Why Should Christians Take Care of Their Temple?

We’re all looking forward to Thanksgiving this week. More than ever, this year has taught us to value time with the people we love, and I cannot wait to catch up with some family I haven’t seen since before pandemic craziness started. Plus, I’m excited for an excuse to make James’ mom’s sweet potato casserole again!

Speaking of sweet potato casserole, this week is also famous (or infamous) for people overeating. There can be too much of a good thing if it disables us from being ready for God’s use.

I’m so thankful for my friend Susan Neal who agreed to share her wisdom on this topic. Susan is an author, speaker, and certified health and wellness coach whose background in nursing and health services led her to seek new ways to educate and coach people to overcome health challenges. Be encouraged and challenged by her guest post today!

Guest post by Susan Neal

“Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?” 1 Corinthians 6:19 (NLT)

Being physically available for God to use us by taking care of our temple is vital to our Christian walk. When you are healthy, you are more equipped to do what God calls you to do in this lifetime. Unfortunately, 50 percent of Americans suffer from a chronic illness and 40 percent experience obesity. These statistics break my heart, and I believe they break God’s heart too.

The standard American diet contributed to these staggering statistics. Unfortunately, it is easy to fall into the food addiction trap, and when we do, we are not taking care of our bodies. Every day we face food temptations. Our culture is full of enticing delicacies that are unhealthy but taste so good. Many times, we consume more than we planned to eat. We can become addicted to foods containing wheat, sugar, and high-fructose corn syrup. These are the types of foods we need to avoid, as well as processed foods.

Deceptive food tempts us everywhere we turn, and we do not have the willpower to stop eating, so we binge. Paul struggled too: “The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate” Romans 7:14–15 (NLT). Therefore, we cannot fight this battle alone. We need God and his Word.

Ask God for Help with Our Diets

When we ask God for help with improving our diet, we gain access to his power. Through our weakness and reliance on him, we become stronger. The hardest step to improve your health and weight is deciding. Once you’ve made the decision, you are well on your way to attaining positive results.

A couple of spiritual tactics to use during your lifestyle change are:

  • Ask God to help you, and make a commitment to him.
  • Eat God’s food, not the food manufacturers.
  • Choose a Bible verse to fight food temptation.
  • Obtain an accountability/prayer partner.

When you start the journey to improve your eating habits, ask God to help you. Surrender and place your success in his loving hands. Rely on him during the journey.

Understand God’s Food Groups

God knew exactly what our bodies needed to be healthy so he created specific food groups: vegetables, fruits, grains, meats, nuts, and seeds. He did not give us food in boxes and bags that have been stripped of their nutrients to extend their shelf life. He gave humans a vast selection of fresh food since their bodies need a broad range of nutrients to function correctly.

  • God created over one hundred vegetables and intended for us to consume a colorful assortment of them that are in season.
  • Fruits could be considered God’s candy. Unfortunately, refined sugar tainted our pallet so we desire high-sugar foods instead. But we can wean ourselves off those man-made goodies and eat what God intended for us to enjoy.
  • Nuts provide protein and omega 3 oils, which are essential for brain function.
  • Meats also give us protein. But we do not want to consume meats with hormones and antibiotics. So be sure to purchase organic meats.
  • Seeds contain trace minerals that your body needs in small amounts.
  • Grains are another one of God’s food groups. Today’s modern wheat has been hybridized so it is prolific and drought resistant. Unfortunately, most people cannot digest the larger gluten molecule contained in it. So don’t eat wheat. Instead, eat other grains such as quinoa, organic oats, and brown rice.

Fight Food Temptation

To help you fight food temptation, select a Bible verse, and write it on an index card. You can memorize it or post it on your refrigerator or pantry. When tempted, recite the verse out loud and feel God’s power work within. Finally, ask a friend to become an accountability/prayer partner. Call on this person when tempted and when you need prayer. 

“When we take care of our bodies, we honor the Lord.” ~ Susan Neal on @khogrefeparnell

When we take care of our bodies, we honor the Lord. You only have one body, and it needs to last a lifetime. If you are healthy, you can fulfill the unique purpose God planned for you. You will also be a godly influence in the lives of those you love for a more extended period of time to help them grow into who God created them to be. You want to be here to mentor and nourish the next generation. You are God’s hands and feet to minister to the world. Keep your body healthy so you can do more for the kingdom of God.

