Quick Pepper-Chicken Stir Fry

Quick Pepper-Chicken Stir Fry | marissabaker.wordpress.comThe garden has started supplying us with giant bowls of lettuce, more beans than we know what to do with, crunchy green cabbages, baskets full of sugar snap peas, and the first zucchini of the summer. That means two things around here — salads and stir fries.

Quick Pepper-Chicken Stir Fry | marissabaker.wordpress.com

cabbage, zucchini, and peas are all from our garden

Couple days ago I wanted to do a stir fry with chicken as a the main dish, rather than stir fry as a side, but didn’t feel like something as sweet as my Sesame Stir Fry or a recipe which required quite so much time/effort to cook the chicken as the Simple Chicken Stir Fry. So I made something up. It’s an easy recipe — just throw the chicken and marinade ingredients together, mix up some sauce, cook the chicken, add vegetables, and then pour the sauce on at the last minute. I ground some peppercorns over it to make it look pretty and so I could call it pepper chicken. Enjoy!

Quick Pepper-Chicken Stir Fry

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Chicken Marinade

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

1 Tablespoon soy sauce

1 Tablespoon rice wine

Cut up chicken into bite-sized cubes and place in a bowl. Add marinade ingredients, and stir. Let sit for 15 minutes.

Quick Pepper-Chicken Stir Fry | marissabaker.wordpress.com

chicken marinade

Sauce

2 Tablespoons tapioca starch

2 Tablespoons rice wine

3 Tablespoons soy sauce

1 Tablespoon honey

1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger

1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Mix tapioca starch with rice wine in a small bow. Add other sauce ingredients and set aside.

Quick Pepper-Chicken Stir Fry | marissabaker.wordpress.com

mixed the sauce up in the same measuring cup I used for rice. Might as well only wash one dish :)

Cooking

2 Tablespoons cooking oil

3-4 cups chopped vegetables (such as zucchini, snow peas, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, and/or cabbage)

fresh-ground black pepper corns

Heat oil in a wok or deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and stir fry until cooked through. Add chopped vegetables and stir fry until they are tender but not so soft they become mushy. Add sauce, and stir (it will thicken quickly). Removed from heat and grind peppercorns over the stir-fry. Serve with rice.

Quick Pepper-Chicken Stir Fry | marissabaker.wordpress.com

start stirring as soon as you add the sauce to avoid lumps as it thickens.

 

Why I Still Believe In Soul Mates

There seems to be a movement in some of the Christian relationship blogs I read to debunk the “myth” of soul mates. The argument can be summed up in this quote from Boundless.org’s article Myths About Soul Mates: “Believing that ‘the one’ is out there, waiting to ‘complete you,’ inevitably leads to discontentment and maybe even divorce.” Another of their articles, Hoping for a Soul Mate, quotes Atlanta psychiatrist Frank Pittman as saying, “Nothing has produced more unhappiness than the concept of a soul mate.” If you’re not familiar with these arguments, I encourage you to glance at one or both links. I’ll wait.

"Why I Still Believe In Soul Mates" marissabaker.wordpress.com

Defining “Soul Mate”

You might now be wondering why I’m writing a post about believing in soul mates, given these compelling arguments about the dangers of having an expectation like this in dating. Just so we’re all on the same page before I write any more, here’s a composite definition of what the articles I referenced above seem to mean when they use the term “soul mate.”

A soul mate is your perfect match, who complements all your weaknesses and strengths and loves you unreservedly for who you are. There is only one soul mate for each person, and you’re on a search to find them so they can “complete you.”

These articles say this is an impossible ideal, and it becomes dangerous when we start holding the person we’re in or considering a relationship with to impossible and unrealistic expectations. And I do acknowledge this is a danger if we’re focused on the idea of finding one perfect mate (see this scene in Ever After for a humorous example of a few problems which can result). I have a slightly different take on the idea of soul mates, though.

My Idea of a Soul Mate

I imagine there are several people out there who have the potential to be our “soul mates.” For me, I think this would look like a relationship where I feel safe sharing my inner thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Someone who can understand, relate to, or at least appreciate the parts of my mind which I so rarely share, and with whom I can connect on a “kindred spirits” level. It almost goes without staying that this kind of connection must have a spiritual/religious component as well — I doubt I could be in this kind of relationship with someone who does not share my faith. I think there’s also a bit of truth in the idea of finding a mate who “completes” you, not in the way that most people might think of it but in the way that God meant when He created a husband and wife to be two parts of a whole.

