Thanksgiving is not too far away! Can you believe it? The holidays are upon us and it is during this time that we collectively take time out of our fast-paced schedule to stop. To stop and gather with family and friends over food, fellowship, and reflection. Or do we really stop? Our lives tend to become even faster during the holiday season, filled with stuffing turkeys, checking off Christmas lists, road-trips to Grandma's . . . you name it!
Today we have the honor of having our friend, Barbara Rainey, on our blog. She writes about just that - taking the time to stop. To stop and really celebrate the people and moments in our lives amidst our fast-lane living. I have a feeling there will be many of us that can relate.
But before you read her post, I want to share a giveaway she's having for our readers! She's written a book called Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember and we are excited to give away a copy to three of our readers. You will also receive beautiful "gratitude" napkin ties that are great conversation starters and perfect for your Thanksgiving table decor. You'll receive them just in time for your Thanksgiving dinner spread but these will be great additions to any table year-round!
Here's how to enter:
- Once you've read Barbara's post, leave a brief comment telling us what your "spotlight" is.
- Be sure to include your email address in your comment so that we may contact you if you are selected.
- Tweet, Facebook, Instagram, or send an email with a link to this giveaway to spread the word!
- There really isn't a 4. We just can't wait to hear what your "spotlight" is. :)
Winners will be selected Monday, October 27th. Enjoy Barbara's post below!
Stop. Think on this.
Sometimes it seems that my life is following the speeding pace of my iPhone, and not the other way around. I don’t know if it’s become more complicated now than when my kids were scattering Cheerios throughout the house like Hansel and Gretel, or dropping sports equipment inside the door and pounding up the stairs.
But either way - I find the need to surround myself with “stoplights” of some sort, points that make me slow down, that bring me pause in the freeway that is so often my life. Even in the Old Testament, I hear God’s prompting to “cease striving and know that I am God”: His feasts strategically spaced throughout the calendar year. An abstract art sculpture of twelve stones by the Jordan, reminding generations that God moved in this place. Or His simple, gentle word of Selah in the Psalms, like a flat palm held up: Stop. Think on this. Or His calls to singing and celebration.
So, tangibly, one of my “stoplights” I’ve recently placed around me is a reminder I created to revel a bit in my family and these days that seem to evaporate before me. The Gathered Round draws me with its scrolling metalwork and its ease—a few photos there; a ticket or program tucked there; a memo held there; a cheerful, simple message in chalk to honor someone I love. Somehow it’s become this easily-assembled, vertical scrapbook that helps my family to Stop. Think on this. Think on this person, this moment, this snippet of God and His goodness that we’ve all witnessed. It’s become a simple way to celebrate the people I care about so much, without a great deal of fuss, but with all the fanfare.
So without totally neglecting all those people represented on my iPhone - yes, I feel like I can drink in a bit of life rather than watching it pass in a blur.
This is my 96-year-old grandma . . .
This is my grandma and her simple pleasures . . .
I marvel when I’m with her. Every single time, tears sting my eyes at the thought of what her life represents - the many years and moments, decisions and choices, faithfulness and dedication that have become my legacy.
And I love watching her enjoy simple pleasures.
Her life used to be overwhelmingly busy - years ago when her days were full of small children and schedules and details and budgets. My late grandfather was away most of the time trying to make a living to support their eight children. So, she raised the brood as a single parent for the most part. Little time for anything else. She dedicated herself to them, working from early in the morning until late into the night to keep them fed and clean and clothed and educated and in love with Jesus.
Now, her days are much more quiet and slow. She sits mostly in her favorite living room chair and welcomes any of her children, grandchildren or great grand children that come to visit. Her eyes glisten with excitement when there is a break in her fairly mundane days. Her mind is still sharp but her body can’t seem to keep up. She laments the aches and pains that hinder her from being as productive as she once was. She can’t believe that she’s unable to clean her house in one day like she used to, run errands from one store to the next nimbly or cook a feast for her whole family to enjoy. She misses those busy days.