To help you begin this journey, you can sign up to receive the ten appendices in the number one Amazon best seller, 7 Steps to Get Off Sugar and Carbohydrates, at https://susanuneal.com/appendix. The appendices include fifty recipes, healthy eating guidelines, scripture verses, and a seven-day eating plan. Start taking care of your temple today!

Tempted to overindulge this Thanksgiving? Learn how to fight food temptation in this guest post by Susan Neal on @khogrefeparnell

About the Author

Susan Neal RN, MBA, MHS, lives her life with a passion to help others improve their health so they can serve God better. She is a Certified Health and Wellness Coach with the American Association of Christian Counselors. Her mission is to improve the health of the body of Christ. She is the author of seven healthy living books. Her award winning number one Amazon best seller is 7 Steps to Get Off Sugar and Carbohydrates. The sequel Christian Study Guide for 7 Steps to Get Off Sugar and Carbohydrates won the 2019 Directors Choice award. The third book in the series, Healthy Living Journal, won the Golden Scrolls award “2019 Best Inspirational Gift Book.” You can find Susan on SusanUNeal.com.

About 7 Steps to Get Off Sugar and Carbohydrates

Over half of Americans live with a chronic illness and forty percent suffer from obesity, primarily due to the overconsumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates. Seven Steps to Get Off Sugar and Carbohydrates provides a day-by-day plan to wean your body off these addictive products and regain your health. These changes in your eating habits will start your lifestyle journey to the abundant life Jesus wants you to experience, not a life filled with disease and poor health. You will learn how to:

  • eliminate brain fog, cure diseases, and lose weight
  • choose foods that benefit versus foods that damage—the ones God gave us to eat, not the food industry
  • find healthy food alternatives and plan your menu
  • recognize the emotional reasons we overeat and the science behind food addiction and a candida infection (overgrowth of yeast in the gut)
  • identify food triggers and use God’s Word to fight impulsive eating
  • locate resources—educational videos and books, meal planning, support organizations, and recipes.

Worry Checkup: How the Right Focus Can Beat Your Fears

I was eleven-years-old when I came home with my first pair of glasses. For months, I refused to wear them. I hated that clunky nineties-styled frame! I remember praying that God would give me perfect vision like my brother. Clearly, that didn’t happen. And grown-up me is okay with that, because I know that my disabilities don’t limit God. However, even as an adult, I sometimes focus too hard on my situation that I lose sight of the unshakable God I serve.

The blind hymn writer Fanny Crosby penned the words to “Blessed Assurance” back in 1873 , and through them, she reveals a clearer vision than we often have. She didn’t find her confidence in her situation but in the unchangeable truth that “Jesus is mine.” Her assurance was in the presence of God, despite any problems she faced.

How can we choose worship over worry and consistently find assurance in God’s presence? The disciple Peter’s experience in a storm reveals much about the “worry” cycle and how to overcome it.

Our storms never take God by surprise.

Before we get into this story from Matthew 14, let’s not miss its context. Jesus had just fed the five thousand. Since that number represented only the men present, we can safely assume He actually fed thousands more (Matthew 14:21).

Immediately afterward, Jesus sent the disciples ahead of Him on the sea of Galilee and found a quiet place to pray. (Side note: If Jesus sought out time in God’s presence to pray, how much more should we!) But all was not quiet on the Sea of Galilee. The disciples were stuck in the middle of a vicious storm.

This storm wasn’t news to Jesus, though. As the Son of God, He has complete foreknowledge and is all-knowing (omniscient). That said, He knew he was sending His disciples into a storm, perhaps so He could reveal more of His power (omnipotence) to them.

Into the “fourth watch of the night,” Jesus came to them, walking on the water (NKJV Matthew 14:25). Bible teacher James Vernon McGee explains that the fourth watch took place from three in the morning until daylight.1 The disciples must have been exhausted and about to give up hope. And that’s when Jesus showed up.

We never need an invitation to be in God’s presence.

The disciples first response seems laughable: They thought Jesus was a ghost! Before we shake our heads at their lack of faith, let’s be honest: If we saw someone walking on the water, we might be spooked too.

Ever gracious and patient, Jesus offered them the assurance of His presence. He said, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid” (NKJV Matthew 14:27b).

And ever his impetuous self, Peter spoke up before anyone else could and demanded proof. “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water” (NKJV Matthew 14:28b).

Ever patient with Peter, Jesus replied, “Come” (NKJV Matthew 14:29a).

