Chocolate on Mondays: Your Own Style, The Main Ingredient

IMG_2809Joanie hosted chocolate on Mondays every Monday. That was her style. She and her family lived in downtown Fresno on purpose: to be among the poor and live with the foreign. Wait, you might say, what foreigners? Any downtown has its own poor and foreign. The poor alone may be foreign to most. As a child, I remember feeling a little uncomfortable just going downtown Torrance. Pawn shops lined the streets in downtown Torrance. Foreign, to my way of thinking.

Other Christian families followed Joanie and Marty’s example and found homes nearby, in the midst of poverty and disenfranchisement. Joanie wanted to encourage her fellow sojourners, so Chocolate on Monday’s was born. Women knew they could find solace and counsel, stories and laughter, every Monday at Joanie’s–with chocolate thrown in. She didn’t even have to be there – just an open door and chocolate and women who needed reminding that they, too, were loved and could find strength in each other and in God.

Wouldn’t Jesus do what they did? Go downtown, not uptown? I don’t think He’d pick the big house on the hill. A house with a view, looking down on those who needed Him most. (That would be all of us.)

Nope.

More like He’d go out of His way to stake His claim in the midst of them all–us all. He loved those prostitutes and tax-collectors. He loves those homeless and hopeless. He wants every twenty-something to see He’s on their side, helping them to be all they want to be, and so much more. That was His style. To plop down in the middle and heal and serve and get to the heart of the matter.

I loved that about Him. He hasn’t changed. When we open our door and offer up a bite of brownie and a slice of crock-pot lasagna, we show others they are worthy and loved and sought after–by One Who knows and loves them best.

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Hosting for Jesus’ sake isn’t a certain style. You find your own style as you take the risk and open your door. It may include chocolate. (I’ve found that chocolate helps make a friend.) But it doesn’t have to. Love is the main ingredient.

It could include a tent – Jamie and Hunter took advantage of that.

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It was easy loving on these twenty-somethings this weekend.

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IMG_2758Quite the slumber-party.

 

 

IMG_2793The oven worked. PTL. And they were easily entertained.

IMG_2792Hope they come back soon. For another “Camp SLO.”

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Your style may not include 18 at once. (I don’t blame you. I did take a doozy of a nap in the middle.) But don’t forget the main ingredient. Love. Jesus didn’t. And I’m sure He loved chocolate as much as Joanie.

PS Tonight I’m serving three different crock-pot lasagnas (see search bar for recipes.) Offered with love and garlic bread – oh, and chocolate marshmallow pie. It’s my style.

 

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Feast on Friday? I’m Not Sure…

Someone touched one too many keys on my new oven. Lemon Velvet Cake — a back-up for all the chocolate desserts on tap for Bonnie’s crew tonight — turned black on top and not set in the middle. Ever happen to you?

IMG_2737This back-up plan is ready for the can — trash can. Bummer. And I was planning and getting ahead and yada yada — best-laid-plans-now-headed-for-the can. Worst case scenario: my new oven is broken. Lord, You know I need my oven for these 18 twenty-somethings. (Yes, now 18.)  Jesus Calling came came calling–Thursday’s reading was meant for me–maybe you needed it, too.

“I, the Creator of the universe, am with you and for you. What more could you need?”

Well, for one thing, I need a working oven. Maybe two.

Here’s a good ingredient for your cake-of-a-day — Sarah Young just won’t let go:

“It is not so much adverse events that make you anxious as it is your thoughts about those events. . . determined to make things go your way, you forget that I am in charge of your life. . . stop striving and see what I will do. I am the Lord!” –Jesus Calling, Sarah Young, May 21

Timely.

Brownies are now in the oven. We will see what happens. In the meantime, I want you to have my daddy’s favorite cake recipe in printable form. I’m sure it will turn out better than mine. I’m sure the kids will love the brownies and banana cake instead.

No striving allowed. Amen? Amen.

Puckery Lemon Velvet Cake
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8-10
 
Dad would mix anything with his cake: jello, pudding, applesauce. We didn't love his concoctions but we loved it that he did.
Ingredients
  • 1 lemon cake mix
  • 1 small pkg. lemon jello (orange works, too)
  • 4 eggs
  • ¾ c. water
  • ¾ c. oil
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients and beat for 3 minutes.
  2. Bake in 9×13 pan according to cake mix directions. (watch for burning - just kidding!)
  3. While baking, make topping:
  4. Juice of one lemon (2-3 T.)
  5. Heat on stove on low with 2 c. powdered sugar until sugar dissolves. Or, forget the heating part, and just whisk until most lumps disappear.
  6. While cake is still hot, make holes 2 inches apart with a fork. Pour topping over, watch it soak in, and smack your lips. Divine, surely. Heavenly tang and sweet.
  7. After cake cools, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

 

I have to admit–Dad would’ve eaten my burnt cake.