So, I take her for fries and milkshakes and a drive in the sunlight to nowhere in particular.
She loves it all.
These simple pleasures.
She doesn’t bemoan the calories she’s ingesting. She just enjoys them. She doesn’t wish she was doing something else – something more important than taking a car ride with her grand daughter – she just relishes the moment of simple abundance. She’s not worried that her clothes aren’t designer or even matching for that matter. Her robe and house shoes will do just fine. It’s all pure happiness.
And she teaches me.
Her smile, quiet ease and genuine gladness remind me to enjoy the small things in life. To bask in the sun, to eat the indulgence, to listen to a friend, to cook the meal, to take the walk, to play hard, work harder and enjoy it all.
Not because I’m 96 and have to . . . but while I’m 39 and choose to.
What simple pleasures are you grateful for today?
- The sunshine and cooler temperatures in Dallas
- The dessert and laughs I shared with my husband and sons at Chick-fil-A
- The falling autumn leaves
- The new recipe I cooked for dinner last week
- Butter Pecan Coffee Creamer
- The weekend spent outdoors with family and friends at my son’s baseball tournament
- My son’s first over-the-fence homerun
- My husband’s firm, strong hug
. . . and a memorable hour, driving my 96 year old grandmother, while she ate French fries and drank a vanilla milkshake.
Car trouble. Nothing can cripple a good day like car trouble. My car had been making this awful noise for the past few weeks and with other things crowding my schedule, I had yet to get it looked at. “I’ll get to it tomorrow,” I told myself . . . many times. Several tomorrows had come and gone and before I knew it, I had ignored the problem for three weeks.
Bad idea, I know.
I wasn’t looking forward to dealing with it and was dreading the stress, cost and inconvenience it can bring. At a point when the noise could no longer be ignored, I decided “tomorrow” would be the day I took it in for a check-up. For real this time. If I waited any longer, I imagined I'd be picking up car pieces behind me from off the highway. A bit dramatic? Perhaps. But it didn't sound pretty!
Tomorrow had come. I walked out of my house fighting back tears while sending out invitations to my pity-party via text message and pleading for God to show me that He was truly in control. I threw my purse and workbag in the back seat of my car only to be stopped by a piece of paper that had been sitting in that exact seat for the past several weeks.
I froze. My eyes grew wide. He's got my attention.
It was in that moment I found my answer, which was literally sitting within the source of my problem. I had written that scripture a few weeks prior for a couple of friends and had every intention on giving it to them as soon as our schedules allowed. But that time had yet to come. I'd seen that same piece of paper everyday in the back seat of my car but this time, something within me changed. My demeanor, my emotions, my outlook. All of that had changed. My focus had now shifted back on to God and His promises for us.
The pity-party that I was having? Yeah, it ended abruptly. It was louder than His voice and was made clear that it wasn't helping my trust in Him or His Word. I had to put away the streamers . . . the party hat . . . the noise-makers . . . the invitations . . . and sweep up the confetti. All that confetti.
I got in the driver’s seat, shut the door, and sat there in silence taking in all of what just happened. He answered the prayer I had mumbled as I walked out my front door. He heard me. Tears still fell but it was from the realization that He was so very near in that moment.
He hears us.
I know that car troubles may be the least of someone's problems right now. You may be dealing with health, family, or financial issues that are extremely burdonsome. What I want to share with you today is that God cares about your big troubles, your little troubles, and all of your in between troubles. He knows the weight it bears as you carry it on your shoulders and He’d prefer that it rest on His. He wants us to trust Him in all things.
So, as I wait for that phone call, I will not fear the news that will be on the other side. I will confidently trust that He has already taken care of whatever the news may be and has a solution in place just waiting to be unveiled. The problem still exists, yes, but worry and fear are now replaced with peace knowing that He is in control.
Will you trust with me? Whatever circumstance you are currently wrestling with or news you are waiting to hear, will trust that the Lord will care for you and see you through just as He promised?