I’m not faulting Peter. In fact, I probably would have been tongue-tied like the other disciples. But here’s the thing: Peter didn’t need to wait for Jesus to invite him to come. He had already seen Jesus perform miracles. He’d even heard Jesus personally invite any and all to “Come unto me” (NKJV Matthew 11:28). The only possible explanation for this ghost-like phenomenon was that Jesus had come to calm their fears with His presence.

But in the storms, we’re sometimes so blinded by our worries that we ask if God is there and if He can perform miracles for us. Like Peter, we doubt and want “signs” or evidence. Sometimes, God graciously gives us affirmations, and other times, He seems silent. Regardless, He is ever present (omnipresent) with the open invitation to come to Him.

We may lose sight of God, but He never loses sight of us.

Recently, I went to the eye doctor to get an updated contact prescription. I’m just as near-sighted as ever! Sometimes, I’m also spiritually near-sighted and can’t see past the tip of my nose.

After Jesus invited Peter to “come,” Peter literally stepped out of the boat and walked on water. Walked. On. Water.

But no sooner had he taken a few steps toward Jesus than the wind howled even louder than before, and he suddenly realized, “Oh man! I’m not in the boat anymore!” (That’s my paraphrase.) Guess what? He started to sink, and as he was going down, he cried, “Lord, save me!” (NKJV Matthew 14:29b).

Peter couldn’t see past the rain pelting his nose. He went near-sighted and took his eyes off Jesus. The second he did, he started to sink.

However, just because Peter lost sight of Jesus didn’t mean Jesus left him. He was still right there, inviting Peter to come to Him. Likewise, just because we take our eyes off Jesus doesn’t mean He loses sight of us.

We may lose sight of God, but He never loses sight of us. @khogrefeparnell

Our response to God’s presence should always be worship.

This incident ended happily for the disciples. Jesus rebuked the storm (and their lack of faith), and the raging wind ceased. Only then did the disciples respond rightly by worshiping Jesus.

My challenge is not to wait until the end but to worship Jesus in the storm. Worshiping in the howling wind of disappointment or gusting gale of hurt does not come naturally. My gut reaction is to question and to cry out in fear.

If only I could remember that the focal point of worship is not my predicament but God’s presence. It’s not about if God responds the way I want Him to but that He is God.

Like Peter, I need a vision check-up: Because if my attention is on something other than God Himself, it’s out of focus. However, when I find my security in His presence and worship His unchangeable nature, I can’t be fearful.

How can you practice worship right where you are? Which attribute of God’s nature is most encouraging to you today?

~ Kristen

I’m grateful this post first appeared on my friend Jerusha Agen’s beautiful blog. For more encouragement and advice for fighting fear, visit the Fear Warrior Blog.

1. McGee, J. Vernon (1982). Matthew Chapter 14. In Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee (Vol. III, p. 529). Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson.

Worry Checkup: How the Right Focus Can Beat Your Fears. @khogrefeparnell

How to Invite Contentment in Unfinished Conditions

Since buying our home in March, we’ve been renovating the place, and I’ve shared parts of our kitchen remodel story with you here on the blog. Through this process, I’ve discovered that unfinished things awaken my old enemy of perfectionism, disguised as “the next-thing” syndrome. It tries to steal the beauty of progress by running a to-do-list of unfinished tasks through my mind.

Wanting to get ahead and take ownership are positive traits, but there is a gray area where this “next-thing” mentality becomes a problem. It can encourage a subtle spirit of discontent and restlessness that distracts from “the main thing” that matters more.

Let’s go to God’s Word to find guiding practices for fighting “the next-thing” mentality.

Fight the “next-thing” mentality by remembering “the main thing.” @khogrefeparnell

Say No to Hurry

How do you respond to urgent matters? If you’re like me, I tend to drop everything and try to put out that fire and then have to figure out where I left off.

Don’t be like me. Be like Jesus instead. When He received an urgent message that His friend Lazarus was dying, He actually chose to delay his arrival, because He wanted to increase the faith of those with Him by performing a miracle (John 11:4).

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again” (John 11:5-7 NKJV).

Did you catch that? The wording here reveals that because Jesus loved this family, He waited to respond.

The truth is that we can better love people when we don’t hurry. Hurry breeds anxiety, forgetfulness, and a rushed spirit. Hurried actions suggest we need more and we need it now to be content. The focus is on ourselves, not others. On the flip side, intentional actions leave room for prayer and thoughtful preparation.