Jane Eyre (INFJ) and Edward Rochester (ENTP or ENTJ)

As I mentioned, in this theory of mine there are multiple people with whom the potential exists for forming this kind of soul mate connection. You might meet several, but your relationship should only reach the level of what I think of as “soul mates” with one of these people. I suspect that there’s a point in a good relationship where the other potential soul mates no longer matter because a “sole soul mate” relationship has been forged.

This is where the idea of commitment comes in. Once you choose to marry someone, you’re also choosing to cultivate  a soul mate relationship only with them (the first article I linked to actually touches on this point). This is also why can be dangerous to form deep emotional intimacies with someone of the opposite sex who you don’t intend to marry (or who you’re not sure yet if you will marry) — sharing your heart without the promise of commitment to a sole soul mate relationship seems like a good way to get your heart broken.

Personality Theory

I’m sure not everyone will agree with this idea, and really I don’t expect them to. There’s so much variation in our individual personalities, tastes and ideas that it seems ridiculous to expect everyone to want and expect the same thing from a romantic relationship.

When David Keirsey wrote his personality theories based on Myers-Briggs, he suggested that each of his four personality groups would be looking for, and be, a different kind of romantic partner. He describes the Artisans (Myers’ SP types) as Playmates, who are “exciting and fun” and usually end up married to Guardians (SJ types), who are looking to fill a Helpmate role. Rationals (NT types) want a Mindmate with whom they can have intellectual discussions and explore “abstract rather than concrete” ideas. They often marry the Idealists (NF types, like my INFJ personality), who are searching for Soulmates.

What Idealists wish for in their spouse is a Soulmate, a spouse who knows their feelings without being told of them, and who spontaneously expresses words of endearment, words that acknowledge their mate’s unique identity. Idealists want the marital relationship to be, as they put it, “deep and meaningful,” Other types will settle for much less than this.  … suffice it to say that Idealists are asking their spouses for something most of them do no understand and do not know how to give. (Please Understand Me II, p.146)

Well, that sounds depressingly unattainable. Honestly, when I was reading this book the first time the beginning of this paragraph had me nodding and thinking it sounded exactly just right, but that final sentence is really discouraging. Still, I don’t think I have such unrealistic expectations as Keirsey typifies Idealists with in other parts of his book (though it does sound idyllic). But maybe he’s right and 80-85% of the population will tell me I’m crazy to hope for a “soul mate.”

 

Click to learn more about my upcoming INFJ e-book and contribute your story. Everyone whose stories are used in the book will receive a free copy once it is finished.

Click to learn more about my upcoming INFJ e-book and contribute your story. Everyone whose stories are used in the book will receive a free copy once it is finished.

Choosing For His Glory

Last week, we talked about living our whole lives in the context of praising God. This study is directly related to that, and I want to begin by quoting a scripture that I almost referenced in that post but decided to save until today.

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Cor. 10:31)

I don’t know about you, but I know that right now my life isn’t at the point where I can say that every single thing I do is done with the intention of bringing God glory. But that is part of our goal while we are here on this earth. Every aspect of our lives should be contextualized by our relationships with God and Jesus.blog post "Choosing God's Glory" by marissabaker.wordpress.com

Every Single Thing

The idea of every part of our lives being lived for God’s glory can be a daunting prospect, as this level of self-control seems almost impossible to attain. That overwhelmed feeling is usually how I react to reading this verse:

Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5)

“Every thought”? That’s a tall order. It’s a bit less daunting, though, when we remember Jesus Christ’s words to the disciples in Matthew 19:26 — “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Self-control is also one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, so we know that it is attainable with God’s help (Gal. 5:22).

I also suspect that, while there may be some days when we literally have to battle every thought, that it gets easier. The closer we grow to God, the more automatic it will be to think and act like Him. Christ Himself is being formed in us (Gal. 4:19), along with His mind and thought processes (Phil. 2:5). Letting, inviting, asking Him to dwell in us is a step toward living all our lives for God’s glory (John 15:4, 8).

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Col. 3:16-17)

You Are Dead

If we go back to the beginning of Colossians 3 to get context for the verse we just quoted, we find an interesting introduction to a passage that talks about putting to death our sins (verse 5) and putting on the new man who looks like Christ (verse 10).

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Col. 3:1-3)

If we really are living as if we are dead to the world and our only life is wrapped up in Christ, of course we’ll be living for His glory.