Praying for you.
Until next time,
Wow . . . we’ve just come to the end of our guest blogger series after a year long run! Can you believe it? We introduced you to our first guest blogger, Christian recording artist Mandisa, on September 21st of last year and just ended with a post from Dr. Tony Evans last week. We were thrilled to have the opportunity to share ministry friends like Beth Moore, Lysa TerKeurst, Patsy Clairmont, Jennie Allen, and Amena Brown Owen (just to name a few) with you. Our heart’s desire was to introduce you, our blog community, to new ministries, different voices, and give fresh insight.
Have you been following since the beginning?
Do you remember . . .
. . . Mandisa’s post on the single life and learning to become Mrs. Right, while praying for Mr. Right?
Or . . .
. . . Christine Caine’s post on how there are many Christians that become so consumed with searching for their purpose and destiny that they forget that God can use them in their current season of life. She encouraged us to make our lives available to God so that we can be used for His great purpose within His harvest field.
Or . . .
. . . Vicki Courtney’s post that challenged us to take a look at the "stuff" we tend to put above God by posing a very thought-provoking question, "What do you worship?". In a time where we are so consumed with things, our golden calves can be found in a closet full of name-brand clothes, in the foods we consume, parked in our garage and even found in the number of followers we have on social network sites. Phew!
Or . . .
. . . Sarah Jakes' post as she gave vulnerable truth about her need for distraction to avoid the prison that deafening silence brought - having to stop and face her worst fears, her deepest hurts, and her disappointments. She shared her triumph and how she overcame her fear of silence.
Or . . .
. . . Dr. Caroline Leaf's post as she taught about bringing our toxic thoughts into captivity to Christ. We learn that what we think, feel, and believe have powerful, powerful effects on our body and health. Our genetic make-up actually changes! Our thought life could either build us up or tear us down…literally. Fascinating stuff.
Or . . .
. . . Lisa Harper's when she shared her story on experiencing motherhood for the first time when her sweet adopted daughter, Missy, was finally in her arms. It wasn't as easy as she expected but it was above and beyond all the love and joy that she could have possibly asked for.
Or . . .
. . . the post about margin and authentic leadership from Catalyst's Brad Lomenick, who is one of the few men that have graced our blog pages. Brad had such a wealth of information to share that we had to create a Part 1 and Part 2 just to make sure we could digest it all! And speaking of leadership, pastor and author, Kerri Weems, also wrote about the topic. She discussed how the ability to actually lead well is intertwined with the ability to actually follow well. Rest on that for a minute! Such great insight from these two.
Or . . .
. . . the list could go on and on! Is there a post that encouraged you the most? Or how about one that challenged you to take action or make changes in your life? Or one that has left a lasting impression long after you'd closed your laptop and went about your day?
There were so many great, great contributors and we pray that each of you were challenged, inspired and encouraged by all!
- Going Beyond Team
Just a quick note today to let you know that October's Jewelry Box article from Priscilla has been posted! What does eternity, an airline ticket, and former NBA coach Pat Riley have in common? You'll have to read to find out! I promise . . . it will all make sense.
You may enjoy her latest article here. If you'd like these monthly Jewelry Box articles sent directly to your inbox, just click here, then scroll to the bottom of the page to fill out the required information. And that's it! You are all set, my friend.
We hope you are encouraged!
By the way, we've been praying for each of you. Have a purpose-filled day!
- Going Beyond Team
He is man of faithfulness, integrity and character who I’ve had the privilege of seeing up-close my entire life.
He’s my dad – Dr. Tony Evans.
I wish I could have pulled you around our kitchen table to experience the after-dinner devotions that happened most nights in our home. Or invite you along for our yearly month-long road trip though the States that he courageously took us on each August. Or have you join us for Sunday morning service, where we’ve sat under his inspired teaching for thirty-seven years. Then you’d see the real man behind the larger than life persona - the introspective and loving pastor, father and friend who has a heart that resonates through every message he speaks or book he writes.
