was given what turned out to be a gift of more time when I was faced with a job transition due to a layoff.  I currently work part-time and have a more flexible schedule than ever. This situation is temporary, however. I know before long things will get busy again, and I may once again struggle to make the time for these crucial habits. My prayer is that this path I’ve started down will be sustainable when that time comes.

How about you? How do you balance spiritual and physical discipline? Your thoughts and reactions are welcomed, as always.

 

 

 

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Portion Control: A Key to Weight Loss

As time has marched on, a sad truth has sunk into my brain: how much I eat makes a huge difference in weight loss or gain.

“Um, duh, Summer,” you might say.

More specifically, watching the portions of what I eat often makes or breaks my food intake success. I am carefully avoiding the word “diet.” Diet is a bad word.

I was in denial about this reality for several years beyond when my aging metabolism suggested I should face the facts. I skated by actively thinking I was “eating pretty healthy,” when in fact I was cutting a lot of corners. The scale wasn’t fooled by the deception that I told myself.

After enough time and creeping pounds had occurred, I was finally ready to admit something had to change. I hired a fitness coach to create an eating plan for me that would help shed pounds. At long last, I resigned myself to using a food tracker app to log every little thing I ate and drank – something I had actively resisted for years.

Logging my food and beverage intake was incredibly eye-opening. Horrifying might be an accurate descriptor. Doing so removed any wiggle room or pretense about my nutrition. Aiming to accurately log what I ate showed clearly just how easy it was to overeat.

As an example, here is a picture of a serving of mixed nuts:

IMG_4745[1]

Look at that tiny little thing! It’s so cute. And 170 calories with a whopping 15 grams of fat.

Even closer to my heart, Juanita’s tortilla chips:

IMG_4763[1]

THAT IS A SERVING. Are you kidding me? (My hand is there for comparison sake.)

Let’s be honest, when I have a batch of homemade salsa, I’m barely getting warmed up once I’ve eaten that amount of chips.

I show you these potentially startling images to drive home the point that willful ignorance of portion size usually = vast overeating. No wonder the scale kept working harder, all while I thought I was “eating pretty healthy.”

The last year and a half has been a massive shift for me as I attempt to adjust to the reality of an approaching middle age metabolism. Now that I’m alert to how easy it is to overeat, the battle rages on, one bite at a time.

If you, dearest reader, share my challenges with weight gain and have not yet started measuring what you eat, this post is for you. Do with it what you will. I wish you all the best in fighting the good fight of healthy eating!

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