How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Rom. 6:2-4)

Earlier, I suggested that we should be growing to the point where reacting in the same way that Christ would respond is automatic. If we struggle with anger, for example, it might still be our first impulse but we should be becoming more practiced at replacing it with love. C.S. Lewis had this to say about what first impulses can tell us about ourselves.

Surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)

As we mature as Christians we should be quicker to recognize our tendencies to sin, and with Christ in us we now have the power to resist temptation before it becomes sin. It is imperative that we be aware of and active in this process. We cannot passively overcome sin.

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. (Rom. 6:12-13)

As human beings, we can’t be without a “master” — we’re either serving sin, or we’re serving God (Rom. 6:16-23). If we’re serving God in “obedience leading to righteousness,” then we’re also making conscious choices to not obey, or yield to, sin.

Bought and Redeemed

When Jesus Christ died for us, He ransomed us free from servitude to sin. We belong to Him, not to ourselves. Acts 20:28 describes the Church as “purchased with His own blood.” Peter says that false teachers who spread “destructive heresies” are “even denying the Lord who bought them” (2 Pet. 2:1). It is important that we recognize, rather than deny, this fact. blog post "Choosing God's Glory" by marissabaker.wordpress.com

Jesus’ incredible sacrifice cleansed us so that we could “serve the living God” (Heb. 9:14). He made a relationship possible between us and our creator. He established a new covenant “on better promises” that offers us eternal life as part of God’s family (Heb. 8:6). We don’t belong to this world or to Satan or to ourselves any more — we have been ransomed away from slavery to sin and to our own individual weaknesses. We now belong to the One who ransomed us, as His servants, His friends, His bride, His family, His body, His church, and His temple.

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? … Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Cor. 6:15, 19-20)

Our physical bodies and our spirits — the intangible part of that makes me “me” and can communicate with God’s Spirit — belong to God. This fact does not, however, mean that we don’t have free will. Even within the choice to follow God (and it is a choice), there are many other choices we’ll have to make. I’ve been talking about this in relation to careers with a new friend I met through this blog. Our latest e-mails brought up the idea that God doesn’t care so much what you do to earn a living (with, you know, the obvious exceptions of earning money in a way contrary to the laws of God and man) as He cares how you conduct yourself in your work and whether or not you’re growing close to Him.

We Give You Glory

Returning to 1 Corinthians 10:31, which opened this post, the context is whether or not Christians could eat meat that was sacrificed to idols. That’s not really an issue for us today, but there’s still a lesson we can learn. Paul says it’s okay to eat or not eat this kind of meat, so long as the way you conduct yourself glorifies God.

Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof. If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake. But if anyone says to you, “This was offered to idols,” do not eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for conscience’ sake; for “the earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness.” “Conscience,” I say, not your own, but that of the other. For why is my liberty judged by another man’s conscience? But if I partake with thanks, why am I evil spoken of for the food over which I give thanks? Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. (1 Cor. 10:25-33)

Either choice was morally and legally acceptable before God on its own. But because we belong to God, Paul says that our choices need to be examined in the light of “will it bring God glory?” and “will it profit my brethren?” In the same way, once we answer the question, “can I, or can I not” do something legally in God’s eyes, we should then ask, “should I , or shouldn’t I?” It’s a matter of where our hearts are, and what is our motivation. This same topic is also discussed a few chapters earlier in 1 Corinthians, and that passage adds an even stronger warning.

But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. (1 Cor. 8:8-12)

That is serious. When our choices, even if they are perfectly acceptable based on our own knowledge, hurt our brethren, it is a sin against Christ. It’s the seam idea expressed in Matthew 25 — “inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me” (Matt. 25:41-46). It’s not enough to act based on knowledge of God’s laws, though that is certainly important. We must also be acting based on love, which builds up our brethren, and for the glory of god (1 Cor. 8:1-7).

In conclusion, the song “Glory” by Casting Crowns has been running through my head for two weeks, so I’m going to share it here:

Teriyaki Chicken-Rice Bake

Teriyaki Chicken-Rice Bake | marissabaker.wordpress.comThis recipe was originally the Teriyaki Chicken Casserole from ohsweetbasil.com. She starts with the fried-rice already made according to another recipe on her site, but I’ve formatted the recipe presented here so you can make it all at once (I’ve also changed some ingredients for everything except the sauce). You don’t even need to use day-old rice, like for most fried rice recipes.

Teriyaki Chicken-Rice Bake

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Teriyaki Chicken-Rice Bake | marissabaker.wordpress.com

finished sauce with chicken

Teriyaki sauce

3/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon honey

3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 small garlic clove, minced fine

2 tablespoons tapioca starch

2 tablespoons cold water

In a medium saucepan, stir together the soy sauce, water, brown sugar, honey, ground ginger, sesame oil, and garlic. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute.