His latest book is Raising Kingdom Kids - an encouraging book for parents on parenting. I can’t think of anyone more well-suited to write on the topic. And I’m so honored to end our year-long series of guest bloggers with this post from one of the most amazing men I’ve ever known.
Love you Daddy.
Hidden in the somewhat tedious pages of 1 Chronicles—among the myriad of names after unpronounceable names lies one of the greatest treasures on kingdom parenting that we have. His name was Asher, which in Hebrew means “happy.” In chapter seven of the Chronicles (as well as in Genesis 46:17), we read the genealogy of his descendants. It starts with his five children—four boys and a girl. As the only girl in the group of kids, no doubt his daughter Serah held a special place in Asher’s heart. We know this for a number of reasons.
It is said in Jewish rabbinical literature that Serah is actually Asher’s stepdaughter thus making Asher a father of a blended home. She was the daughter of a woman named Hadurah, who had become a widow early on. History records that Hadurah married Asher when Serah was just three years old, and that he raised her as his own.
So loved and welcomed into the family was Serah that she is the only granddaughter mentioned in the entire lineage of Jacob, her grandfather. History records that it was Serah’s tremendous piety and virtue that won her such a high place of honor in her adoptive home.
This same piety and virtue, though, was not something Asher could have claimed for himself when he was a young man, although he later went on to live a life accented with great wisdom. Yet in his youth, Asher did something that was terribly wrong—by anyone’s standards. He joined in on a selfish and hard-hearted scheme to have his half-brother, Joseph, thrown into a pit and later sold as a slave to a traveling caravan headed to Egypt.
Perhaps due to his own early misdeeds, the ensuing guilt as he watched his beloved father grieve, as well as the subsequent near-starvation of his people at the start of the 7-year drought, Asher became a changed man. We’ll never know for sure what brought about his transformation, but what we do know for sure is the legacy he ended up leaving behind. It is a legacy of great wisdom, faith, character and service to his nation at large. A legacy not only attached to him but to generations of his descendants.
Asher’s legacy ought to give each of us hope. Asher made mistakes early on—big ones that harmed his original family. He certainly didn’t have it all together. In addition to that, he was raised in one of the most historically dysfunctional homes ever to be recorded biblically. Sprinkle on top of that the added burdens of a blended family of his own—four sons and a stepdaughter—while married to a woman who had been married once before, and most might not have considered that Asher would have produced much of anything lasting at all.
But he did. In fact, his is a great legacy and a model for kingdom parenting today. We read, “All these were the sons of Asher, heads of the fathers’ houses, choice and mighty men of valor, heads of the princes. And the number of them enrolled by genealogy for service in war was 26,000” (verse 40). According to Jewish legend, Serah went on to perform her own conquests as well.
No wonder Asher was a happy man. He did not look at his five children as getting on his last nerve. Rather, he was a satisfied man with an intention for his offspring and those brought in under his care. As a result, he and his descendants truly lived out the blessing that was given to him by his father (Deuteronomy 33:24, 25).
Discover more about the new book Raising Kingdom Kids at RaisingKingdomKids.org.
Her books and Bible studies are read by millions of people across the world. Her ministry spans denominations, cultures, races and genders. God has given her a unique gifting to open the Scriptures and apply it in practical ways to real life. She does it in such a way that her audience is drawn to the edge of its seat, hanging on every single word.
Her heart belongs only to a few - one husband, 2 adult daughters, 2 adorable grandkids and a canine named Queen Esther who accompanies her to work each day and sits at her feet while she studies.
And . . . she does study. In fact, she has done little else for the past 25 years. The Bible has literally been her daily bread. And you and I are the better for it.
She . . . is Beth Moore.
Miss Beth is my friend. Plain and simple. She is as authentic a person as you'll ever meet. That broad smile and passionate zeal you see when she's on a stage or your television screen is genuine. She's not messing around. She loves Jesus and she loves you. Like, for real.