Granted, none of us is God. We don’t have the foresight to know that the situation will turn out all right as Jesus did. However, His example is still relevant for us. Instead of reacting like a reflex, we can pause and be intentional with our next steps. Doing so reveals consideration for others over ourselves.

Learn to be Present

Although Jesus performed wonderful miracles during His earthly ministry, He knew what His primary purpose was: “to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28 NKJV). In Luke 18, He confides in His disciples that they must journey to Jerusalem so that He can fulfill “all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man” (Luke 18:31 NKJV).

Have you ever had a mission or task to fulfill? I’m not talking about dying to save the world like Jesus, but maybe you’ve had a deadline to meet, a ministry to manage, or a project to complete (*cough* like a kitchen renovation). In those times, I tend to get tunnel vision: focusing on the goal so much that I lose sight of my surroundings.

Even though Jesus had the literal weight of the world on His shoulders, He remained present. As He approached Jericho on the way to Jerusalem, He met a blind man who begged for mercy and for his sight to be restored.

Jesus didn’t tell Him, “Can’t you see I’m busy? I’m about my Father’s business and have to get to Jerusalem. You can’t even imagine the anguish I’m going to suffer. I’m going to die to save you. Isn’t that enough?”

No, Jesus didn’t say any of those things. Instead, He offered the gift of His presence to this needy man and met him right where he was.

Then Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well” (Luke 18:42 NKVJ).

So too, we can offer the gift of being present to our families, friends, and even complete strangers in the middle of unfinished work. Instead of being task-focused, we can be present to love the people in our path.

Focus on What Matters More

We’ve already met Martha and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus, but I want to include another part of their story because it touches at the heart of “the next-thing” syndrome. At a different time, they were hosting Jesus in their home, but while Martha was slaving in the kitchen, Mary was no where to be found! Martha finally spotted her, sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him teach.

Frustrated that all the work fell to her, Martha ratted out her sister to Jesus: “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me” (Luke 10:40b NKJV).

Martha was so focused on the next thing that she was missing out on the main thing: Jesus was in her home, sharing His presence and wisdom with her family and their guests.

What if she had seen Mary, and instead of getting upset, realized that she herself was the one missing out? Maybe Martha would have pulled out the paper plates instead of the fine china so she could listen in too.

Remember the Reason

I really hope that one day, I’ll wake up a Mary, but I suspect I’ll be a Martha to the end. Hopefully, a reformed Martha. Let’s not be so consumed with the task that we forget the reason for it.

For me, that looks like welcoming people into my unfinished home and prioritizing community over perfection. For you, it might look like something completely different.

The bottom line is that we’re all works-in-progress in this journey to grow more like Jesus. And maybe, just maybe, God places these unfinished tasks and projects in our path, not to make us discontent, but to remind us that we are to be about our Father’s business, not our own accomplishments.

God places unfinished tasks and projects in our path, not to make us discontent, but to remind us that we are to be about our Father’s business, not our own accomplishments.

Can you relate to the “next-thing” mentality? Which practice can help you fight it effectively today?

~ Kristen

I’m grateful this post first appeared on DailyPS.com.

Ruth Offers Wisdom in Handling Unknowns

The year of unknowns would be an accurate tagline for 2020. Which of us hasn’t experienced something completely unexpected this year? Today’s guest post by writer and teacher Marlene Houk offers biblical wisdom for handling the unknowns in our lives. I trust this post will be an encouragement to you!

Post by Marlene Houk

Lysa TerKeurst relates to unknowns in her book1, “When we need to know something, as a Christian, it makes us turn to God. We are willing to follow God even though we don’t know what we’re doing” (Terkeurst, 2018).

Does the unknown affect us? Building that first house? Learning the intricacies of a new job? Caring for our first baby: that tiny human, helpless and dependent upon our knowledge and wisdom?

My husband and I experienced significant confusion when we brought our daughter home. She seemed quite delicate and dainty, but what was coming out of her wasn’t! After seven times, while my husband paced frantically, he suggested we take her back to the hospital! Even after years of helping my mother keep babies in our home, I was confused myself. After we calmed down and realized a baby’s diet may cause her to assimilate differently and newborns needed to get their systems working, we heaved sighs of relief. But those emotions ran high because we didn’t know what to do.

Harnessing our emotions

After reading the book of Ruth, I realized that unknowns fill her story. Not knowing creates within us emotions ranging from eagerness to fear and from rapid heartbeat to goosebumps. Unawareness creates devastating results as in the sinking of the Titanic.