In a small bowl, stir together the water and cornstarch. Add 1 teaspoon of the hot soy mixture to the cornstarch mixture and then slowly pour everything into the boiling soy mixture, whisking until it begins to thicken. Set aside.

Teriyaki Chicken-Rice Bake | marissabaker.wordpress.com

ingredients

Rice

2 Tablespoons soy sauce

1 Tablespoon rice wine

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon white sugar

1/8 teaspoon ginger

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 eggs

3 cups cooked jasmine rice

1 Tablespoon sesame oil

Olive Oil cooking spray

In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, sugar, ginger and crushed red pepper. Set aside. Spray wok with olive oil and bring to medium heat. Lightly whisk together the eggs and add to the pan. Let it cook until set, flipping or stirring as needed to keep from burning. Removed eggs form the wok and cut them up.

Add sesame oil to wok. Add the rice, cooking until hot and the rice is beginning to pop. Add the sauce mixture, stirring to combine. Add the eggs, and stir until heated through.

Teriyaki Chicken-Rice Bake | marissabaker.wordpress.com

finished rice

Casserole

Teriyaki Chicken-Rice Bake | marissabaker.wordpress.com

shredding the chicken

2 chicken breasts

2-3 carrots

1 head broccoli

10 snow peas

Place the chicken in an 8×8-in. baking dish and pour 1 cup of the teriyaki sauce over the chicken. Bake for 30 minutes at 350°F. Remove from the oven and shred.

Cut up and steam the vegetables. Place rice, chicken, and vegetables in a 9×13-in. baking dish. Add 3 tablespoons of the leftover teriyaki sauce and stir to combine. Place the dish back in the oven for 15 minutes, remove from the oven and drizzle with a little more sauce. Serve immediately.

Teriyaki Chicken-Rice Bake | marissabaker.wordpress.com

before baking

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In Defense of Frozen’s Queen

In Defense of Frozen's Queen | marissabaker.wordpress.comIt’s been more than 7 months since Disney’s Frozen hit theaters, but the conversation about it shows little signs of dying down. There’s still people on my Facebook feed warning about how the insidious messages of “Let It Go” are damaging our little girls, as well as people finally giving into peer-pressure to see the film and subsequently describing “Let It Go” as the most empowering song ever. I’ve seen articles calling Frozen “the most Christian movie that I have seen this year,” and articles describing “Let It Go” as an occult anthem. What is it about this film that catches people’s attention so strongly, and results in such polarized viewpoints?

Contextualizing “Let It Go”

There are plenty of articles talking about how “Let It Go” fits into the context of the film Frozen. I particularly NaClhv’s articles An analysis of “Let It Go” in Disney’s “Frozen” and Elsa’s facial expressions during “Let It Go”, in Disney’s “Frozen”, which talk about how “Let It Go” is more of a running-away song than an empowerment song. In this analysis, Elsa’s song represents a turning point for her character. We see her both depressed and happy, with the potential to grow and become a good ruler or to become an evil Ice Queen. It is a dangerous moment for her, but she is also a deeply sympathetic character. Who hasn’t wished that running away could make things all better?

Even people who hate “Let It Go” will sometimes admit there’s no problem with the song in the context of the film. But they then argue that the context doesn’t matter because it is being sung and played out of context. Joseph Clarkson writes that “when removed from the context of the movie, the song concludes that rebellion and relativism lead to freedom.” And I will admit that I can see how people think that, particularly in connection to the “no right, no wrong, no rules for me” line.

Still, several people who are advocating examining this song out of context are also speculating about the motives of the writers. Remember that article I mentioned about the occult in my intro? That blogger states, “This is hardcore occultism. But we didn’t catch it did we. The language does appeal to those who are familiar with the terms though, and if you don’t know the jargon it goes over your head.” The implication is that the writers of Frozen know the jargon and are purposefully slipping these occult references in.

In Defense of Frozen's Queen | marissabaker.wordpress.comNow, I don’t know anything about the writers of Frozen. That may have been their intent. (For an argument from that point of view, I do encourage you to read the article I’ve been quoting. The writer is very sincere, and reading this will give you context for her statements as well.) But when we’re talking about a writer’s intention, we can’t take the song out of context because it was written to fit within the film’s entire plot. And the overall film shows that “Let It Go” isn’t Elsa’s end point.