. . . and lucky for me, she also loves Mexican food and will down a basket of chips and salsa with me like nobody's business.
She's one of my favorite authors which is why I am so honored to have her words on our blog today. This post spoke to me so poignantly. I know you'll enjoy it too.
Bless you big,
Yesterday I drove up the bumpy dirt road from my house to the highway singing my heart out to God, the wheels of my thoughts still turning from the time I’d had with Him earlier that morning. My soul felt alive. My eyes, wide awake. I pulled out onto the main road and wound my way to work, passing all the familiar scenes. Farms and pastures gave way to schools and businesses and, with every mile, I grew more preoccupied with one glorious wonder: God’s willingness to do that thing that He does again and again. Moved that, after umpteen million ups and downs, God is still willing to move me.
I love that God is a God of again. I’ll get dry and think the bloom is behind me and that the best I’ll be able to do is maintain and try not to lose what I have left. Then I’ll be scared it’s all gone and never coming back.
And here He’ll come again. The Scriptures will jump back to life for me like breathing bones. The Cross will suddenly feel to me like it all happened yesterday and like I was right there in the gore and grandeur and grace of it all. I’ll feel alive with belovedness and anxious to love. Awake with forgivenness and anxious to forgive. I’ll feel called and sent and ready to go. The reverberating power of the empty tomb will fill my soul again and I’ll try my hardest to roll that stone back over the entrance and trap Him in. Then, like Mary Magdelene, I’ll throw my arms around His neck and try to hold onto Him right there where He appears most obvious to me. I want Jesus to stay put. I want it in the worst way. But then…
The wind blows wherever it will, and you hear the sound it makes, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. John 3:8
Try as you may, you can’t catch the Holy Spirit like a firefly and keep Him in a jar.
Of course Jesus never leaves us. We are sealed.
He abides. He remains.
His presence is a fact, not a feeling. But those moments when He’s willing to make Himself known are without equal, I think, in the human experience. The next day comes and its demands and distractions with it. I read and not much happens. I pray and not much moves.
But sooner than later, His fullness comes again. His shadow will pass nearby through some kindness, some revelation, some word on that sacred page – and maybe not even to me but to someone I love – and my heart will light up again. Or tears will well in my eyes. Not just tears of sentiment, though they are a gift and have their place, but eyes pooled with the Spirit. Enlightened with fresh hope.
Only God can keep doing that again. He alone can quicken our souls like that. He is the initiator. He who brought it, brings it back. He who did it, does it again.
What resistance to boredom.
What willingness to risk that faithfulness could be misinterpreted to its receivers as routine.
Abide with me just a moment in the wonder of this: God is willing to awaken our sleepy, sluggish, selfish, sinful souls over and over again.
I’m not new to so much of this. I was in the church nursery by a few weeks old. I’ve heard ten thousand sermons and read nearly as many books. I’ve heard the sound of my own teaching until I thought that if I heard another word from this mouth, I’d have to punch myself and I’ve wondered how God couldn’t be sick of me, too. This has been my life between and within the train wrecks. I’m not new to Jesus. I’m not full of surprises to Him. I’m not new on the docket. But in His unfathomable and tender mercy, He keeps making Himself new to me.
That’s what takes my breath away today.
And God listened to the voice of Manoah, and the angel of God came again to the woman as she sat in the field. Judges 13:9
And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. 1 Samuel 3:8
And the Lord appeared again at Shiloh, for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord. 1 Samuel 3:21
And the Lord listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. 1 Kings 17:22
And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” 1 Kings 19:7
He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God. 2 Chronicles 33:13
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.” John 10:7
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” John 20:21
Blessed, beautiful, merciful, divine again.
So I write today for someone with a heart for Jesus who wonders how she’s going to keep it. And, if she can’t, how she can get it back again. Someone whose life, marriage, health, home, sanity, job or ministry depends on it. You’re the one I want to talk to today. I’ve been you. I’m still you.