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Taste on Tuesdays: “Come on in…”

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O, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.

Psalm 34:8

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Mark and I get to host 16 for Memorial Day weekend: Bonnie’s friends coming to holiday in SLO from San Francisco. She’s got quite the agenda including desserts and breakfasts and game night on Sunday. I don’t know most on her list, but those I know are great, and great seems to rub off on each other, attracting other greats. I’m not worried. Bonnie may be. She called tonight and asked, “So, Mom, are you ready for 16?”

“I wrote a book on hospitality, remember?”

Mark piped up, “I didn’t.”

Well, no, he didn’t. But he’s lived through mine and done a bang-up job. He even washed windows last weekend. That’s not in my book, btw, but not a bad idea once a year or so. (Thank you, dear.)

Hospitality literally means: “welcoming strangers.” I used to think it meant having good friends over for a great meal.

Nope.

It began with the idea of welcoming those on the road who may need “hospitalizing” – like a hospital for the weak and weary. This was before Motel 6 and Holiday Inn Express. If you were stuck out in the cold on a long journey, you knocked and hoped someone–most likely a stranger– would answer the door and invite you in for the night.

God says, “Be hospitable.” He’s in the business of inviting the weak and weary. Weak from trials, cares, self-doubts and sin.  Worn down from trying so hard and not getting what you expected; weary from complicated, unexpected and broken hearts.

Been there.

God said, “Come to Me” and I did. You, too? I thought I recognized you.

Now, together, we get to invite the world to our door, onto our porch, in through the entryway, all the way into the mess in the sink, the laundry on the couch, the bed (not made – horrors!) And when we do, we invite the world to know the One who can strengthen the weak, comfort the worn, ease the weary. A hospital of hearts.

But 16? I didn’t say it was easy. I will plan and pray and make a lot of chocolate chip pancakes. And welcome strangers–sure to become friends. That’s how it works. I’m glad Bonnie asked.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” – Matthew 11:28-31 The Message

O, taste and see the welcoming heart of God – He invites so we can know Him, find refuge and pass it on. Pass it on, always. Chocolate chips help. Today’s Psalm 34:8

Once strangers – now friends.  Emre from Istanbul. Jose and friends from Spain. Taki from Mongolia. Invite the world. They often come.

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Taste on Tuesdays: God in Real Life–Our Greatest Legacy

O, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.

Psalm 34:8

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Once when my folks lived up in the hills above Sacramento, they had a run-in with a crazy person.

A young man, whom they had tried to help, turned on them–actually pulled a gun on my father over a property line issue–and eventually extorted several thousand dollars from them.

When this wild guy was almost out of the picture, much sooner than they had expected, Mom called and said with elation: “It’s just like my mother used to say, ‘God does things abundantly, above, all that we can ask or think!’”

Are you familiar with that great verse? Ephesians 3:20 –

“Now unto Him Who is able to do exceeding, abundantly, above all that we ask or think – according to the power that works within us.

In The Message it reads like this:

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

I’d loved this verse since college days. I used to pray it when I thought I would never get married – reminding God that I was expecting more from Him than I could ever expect from myself. And here I was hearing my mom repeat the same truth that she too was raised with.

Generational truth all about God–

–That God could be counted on;

–He was more than faithful;

–And that He loves to surprise us with abundance.

–God could do anything.

Grandma passed that truth to Mom. Mom passed it to us.

 He can do anything.

He can be depended on.

He is a great God.

That’s not God out of a text book – that’s God in real life – your real life – and that’s your greatest legacy.

On Saturday we had a run-in with a slightly less dangerous situation. Bethany was due to graduate at 3 pm. She didn’t have a dress at 10 am. State College, Pennsylvannia doesn’t have a lot of options and she had tried them all (plus the internet) multiple times. Who’s to say she’s too picky? God wanted her to see Him work — and He did.