The very next scene Elsa appears in shows that she hasn’t actually been freed from her fears, and that running away hasn’t protected people from the powers she started embracing in “Let It Go.” The blogger I’ve been referencing connects the phrase “let it go” with the fact that “the greatest command of occult is ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law’ (The Law of Thelema, Crowley).” What the writers connect “Let It Go” to is the fact that Elsa needs to find a way to fit who she is into the larger context of society. “Let it go” isn’t a cure-all or the intended message of the film. Elsa tried making her will the only law, and discovered it didn’t work. The real answer was love, which is actually more of a Christian message.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)

Christian Themes?

I do not consider Frozen a Chrisian film. I wouldn’t even go so far as to say there are overtly Christian overtones. I do, however, think it’s a decent film which contains good messages that can be associated with Christianity because of their positivity. The film also has some less-positive content which can send a wrong message, like That Weird Sexy-Makeover Moment at the Heart of Frozen’s “Let It Go” or possibly the homosexual overtones that a few people who haven’t even seen the movie are talking about. Still, overall, I agree with Plugged-In reviewer Paul Asay’s response that Frozen “actually offers a ‘responsible and family friendly’ message.”

One other thing I take issue with is that so many writers who are talking about the potential Christian themes in this film hate Elsa and love Anna. Why does a 21-year-old expressing some independence for the first time in her life mean she should be compared to Satan, but an 18-year-old who becomes engaged to a man she just met and irresponsibly leaves the kingdom in his hands gets labeled as a Christ-figure? In this view, Elsa’s the sinner and Anna’s the redeeming saint, never mind that Anna’s act of love thaws her own frozen heart (thus saving herself more than her sister, who could have easily stopped Hans) and Elsa independently chooses to use an act of love to save her kingdom.

Elsa’s Rare Personality

In Defense of Frozen's Queen | marissabaker.wordpress.comI think one of the reasons Elsa is misread by so many people is because she is an INFJ. Hovering around 1% of the population, the INFJ is the rarest Myers-Briggs type. On top of that, the effects of her childhood stress means Elsa’s type isn’t immediately recognizable even to other INFJs.

Even stable INFJs with a normal childhood report feelings of alienation that comes from being different than the rest of the world (Read my post “Things You Should Know About INFJs” for more on that). The thing about Elsa is that she didn’t have a normal childhood. She learned to use her introverted side — intuition — but was told to”conceal, don’t feel,” which made her try to suppress her feeling side. INFJs use “their second function, Extraverted Feeling (Fe), which can serve as a useful extroverted tool for navigating the outside world” (from Personality Junkie’s INFJ profile). This effectively crippled her for dealing with other people in a healthy way (it would have been much better to send her to Xavier’s School For Gifted Youngsters, but sadly that isn’t an option outside of HISHE).

Elsa’s Fe is why you might see her mistyped as an ISFJ duty-fulfiller, since young Fe types try to fit in with the expectations of people they look up to (in this case, Elsa’s parents) and typically try their best not to hurt anyone. But once you see Elsa run away and reveal the introverted side she’s been nurturing in her prison, you see Introverted Intuition (Ni) surface rather than Introverted Sensing (Si). Si is experiential and fact based, and enjoys rhythm and reliability. Ni is more like this description from Personality Pathways.

Introverted Intuition reflects on patterns, relationships, symbols, meanings, and perspectives on matters from complex phenomena to magical connections to practical problems. The Introverted Intuitive mind typically creates a unique vision and arrives at unique insights about things, phenomena, or people. It strives to discover the essence of things and fill in the missing pieces of a puzzle. Introverted Intuitive types frequently will have complex visions or perspectives that they are unable to explain with clarity to others.

The sentiments expressed in “Let It Go” are typical for INFJs as they mature and learn to embrace the aspects of their Ni that sets them apart from other people. From that perspective, Elsa progresses from a “kingdom of isolation” in the first verse, to breaking free of social rules (INFJs will stay within rules that make sense, but don’t want confined by ones that do not), and finally rising like the break of dawn to become who she is inside rather than the “perfect girl” image that other people have in their minds. It’s not really all that dissimilar to the songs “The Orphan” and “Sweet Liberty” from the musical Jane Eyre, which was written for another fictional INFJ.