He who chose you before creation, authored your faith, and birthed new life in you through His Spirit will see to your reawakening again and again. Not in your timing but in His. Not with your methods but with His. He alone ignites, sustains, and reignites holy fire. The fire is in His palm. It is not of your making. It is not yours to manufacture.
That doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do when all is cold and ashes.
When you’re parched, tell Him you are. When your eyes are dim to wonder, tell Him you cannot see. When you’re getting bored, have the courage to say it. When you think you’ve heard it all, tell Him your heart is lying to you, for in Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. When you get sick of yourself, plead to see in the mirror what He sees in you. When you get sick of somebody else, hold your frozen heart straight up to the heat of His holiness.
When nothing moves you, move to the floor. Tell Him you’ve got to have Him teeming with life in your bones. Beckon Him and welcome Him over and over to pour His Spirit on you. And He’ll do it again. In His own time and His own way but, make no mistake. He will do it again. Even when we’re the ones who ran off the fullness of His Spirit.
But the hair of [Samson’s] head began to grow again after it had been shaved. Judges 16:22
Even when your body lays lifeless on your deathbed, He will do it again. He will stand you on your feet in His presence.
God cannot seem to resist an opportunity to resurrect.
You don’t have to accept the waning of wonder as the natural evolution of a long-term relationship. Accept it as a visitor but refuse it as a resident. And, when it visits, don’t waste all your energy ranting and writhing and despising it. The floor in the banquet hall of revival is always made of sand. This has been one of the hardest lessons for me to learn. A garden blooming is not a miracle. A desert blooming, now that’s the miracle.
It takes a certain amount of lifelessness to know what it means to be revived.
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. Psalm 43:5
Do you feel that? Fall has officially arrived! The weather in Dallas has been glorious these past few days. It's that type of weather where the sun is out but it isn't too hot and there's a breeze that's just right. It's perfection. It is really taking everything in me to not pull out my boots too soon. So as a compromise, I am wearing a scarf today. My plan is to hold off on the boots until the weekend! I am counting the days.
Besides the boots, scarves, and pumpkin spiced ev-er-y-thing, baking is another staple this time of year. It's the only time of year where I buy butter in bulk! I love to bake and I love our Going Beyond Team because everyone loves to eat. Definitely my kind of people. So today, each of us will share one of our favorite Fall recipes with you.
My tastebuds are already rejoicing!
Enjoy the recipes and let us know if you make one!
Vicki Courtney is a gem. Not only because her ministry, which focuses on young women, is reaching thousands and thousands of people but also because her authenticity permeates every thing she does. With many books and Bible studies to her credit, this author, speaker, blogger, mother, and wife is quite an inspiration.
The few times we've had an opportunity to spend time together I've so enjoyed her radiant smile and passionate heart for God and for women. She has devoted her life to sharing inspirational messages that encourage deeply rooted transformation and heartfelt devotion.
Today, Vicki shares a blog with us that I really enjoyed. Reading her words makes you feel like you are sitting across from her at Denny's. . . no, actually it's Cracker Barrel where the pancakes are bigger and the maple syrup is warm. You'll savor every bite of her wisdom and then be completely and utterly full - ready to walk it out and work off some of what you've taken in.
That's always the point, isn't it? We're supposed to take action.
And then you will want to devour more of her amazingly good reads and wisdom. She has many books and Bible studies and each one will leave you satisfied. Her titles include 5 Conversations You Must Have With Your Daughter, Ever After: Life Lessons Learned in My Castle of Chaos and her latest, Move On: When Mercy Meets Your Mess.
Thank you for inspiring us to action Vicki. As always, I'm grateful for you and your ministry.