While Mark and Mary carted boxes and boxes of Bethany’s “things I cannot part with” to be shipped home–they closed down the post office, I’m told–Bethany and I crawled to their only mall (mall with a small “m”) – through loads of traffic. (Penn State has 40,000 students – many were graduating that weekend – maybe all 40,000 – it looked that way on the only road to the mall.)

We planned a strategy. We prayed. Out loud. Bethany raced ahead. I thought, “I am my mother after all– slow but steady with the credit card in tow.” She found a dress. She found two dresses. On sale (naturally since God loves Mark as much as He loves Bethany) and we made it on time.

Oh, and she graduated.

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Bethany learned again that:

God could be counted on

That He was more than faithful

And that He loves to surprise us with abundance

We stopped and thanked Him and remembered Ephesians 3:20.

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We can’t pass down what we don’t know for ourselves. Maybe that’s your real prayer today: “Lord, help me know You better and trust You more. Amen.”

O, taste and see the amazing greatness of the Lord; blessed are we when we go out on a limb and find He’sonly One Who can hold us up. Today’s Psalm 34:8

Prayers appreciated as I head up to the Bay Area on Thursday to share “A Mother’s Legacy” with the great mothers of Menlo Park Presbyterian. Now unto Him Who is able.

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Feast on Friday: Happy Mother’s Day Chocolate Cake!

Mom didn’t love Mother’s Day. She said all those Mother’s Day sermons made her feel worse about being a mother. I don’t blame her. Most moms don’t need a sermon to tell them they should be doing better. We already know. And if we don’t, our teenagers remind us.

Mom DID love chocolate, however. Chocolate can make up for most Hallmark holidays–try it! I’m serious.

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Mom’s favorite saying was: “If there’s no chocolate in heaven, I’m not going there!” I’m grateful her salvation wasn’t based on her theology. I’m also grateful for a couple great homemade chocolate cake recipes. I made one this morning in honor of Mom. It can choke a girl up to see the cards and gifts leading up to a holiday that doesn’t count anymore. You might need a whole cake to make up for it.

 

One thing I loved about Mom was she wasn’t a perfectionist. With Betty Moore, you got what you saw. Kind of like a bundt cake that won’t completely come out of the pan.

IMG_2569What can you do? Lift carefully and patch and sprinkle liberally with powdered sugar. Powdered sugar is mostly for looks, anyway. Don’t look too closely.

Feast on Friday: Happy Mother's Day Chocolate Cake!
Author: 
Recipe type: holidays, tea, coffee, lunch, dinner
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8-10
 
This is a great cake for your non-frosting eaters - especially if you throw in some chocolate chips part way through the baking. But, of course, frosting is best. Mom would agree.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1¾ cups flour
  • ¾ cup cocoa
  • 2 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup strong brewed coffee
  • 1 cup buttermilk (or milk soured in vinegar)
  • ½ cup oil
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • Chocolate chips (opt.) or powdered sugar (if imperfect)
Instructions
  1. Combine first 6 ingredients.
  2. Add eggs, coffee, buttermilk, oil and vanilla;
  3. beat for two minutes – batter will be thin.
  4. Pour into into a greased and floured tube pan or 9×13
  5. After baking 10 minutes or so, sprinkle 1 cup of chocolate chips in the batter - return to oven.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 – 50 minutes if tube pan or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Dust with powdered sugar.

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Today I eat chocolate in your honor, Mom. This one’s a favorite using two unlikely ingredients: coffee and buttermilk. Next time you have an extra cup of coffee, you’ll know it’s time for cake. And where’s there’s cake, you know it’s time to celebrate Mom. Pull up a chair. I’ll cut you a slice. I may even make frosting. Here’s to you, Mom!
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Tuesday’s Taste & See: A Good Dose

O, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who finds refuge in Him.

Psalm 34:8

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Miss Betty came in the store today. God knew I needed a good dose of Miss Betty. I told her about a little struggle I’m having. I didn’t go too deep. I didn’t need to. She spoke truth–Miss Betty style–into my soul.

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She’s got a weakness for scarves. She said Mission Thrift is her soul-therapy in the midst of her theological doctoral studies. I’m glad. She gets to practice on me. She said, “Now, Sue, you need to repent of that thought, and receive who God’s made you, and walk in faith and move on and celebrate what God gave you to give others – and you know I’m talking to myself here, too, so thanks for letting me do that!”

(You’re welcome. Now could you say that all over again, please?)