Elsa’s problems aren’t just specific to INFJs, though, as pointed out by One Dad’s Thoughts on Frozen’s Smash Hit “Let it Go.” Elsa’s song and character arc resonate with girls, particularly teen girls, who are struggling with swirling storms of emotions and feelings of alienation. Frozen is a typical Disney children’s movie in as much as Anna’s story line is concerned, but Elsa’s storyline is explores Young Adult novel themes like coming-of-age, self-discovery, and yes even that sexualized transformation at the end of “Let It Go” (which, seriously, isn’t that bad. She’s 21 years old for crying out loud and it’s a cute dress. I’d wear it).

 

 

Baruch Hashem

As I wrote in Monday’s post, my sister and I visited a Messianic congregation last Sabbath/Shabbat. The teaching given that day by the Rabbi centered around the Hebrew phrase “Baruch Hashem,” which translates as “bless the name” or “blessed be God.” Jewish people traditionally write the initials B”H at the top of a letter to begin their correspondence, as a way of contextualizing everything that follows as being for God’s glory. The composer Johann Sebastian Bach did something similar by starting each new piece of music with the initials JJ (Jesu Juva — Jesus help me) and ended his compositions with the letters SDG (Soli Deo Gloria — all glory to God).

blog post "Baruch HaShem" by marissabaker.wordpress.com

Bless The Lord

One of the songs we opened services with last week was my new favorite Christian song, Matt Redman’s 10,000 Reasons. Like many of the Psalms, it is about wholeheartedly singing and offering praise to God at all times, “whatever may pass and whatever lies before me.”

Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! (Ps. 103:1)

Praise the Lord, O my soul! While I live I will praise the Lord; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. (Ps. 146:1-2)

Have you made it your purpose in life to praise God? Perhaps this comes naturally for some people, but I suspect it is hard for most of us to be in a continuing mindset of praise. When things are going well it is easier to feel  like praising, but we often get so distracted by how well things are going that we forget to offer glory to God. Things going badly can serve as a reminder, but when that happens our typical response is usually to beg God for help rather than praise Him.

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:9)

One of the reasons we have been chosen is the show forth God’s praises, not just when we feel like it, but all the time. Ephesians 1:5-6 tells us that we were predestined to adoption as sons “to the praise of the glory of His grace.” Verses 12-14 add that we were “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,” redeemed, and purchased “to the praise of His glory.” Praising God is one of the key reasons we were created.

Praising His Glory

When we talk about God choosing us, we often turn to 1 Corinthians 1:26-29, about how God has selected the foolish, weak, and despised people who are nothing apart from Him so “that no flesh should glory in His presence.” There’s a “but” right after this, though.

But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God — and righteousness and sanctification and redemption — that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:30-31)

We’re not told to just mope around and wallow in our insignificance. We are to be humble, yes, but there is also something we are to “glory in.” It’s not something that came from or belongs to us, though. Even if we have something which is impressive by the world’s standards, it still pales in comparison to what God gives us.

Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the Lord. (Jer. 9:23-24)

If we’re going to talk about, glory in, and be inspired by something we have, it should be our relationship with God. I recently re-read a book called Refiner’s Fire written by Sylvia Bambola. It is fiction, but set during the very real reign of Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania during the 1980s. A large part of the plot centers around the horrible persecutions Christians endured under Ceausescu’s leadership.

When we sit in our comfy armchairs reading about the apostles “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name,” it seems marvelous, but rather far removed from our own experiences (Acts 5:41). Perhaps we wonder if Christians in general, or us in particular, would react like that today. We in the U.S. complain about being persecuted when public prayer is condemned — not a bit of praise to God for being counted worthy to suffer for Him. Christians in Romania gloried in sharing the love of Christ when it meant being beaten to death or incarcerated and tortured. Reading something like Refiner’s Fire kinda puts things in perspective.

Can we do this? Can we live our lives in the context of always glorifying God no matter the cost? Do we let people see God’s work in us without fearing how they will respond? Will we bless His name even if people give us weird looks, wonder at our sanity, take us to court, or perhaps worse in days to come?

Written In Our Hearts

We might not write B”H at the beginning of our correspondence any more, but God is writing something in our hearts that should result in our lives being contextualized by blessing His name.

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (Jer. 31:33)

God is writing on us, while He is re-writing us in His image. Let’s think about this analogy for a moment. When you write on something, you change it. I write these blog posts in pen on notebooks before typing them up. Once I’ve done that, you can’t use that paper for anything else — it has been changed by the writing process and the words are there to stay. Even if I used pencil and erased it there would still be marks visible. God wants to have an even more indelible impact on us.

At one time, God wrote His laws on “tablets of stone” (Ex. 24:12). Now, He is writing on a surface far more precious with the potential to be far more enduring — our hearts. In a way, we are His letter to the world, and our whole life should be contextualized by that.