But, as Christians, when we realize that God knows our unknowns, we don’t need to fret about them. We do need to research, collect information, and make decisions. But, many times unknowns still exist. If we train ourselves, they can encourage us to trust the God who knows. We can then make our decisions—but leave the outcome to Him. Knowing that God is already in the future, waiting for us, clears the fog of panic and empowers us to focus.

As Christians, when we realize that God knows our unknowns, we don’t need to fret about them. ~ Marlene Houk on @khogrefeparnell

The best emotion to come from unknowns could be amazement and wonder when God shows us spiritual truth. Imagine what Ruth felt as she realized that God had indeed taken care of her and Naomi by preparing Boaz for them. Experiencing the truth of God’s care birthed wonder in her heart at the generosity of her newly found Redeemer.

Coping with uncertainty

Ruth’s unknowns show us how to cope with our uncertainties. Looking at Ruth’s story in a generic way reveals that her unknowns are very similar to ours today. The following list contains a few of the unknowns in her narrative.

1. She didn’t know about her direction in life.

2. She didn’t know how to walk with a friend through grief.

3. She didn’t know how to find a husband.

4. She didn’t know who to trust. She possibly knew her future husband for less than three months.

How do we handle the feelings that arise from unknowns in our lives? Does your heart sink at the array of many choices? Sometime being healthy eludes us and causes frustration and fear. Conversely, you may be eager to attack your lack of knowledge. Many might shout, Google! I agree because I research as quickly as an eyelash can blink. Or, perhaps, an unknown requires us to consult an expert such as a specialist, repairman, or doctor. Our struggles may demand articulating them to a professional such as a counselor or psychiatrist to help us separate our emotions from our identity. 

As Christians, our confusion pushes us to follow the Truth, nudges us to go and work in God’s fields, and causes us to look to Jesus who pierces our concerns with clarity.

Dealing with unknowns

How is Ruth showing us methods for dealing with our unknowns?

1. Follow the truth that you do know: For example, Boaz followed the Mosaic law that he knew (Ruth 3:11-12). We know that Christ fulfilled the law and that John 14:6 says that He is the truth. So, when we follow Him, we follow truth.

2. Go do the next right thing (Ruth 2:2). Ruth asked Naomi if she could go, and Naomi said go. Ruth went, even though she didn’t know where to connect with her kinsman redeemer. Her story overflows with Ruth going to the fields to provide for her mother-in-law.

3. THINK about the way God works in your life (Ruth 2:12). Realize truths from what God has already done. Ruth, at some point, learned that Boaz’s mother was a prostitute, rescued by Hebrew spies. They saved Rahab and her family, and she became Boaz’s mother (Matthew 1:5). Ruth could reason from this that God was an inclusive God, and he would find a way for her to fit in too.

Now, a few decades later, we demonstrate more relaxation in our role as mom and dad. We followed parenting truths gleaned from years of advice. My husband and I activated this wisdom in the daily care of our children. And we acquired priceless truths from this journey. We learned, like Ruth, that our unknowns lead us to God and His ways for dealing with them. Ruth’s plan for managing unknowns (follow, go, think) are ready for you to glean from the Master’s hands. 

~ Marlene

Ruth offers wisdom in handling unknowns by Marlene Houk on @khogrefeparnell

1Reference: TerKeurst, Lysa. It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way. Thomas Nelson, 2018.

About the Author

Marlene Houk opens doors of truth through her passion to bring alive the stories of women in the Bible. She reveals patterns in their stories that lead to biblical thinking, empowering emotional healing. Determined to find and apply truth, she connects the Bible’s wisdom to everyday living through thought-provoking questions that help others to embrace wholeness and freedom. Leading women’s Bible studies for ten years has increased her passion to share profound and life-changing truths with others. She and Sid, her husband of 38 years, have two adult children and two grandchildren. After work, you might catch a glimpse of her at the lake, watching the sun on the water.

About Hidden in a List

Do you have a plan when life kicks you to the curb in its daily grind and when disaster strikes? Imagine relying on simple, doable, Scripture-based steps to realign your emotions with God’s Word. In this short read, called Hidden In a List: secrets from Bible women, you can:

  • Unlock proven secrets to control reactions and instead act from a God-given perspective.
  • Triumph in the knowledge of Jesus Christ as he overcomes fears and failures.
  • Delight for a lifetime in using these secrets and sharing them with others.
  • Conquer insecurities by following the women of the Bible.
  • Boldly increase your faith and hope as a daily part of life.