My husband and I are recent empty-nesters and one of the things we enjoy doing with our extra free time is eating out. Cooking has never really been my thing, so I welcome any opportunity to get out of the kitchen. On our shortlist of favorite restaurants is a place called The Maxican in the small town of Burnet, Texas. It’s not fancy by any means, but what it may lack in the way of ambiance they make up for with a dish called the “Marsha’s Special.” As a side-note, they are also known for their hostess Mamaw, who gives shoulder rubs at the table to her guests. My husband and I are such frequent regulars that we now qualify for Mamaw’s upgraded package, which in addition to the shoulder rub, includes a bear hug and a kiss on the cheek when we’re leaving. She has become so dear to us, we’ve considered asking her to adopt us, even though she has no idea what our names are. I’m pretty sure she’d sign the papers, anyway.
But I digress. Back to the world-famous (okay, maybe a slight exaggeration, but it should be!) “Marsha’s Special.” Keith and I dream about this dish and literally crave it about once a month. I don’t know who this Marsha is who inspired it, but I plan to give her a big hug if I ever meet her in person. Let me read you a description straight from The Maxican menu to give you an idea of what I’m talking about:
The Marsha’s Special: A roasted poblano pepper stuffed with chicken and cheese, topped with cilantro cream sauce and served with three grilled Jumbo Gulf Coast Shrimp which are stuffed with Monterey Jack cheese, a slice of jalapeño, and wrapped in bacon and includes a homemade garlic butter dipping sauce.
It’s what you call a “heart attack on a plate”—but trust me, it’s worth the risk. This dish is so rich my husband and I split it and, of course, add one extra shrimp to make it fair. When we walk out of the restaurant—or should I say “waddle” out—we are stuffed. We are so full we can’t imagine ever being hungry again. It’s kind of like that feeling you get after a large Thanksgiving meal. When you push away from the table, you don’t want to see food, smell food, or eat food ever again. You are fully satisfied in that moment. And that satisfaction lasts . . . oh, say, a few hours, until you feel that first hunger pang and decide another piece of pie is in order.
The same is true when it comes to the false gods we chase. They offer a temporary buzz of satisfaction, but the satisfaction is always short lived. It will be impossible to move on in our faith as long as we engage in the endless pursuit of false gods. We are all hungry and longing for satisfaction, but unless we find our satisfaction in God, we’ll always end up empty in the end.
I remember the first time I read through the Old Testament and encountered the fickle faith of the Israelite people. I mean, we’re talking about a people who were ushered safely out of Egypt after 600 years in bondage and witnessed countless miracles—the 10 plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, and manna raining down from heaven, just to name a few. Yet it was only a matter of time before they turned their backs on God and partied down with a golden calf. I was a fairly new believer, and it was hard for me to comprehend how a people so blessed by God could trade their affection for Him for a golden statue. That is, until I realized my own susceptibility to being drawn to the allure of false gods. My gods of choice weren’t carved statues and golden calves, but they succeeded all the same in bidding for my allegiance.
The truth is, we are no different than our Israelite friends in the Old Testament. Like junkies in need of a fix, we hop from one buzz to another, looking for something to fill and satisfy our souls. Our golden calves can be found in a closet full of name-brand clothes or parked in our garage. Golden calves can line the shelves of our trophy cases or be the number of followers or friends we have on a social networking site. Many mothers fashion their own golden calves out of their children’s accomplishments and successes. Golden calves can take the shape of food, drugs, the number of digits on a paycheck, or the digits on the scale. When we become more enamored with the created rather than the Creator, we are at risk of creating our own golden calves.
Ralph Waldo Emerson is credited with saying, “A person will worship something, have no doubt about that. We may think our tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of our hearts, but it will out. That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character.”
What do you worship? Or, better yet, what dominates your imagination and thoughts? Idols can almost always be traced back to what began as a mismanaged or mishandled craving. This craving is not by accident. God has wired our hearts to seek satisfaction and fulfillment, but He intended we find it in Him, first and foremost.
What do you crave? Until Jesus tops your list, you will never be satisfied. Like that bacon-wrapped shrimp with melted garlic butter dipping sauce, anything else is just empty calories. The hunger pangs will always return.
(The above is adapted from the book and Bible study, Move On: When Mercy Meets Your Mess, which is Vicki’s latest release. More information can be found here)