You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart. (2 Cor. 3:2-3)

God’s work in us — what He is writing on us — should change the way we approach our entire lives. When people see us, they should be able to read what God has written in us, seeing His signature on all that we do.

One Tasty Sandwich and A Tale of House-sitting

One Tasty Sandwich and A Tale of House-sitting marissabaker.wordpress.com

One Tasty Sandwich and A Tale of House-sitting marissabaker.wordpress.com

Nosey Dude

I spent most of the past week house-sitting for my Uncle, which largely involved spending time with his crazy animals. I’d thought the dogs (which I’d heard horror-stories about) would be the problem, since I don’t really care for dogs and I was a bit afraid of them. But they were perfect sweet-hearts while I was there (though right after I left they killed a skunk and rolled in it to prepare for my uncle’s home coming). It was the cats that almost drove me crazy.

I love cats. I think they are adorable. Just for the record, I still think that after spending the week with Nosey Dude and Remy (aka Hoodwinked or whatever you feel like calling him at any given moment). It’s just that they tried my patience a little. I was warned not to bother closing the bedroom door because Remy has figured out door knobs. So I left the door open, and Nosey demonstrated how aptly he was named by coming in to check on me every three hours. By “check on me” I mean pounce on my head (he must weigh 20 pounds) and walk around the pillow crying for attention. I managed to barricade the door on subsequent nights.

One Tasty Sandwich and A Tale of House-sitting marissabaker.wordpress.com

Remy

Remy has also figured out cupboard doors. I heard weird noises from the kitchen all week, and finally caught him sliding into the cupboard where clean dishes are stored. Yuck! I also found him knocking a knife from the counter to the floor. Not sure I want to know what his plans were for that.

Both cats were very talkative, and very interested in the kitchen. They were constantly telling me how hungry they were, and though they looked like they should be on a diet I did feed them three times a day as instructed (with a couple tiny little scoops in between. I’m a sucker for begging kitties). I didn’t spend much time cooking for myself, preferring to take advantage of the alone time to write. One thing I did whip up was a tasty sandwich. It’s not exactly my normal recipe type of post, but that’s what I’m going to share today.

I started by seasoning a piece of chicken with McCormic’s Grill Mates Montreal Chicken spice that I found in the cupboard. Then I just fried it in a thin layer of oil, like I do for Mushroom-Herb Chicken and Thai-Peanut Chicken.

One Tasty Sandwich and A Tale of House-sitting marissabaker.wordpress.comI’d brought some lettuce from home, and stopped at Meijer to pick up Swiss cheese (I could only find slices, which was convenient but why were there no bricks of Swiss cheese?), multigrain ciabatta rolls, and Olive Oil mayonnaise (which I’ve been wanting to try, since I’m a big fan of olive oil).

One Tasty Sandwich and A Tale of House-sitting marissabaker.wordpress.comIt all turned into a nice sandwich, particularly tasty with a juice smoothie on the side. I’ve developed a passion for Naked juice, particularly the Mighty Mango variety (though with this particular lunch I was trying out Strawberry Banana).

One Tasty Sandwich and A Tale of House-sitting marissabaker.wordpress.com

sandwich and smoothie

My Hair is a Sign?

my sister and me

my sister and me

As I’ve written before (see post “Breeding Red-heads“), my sister and I receive quite a number of comments on our red hair. These range from complementary to inappropriate, from harmless to creepy. I was starting to think I’ve heard at least one variation on  most of the types of comments that people might make. This weekend, however, proved me wrong.

My sister and I were visiting a Messianic group to spend Shabbat with them. The meeting hall for our regular church group has gotten so bad for my allergies that I can’t go back until they find a new building (I only stayed 10 minutes last time, and still my sister had to drive me home). I don’t want to be without fellowship, though, so I’m visiting other local Sabbath-keeping groups.

Anyway,we were talking with a man who’d just introduced himself, and the conversation turned to our hair. There was much chattering and background noise, so I’m not entirely sure I caught all the conversation, but here’s the gist of what he said:

It’s so nice to see red-heads. So rare. Did you meet Emily? Yes? she dyed her hair red when we heard redheads will be extinct by 2050. To show she supported you. We never meet many red-heads you know? and now you are here, it’s a sign.

For Jews, things happen in threes. Signs, you know? So Emily dying her hair was the first sign, and now two red heads appear here in our group. You are a sign!

Well, that’s the first time I’ve been called a sign. I have no idea what we might be a sign of, but he seemed pretty positive that’s what we were. (BTW, the red-head extinction theory is — thankfully — bogus.)