She did. With that special little sermon-to-myself-bit at the end.

Makes you want to smile or cry or both. Everyone needs a Miss Betty. You know–someone who loves and states the truth like it’s truth, and you leave feeling hugged by Jesus.

Paul said to speak the truth in love. Seems like we err on one side or the other.

God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. Ephesians 4:15 The Message.

 We could all take a lesson from Miss Betty. Tell the truth, in love. You’ll give someone a taste of God’s goodness when you do. 

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“Oh! Taste and see that letting another in on your mess, big or small (I’m a little bit of a mess today–big people call that “being vulnerable”) — letting another in on your mess allows the great goodness of our Lord place a salve just where it’s needed. I call that refuge. I bet you do, too.” Today’s Psalm 34:8

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God–My Witness, My Husband, Pt. II

A great flick, Shall We Dance, check it out. “We need a witness to our lives…”

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“We need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things, all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness’.”

(excerpted from the film, Shall We Dance)

Today Mark witnessed my puny mood–hot steam burning my hand as I lifted the pot lid too rapidly (and whining–ouch!)–a good report for ministry completed–and finally getting the Netflix password to work (it was right all along…)

Not much. Not too significant. But because he’s here, my husband–showing up day in and day out–he’s my witness. I’m thankful. Hopefully, he’s thankful.

Husband here or not, as God’s child, you — me — we have a witness. Your life will not go un-witnessed…

Perhaps you’ve heard someone exclaim: “As God is my witness!!” And he’d be right – God is, was, will be–his witness.

He is the God who is there and here. Intimate, companion, friend – not only looking on, but looking in. Understanding what’s inside more than I do. Loving what He sees more than I do.

God, the one who sees–He is my witness. Sound scary? Only if you don’t want Him in on what you’re doing. Still, I’m comforted.

As John Ortberg wrote:

“God relentlessly pursues us because all he has ever wanted is to be with us.”

I heard of a sad marriage where the man wanted to be intimate with his wife but she’d only married him to have a child. Once she had their daughter, she stopped being his wife–in every sense of the word.

He was rejected. Wanted for what he offered, not for himself–and finally, discarded.

Sad. True too often.

God, my husband, can relate. Too often, I might come to Him, anticipating His gifts, blessings, promises–and forgetting the Main Gift: Himself.

I don’t want to do that.

As God is my witness. I want to want Him for Him alone.

Agree? Sign here_____________ (as a witness.) Join me in seeking God, thanking God–your husband, my husband (yes, in this case–we can share)–that He is One who is here, relentlessly pursuing because all He has ever wanted is to be with us.

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“LORD, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing. You guard all that is mine.”

Psalm 16:5 (NLT)

 

Prayer for today:

Dear God in Heaven,

I’m not sure I think of you in terms of intimacy. I think I keep You off to the side of my life too often. I wear masks even though You see and know all things. Please forgive me for not allowing You into the deepest recesses of my heart. I repent of living for myself, by myself. I repent of not seeking Your presence. I repent of looking everywhere but You for my heart’s deepest enjoyment and pleasure. Remind me when I stray. Help me remember You have never left my side.

Thank You that you long to be intimate with me and that you continue to pursue me. Help me respond. I renew my vows to You now, great Lover of my soul. Thank You. Amen.

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LORD, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing. You guard all that is mine. Psalm 16:5

You, alone. My witness.

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Feast on Friday: Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Knows No Borders

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It all began with a banana or six.

IMG_2431We grew up on Mrs. Cianfrini’s Banana Bread recipe – the secret was in the sour milk. My kids think the secret is in the chocolate chips.

Feast on Friday: Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Knows No Borders
Author: 
Recipe type: Tea Parties and After School Snacks
Cuisine: American as overripe bananas
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1 loaf
 
We made our own "buttermilk" with a tad of vinegar in a bit of milk-- start this before making the rest and it's curdled in time. Easy to double, although one "recipe" makes these four mini-loaves - great for hostess gifts or for mailing to starving college students.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup oil
  • 1 egg
  • 3 mashed bananas
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • ½ t. salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 T. buttermilk
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Make sour milk (see summary notes) if no buttermilk
  2. Mix sugar, oil, and egg
  3. Stir baking soda into the mashed bananas
  4. Add flour and salt intermittently with bananas
  5. Mix in vanilla and chocolate chips

 

Sometimes you just have to rewrite the recipe card so the legacy lives on.

