You’re Invited (Trades of Hope)

Next Thursday evening (August 7th), I’m hosting a live Facebook party for a company called Trades of Hope. This company works with women around the world to help them provide for themselves and their families. Some of the women whose products are sold through Trades of Hope have been rescued out of sex slavery, are living in poverty, are single mothers (some with handicapped children), live in war-torn countries, or have AIDS. The artists are from countries all over the world, including Uganda, India, Guatemala, Haiti, Peru, the Philippines, the U.S.A, Costa Rica, Cambodia, Bangladesh and Nepal.

Trades of Hope products

I’m wearing the Deep Aqua Layered Necklace and the gold earrings from Mumbai Earring Set

You don’t have to shop to join the party and learn more about Trades of Hope, but if you do choose to support these artists you’ll know you’re buying fair-trade products that directly help the women who created them. We often talk about how we want to be helpful to and supportive  of other people, and here’s a chance to actually do just that. I’ve bought several Trades of Hope products, and I’m so impressed with the quality and design, and also with the women who made these beautiful pieces.

Most of the products are designed for ladies, but gentlemen are also welcome to join us and shop for themselves (because everyone needs a mango-wood trivet, right?) or someone else.

The party starts at 8:00 p.m EST on August 7th and goes until 9:00. I hope you’ll be able to make it then, since we’ll have a live chat going so you can ask questions and stuff, but if not you’ll still be able to access the page for a few days after the party is over. Click here to go to the Facebook page and join this event. If you don’t have Facebook and still want a link to the shop after the initial party, let me know.

Goats for Guatemala!

Does God Allow Trials We Can’t Endure?

I recently read in two separate articles that the verse which says “God will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are can endure” is inaccurate, or at the very least grossly misinterpreted. The example used was that Christians who commit suicide were obviously given a trial they couldn’t bear on their own, and they needed outside help. But does needing help from other people really invalidate this scripture, or is there something else going on?

Faithful to Help

The phrase quoted above is just a piece of a sentence in 1 Corinthians. Let’s look at the whole verse to get some context.

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. (1 Cor. 10:13)

First we see the idea that no matter how alone or oppressed we feel, we’re not being given trials greater than that which is common to man — someone else, somewhere, has gone through something similar. This includes other human beings, of course, but it also includes Jesus Christ.

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. 4:15-16)

Not only are trials like ours held in common with other people, but our Lord and Savior went through similar temptation and sufferings. One of the main reasons He did that was so that He could understand what we’re going through and offer His aid. As it says in 1 Cor. 10:13, “God is faithful,” and He will do that for us.

Secondly, we see that the promise which says God won’t let us be tempted beyond our endurance comes with an explanation for how He will do that. It’s not just that God protects us from trials unless we can get through them by gritting out teeth and pushing forward on our own. He “will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”

Needing Others

This “way of escape” is intriguing. The wording implies intervention by God to create “escapes” for us in our trials, and action necessary on our part to take the offered escape. I imagine this sort of thing will look very different depending on the type of trial and who is going through the trial. Sometimes it may be what we think of as a literal escape, with the trial or temptation coming to an end. Or it could be that something changes to make the trial bearable. I’m sure we’ve all known someone with a long standing trial (like illness or chronic pain) who still has peace and joy in their lives.

and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. …And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:7, 19)

Do we trust God to truly do this, to give us every thing we need in every circumstance? People will say something like, “well, that’s not true. You can’t just go through life with an ‘I don’t need anything but God” attitude. We need other people.” True to a certain extent, but where do you think those other people come from?

Does God Allow Trials We Can't Endure? marissabaker.wordpress.comGood friends — the people you can really talk with about anything and go to when you need help — are rare. We call them a blessing. So when we have people like this in our lives, I’d say that comes under God supplying all our needs, including our need for companionship. Perhaps sometimes the “way of escape” so we’re able to bear a trial comes in the form of another person. It could be a friend, or someone you barely know. Maybe it’s a therapist or a minister to offer counsel. Perhaps it’s a brutally honest sibling to knock some sense into you (hopefully not literally).

I’ve been on the receiving end of this from someone I’d only just met. I was at a church-sponsored weekend and feeling particularly vulnerable emotionally. I thought I was doing a pretty good job of hiding my heartache, but apparently not, because  a girl I’d been introduced to barley two days ago sought me out the last evening to ask what was wrong. The story spilled out and I started crying. Then she prayed aloud for me. It was incredible — I felt God’s Spirit present in a way unlike I’d ever felt before. That wasn’t the conclusion of that trial, but it did mark the escape for climbing out of it and back towards God.

When God sends us someone to help us through a trial, we should be careful not to push them away. But this works from both sides. We can also be the person who is provided by God to offer help.

Being a Blessing

Have you ever considered that? When we’re talking about trials, I think we’re more often inclined to think of how someone else can help us than how we can help other people. But if we expect that we’re going to benefit from the comfort and help of other believers, we should also expect that God wants to use us to help them.

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. (Phil. 2:3-4)

We’re supposed to be looking after our brethren, building them up, making sure they’re okay, and being sure to offer real encouragement and help rather than empty platitudes when they need aid.

If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? (James 2:15-16)

It is similarly un-helpful (and can even be harmful) to just slap a scripture on someone’s emotional wounds and walk away. Saying, “God will supply all your needs”  or “don’t worry, He won’t give you anything you can’t endure” isn’t any help unless we’re willing to be used by God to supply those needs by listening to them, praying with and for them, and keeping in touch with them.

Example of Love

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Love – agape – within the church is the sign that we are followers of Christ. That’s how important it is to have self-sacrificing love that seeks the good of others. Romans 12:1 talks of us presenting ourselves as “a living sacrifice.” We can look at the life of Jesus Christ to see a perfect example of what it means to live as a sacrifice in service to God. Have you ever noticed how much of His ministry involved helping other people? Pretty much all of it. And now He tells us that we and every one of our fellow believers are highly valued as His own temple and body “which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28).

Does God Allow Trials We Can't Endure? marissabaker.wordpress.comIf we’re going to claim that level of importance in God’s eyes, we must see others in the same light. Do we treat other people as if Christ is living in them? and we have to do this for our brethren whether or not we think it looks like Christ is in them. If we’re being honest, we know that we’ve also been seen doing things that are not Christ-like. We must be forgiving toward others if we want to be forgiven (Matt 6:12, 14-15). Really, we’re left without any good excuses for not helping others when we see them in need. If we’re following Jesus Christ, we will be loving and serving other people as much as possible. It’s as simple (and as complicated) as that.

So to answer the question that is the title of this post, I believe God does not let us go through trials or temptations that it is impossible for us to bear. They might not turn out the way we expect them to, but if we stay close to God we will turn out the way He expects us to. He will send us escapes and aid, and will open our eyes to recognize His help. And sometimes we’ll have the chance to follow Jesus’ example and be used by God to help another person.

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

print this recipe

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.)