God’s Thoughts

Doing a study on how God thinks might in some ways seem futile, since Romans 11:33-34 says His ways are past finding out” and implies that no human has or can know “the mind of the Lord.” But another verse that borrows this thought from Isaiah 40:13 and Jeremiah 23:18 gives a bit more hope for today’s topic.

For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor. 2:16)

The context of this verse is explaining how God, through His Holy Spirit, gives us access to His thoughts. Because we have been called and given His Spirit, “we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God” (1 Cor. 1:12). That doesn’t mean we know, or can know, everything, but it does mean we can begin to understand the mind of God and have Christ’s mind formed in us (Phil. 2:5).

God’s Thoughts Are…

Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says 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.” (Is. 55:6-9)

Before these verses tell us how much higher God’s thoughts are than ours, it instructs us to change the patterns of our own thinking. Our thoughts must be in the right place before we can begin to understand how God thinks. In order to “return to the Lord,” we have to forsake unrighteous thoughts and wicked ways.

casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, (2 Cor. 10:5)

Though we are created in God’s image, we can’t assume that means His thoughts are similar to ours. They are far higher, and to have a relationship with Him we need to recognize that our pattern of thinking needs to change — to become more like the One we were originally patterned after.

He Knows Our Thoughts

In sci-fi, we describe the ability to read someone else’s thoughts as telepathy. We could say God has this superpower, which is an idea I find both awe-inspiring and a bit scary. He can understand us from the perspective of sensing our innermost thoughts and driving motivations. If we feel lonely or misunderstood, this is a comfort. But when we’ve done something wrong it is impossible to hide from Him.

O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether. …

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me. (Ps. 139:1-4, 7-10)

blog post "God's Thoughts" by marissabaker.wordpress.comThis is my favorite Psalm. I usually find the idea of being known so intimately by my Lord a huge comfort. Who else can literally know every aspect of who you are, understand you perfectly, and still love you?

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; when I awake, I am still with You. …

Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Ps. 139:17-18, 23-24)

Once we ask God for this kind of relationship, though, it’s not all about being accepted just as we are. God loves us now, exactly as He finds us, but one aspect of this Love is that He will not allow us to remain imperfect versions of ourselves. He has to be working in us and with us to change us, to make us more like Him.

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:12-16)

His Thoughts Toward Us

Though He knows every one of our thoughts, and sees all our foibles and faults (even the ones we manage to keep hidden from other people), God’s own thoughts toward us are good things. Another scripture I take great comfort in is part of a letter Jeremiah the prophet wrote when the Jews were carried away captive as a result of their disobedience to God. Even in that context, God was still planning good things for them and thinking of them kindly.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive. (Jer. 29:11-14)

It’s interesting that here as well as in Isaiah 55:6 there is the idea of seeking the Lord. Both times when we’re talking about God’s thoughts in relation to us, we are instructed to seek Him because He wants to be found. He wants us to love Him, to try and understand Him, and to grow in His character — to learn to think the way He thinks.

Roasted Carrot Sticks

Roasted Carrot Sticks recipe marissabaker.wordpress.comI found this recipe described as “The Best Way to Cook Zucchini and Carrots” on a blog called Voracious Veggie. I haven’t had a zucchini yet to try it on, but my whole family agrees this is the best way to eat cooked carrots. I make the “Asian seasoned” ones as a side dish every time we have Korean Beef, and they also go well with my Thai-Peanut Chicken if the carrots in the sauce aren’t enough vegetable for you. You can vary the spices to match just about anything, so they are versatile as well as easy to make.

Roasted Carrot Sticks

Roasted Carrot Sticks recipe marissabaker.wordpress.com1 pound raw carrots

olive oil

salt and pepper

desired seasonings (see below)

Slice carrots into2 to 3 inch sticks of even thickness. Spread a light layer of olive oil on the bottom of a baking tray. Toss carrots, salt, pepper, and desired spices in the olive oil, then spread them out evenly in the pan.

Roast at 425°F for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and toss. Return to oven and cook another 10-15 minutes, or until carrots are tender.Roasted Carrot Sticks recipe marissabaker.wordpress.com

Seasonings
I vary the spices I use depending on what I’m cooking with the carrots. Ideas include paprika, cumin, cayenne, crushed red peppers, thyme, rosemary, sage, or a premixed spice blend.
Asian: garlic, ginger, cayenneRoasted Carrot Sticks recipe marissabaker.wordpress.com