FullSizeRenderDanny and Ivon love it best right out of the oven–wouldn’t you? A delicious bread without borders.

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Tuesday’s Taste & See: He’s Not Leaving

O, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.

Psalm 34:8

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Bonnie’s 5th grade class was off to Yosemite for a whole week. Parents–nervous parents, hovering parents–met on a Thursday night for last minute instructions. Many had questions. Apprehensive, uneasy questions. Their bright darlings had never been away from home for a weekend, much less a week.

I sat in their midst with nary a worry or question. I know. Not like me. For once, my hands stayed in my lap, a smile on my face. Cheshire-like.

Why?

I didn’t need to worry. Bonnie didn’t need to worry. Her daddy was going with her. (Yea!)

Mark–the designated camp doctor would be near-at-hand, closeby, at the ready for any and all her needs (and forty-five others.)

Plaid is contagious.

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Of course I wasn’t worried. If you had a Man-in-Plaid-Eagle-Scout-MD along–would you worry? Nope.

I wish I never worried. My Father in heaven is on every field-trip, excursion, and late-night call, 24/7.

I wish I always remembered. Taste and see (He’s not leaving.)

God said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

I like that old-fashioned “forsake.” I also like the new-fashioned New Living Translation:

“I will never fail you; I will never abandon you.”

I really like that word never. I can’t argue with never. Nor can you. Well, we both can argue, but it doesn’t change the fact: God won’t leave.

Your dad may have left. Your mom. Your kids. Your spouse. Abandonment hurts. It leaves a deep hole. Easy to fall into. But even in the deepest, darkest hole–your Father is there.

Believe what He said. Bank on His character. 

“Faith, by its very nature must be tried, and the real trial of faith is not that we find it difficult to trust God, but that God’s character has to be cleared in our own minds.”

Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (October 30)

O, taste and see that you’re not alone, ever; your Father in heaven loves you to the ends of the earth and back–He’s your refuge. He’ll never leave. Today’s Psalm 34:8

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God–My Maker, My Husband, Pt. I

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I’m a bigamist–in the best sense of the word. Maybe you are, too. (Is there a best sense?)

I have two husbands; one is perfect, the other one is not. Of course, as soon as I married the not-so-perfect one, I found out I also was imperfect. Funny how that works. Funny as in: it wasn’t funny at the time.

Married or not, how is God–our Maker–also our Husband?

One way is this: He’s our Provider and Protector.

When single, I met a younger woman who was very spiritual; she said she didn’t want nor need to get married because Jesus was her husband.

I thought that sounded a little strange, but I knew I wasn’t as spiritual as she was–I was still holding out for a human husband.

Shortly after that time, I was traveling (alone) and needed some practical husband-type help:

I had too much to carry. I didn’t know how I was going to get me and everything with me to my car after I flew into the airport.

I asked God to be my husband.

When I got to the airport, I found a cart just sitting in the middle of the aisle — I didn’t even need quarters!  And someone had left my car parked very close to the terminal. I smiled as I thought, “Okay, Lord, I asked, and You provided.”

A small provision? Yes. But God, my Husband, is into details. My details.  As someone said, “If it matters to you, it matters to God.”

 

One of the ways God is your husband is because He is our Provider and our Protector. So tiny, our needs sometimes, yet His provision so typical of His loving care.

Do you know God in that way? If so, you know Him as your Husband.

What are your favorite Bible verses that remind you of His provision and protection? You all need one! Ask God for one this week.

Here’s a good one–Psalm 91:1-7 (NLT):

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.
3 For he will rescue you from every trap
and protect you from deadly disease.
4 He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
5 Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
nor the arrow that flies in the day.
6 Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
7 Though a thousand fall at your side,
though ten thousand are dying around you,
these evils will not touch you.

Sometimes we just need to renew our vows.

Dear God, my husband,

I think I don’t rely on you enough to provide for me. I know that’s true because I still get anxious. I still try to do things on my own. I come to You last – or second or third. And when I come, I still don’t believe You will help me.

I repent of my lack of trust in Who You’ve said You are: my Husband, Provider and Protector. I re-commit my vows to you today: to believe You, to trust You, to live in the shadow of Your wings and not fret. Amen.

“For your Maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is His name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; He is called the God of all the earth.” Isaiah 54:5

IMG_2344Centerpiece by Judi Peet; Grace Church, SLO Women’s Bible Study, 2015.

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