Available on Amazon.

Writing with Purpose: An Interview with The Correspondent Evelyn

Some conversations leave you feeling energized, like you just finished chatting with a best friend over coffee and are now ready to continue all the tasks at hand. That’s how my interview at The Correspondent podcast with Evelyn Corral felt.

I would love for you to take a listen to this episode. Whether you’re a writer or pursuing some other calling, you’ll be encouraged to persevere and embrace new beginnings, no matter how small.

Some of my favorite takeaways from our chat include the following:

  • Appreciate closed doors since they might be blessings in disguise.
  • Remember we have to start somewhere, no matter how small.
  • Be faithful to your calling.
  • Struggles are part of pursuing any passion. What can you learn from them?
  • Your little is not too little for God to use.

Which one of these takeaways resonates most with you? Or did a different takeaway stick with you?

Live in abundance and keep pursuing those God-given dreams.

~ Kristen

Whether you’re a writer or pursuing some other calling, be encouraged to persevere and embrace new beginnings, no matter how small. @khogrefeparnell

If I Can Cook with Cast Iron, You Can Too.

Did you or your kids ever watch “The Little Engine that Could” where the train puffed and puffed and told himself, “I think I can, I think I can”? Yes, I did too.

While I’m all for positive vibes, I also believe in giving ourselves and others grace for making mistakes. As an online English teacher, I often tell my students, “It’s okay to make mistakes,” and “Don’t be afraid to fail. Be afraid not to try at all.” The truth is, there have been many days I needed to give myself that same freedom to make mistakes and learn from them, especially when in the kitchen.

Cooking as a Single

When I was single and living on my own, I mastered the art of not starving. I could make a mean salad and felt pretty confident about my grilled egg, ham, and cheese English muffin sandwiches. Also, I firmly believed mac and cheese constituted a complete meal. (Can I get an Amen?)

I was so busy working, serving at my church, or meeting up with friends that food literally took a back burner.

Cooking as a Newly Wed

As I prepared for my wedding, I started to Pinterest in earnest, searching for “easy meals,” which was code for, “How can I keep my husband happy … and alive?” I had a few tried and true menus, like grilled cheese, spaghetti, my friend Ashley’s taco soup recipe, a chicken bacon ranch Crockpot, and something else I can’t remember at the moment. But clearly, I needed to start paying attention to food, because I didn’t want to be that wife.

Good news. We’re a year and a half into our marriage, and James thinks I’m a decent cook. Side note: He is the nicest human ever. I also encourage him to grill as often as he wants.

Cooking with Cast Iron

When my friend Ashley first told me she had been contracted to write a book on Modern Cast Iron, I celebrated with her out loud but inwardly wondered how on earth I could help support her in this endeavor since cooking with cast iron TERRIFIED me.

The first problem: I didn’t own a piece of cast iron.

The second problem: Ashley and her husband are amazing cooks, and I am not. (I’ve seen them in action a few times.) True, I had managed to recreate her taco soup recipe with smashing success, but that was one taco soup recipe. Even girls like me get “lucky” sometimes.

But more important than my pride was my friendship with Ashley. While researching how to cook pork chops on Pinterest, someone recommended a small cast iron grill pan. It was right around my birthday, so I asked for one, and behold, my wish was granted.

First impression: Dang, this thing is heavy. Second impression: Hey, this isn’t so scary. I successfully cooked pork chops and later asparagus in the grill pan. Everyone survived the experience.

And then my friend Ashley did the kindest thing. Perhaps she suspected my cooking insecurities or my need for a nudge in the right direction, because she gifted me with an enamel Dutch Oven. It was for my birthday, anniversary, and housewarming all wrapped in one, and I literally cried when I received it because she was so thoughtful, and it was so beautiful.

But still the nagging thought: Can I actually cook with cast iron?

Making Homemade Bread

What can be more terrifying and intimidating than making homemade bread? Okay, yes, a T-Rex, but those are extinct.

Still, I knew I had to try this beautiful Dutch Oven gift or appear ungrateful. So I found a Crusty No Knead Dutch Oven Bread Recipe on Pinterest and followed the directions.

Other than not rising as much as I had hoped, it looked like … bread. It even tasted like bread. Hello, I made homemade bread! And James liked it, which is ultimately what matters.

Choosing to Be Brave

None of us likes feeling like a fish out of water. Instead of focusing on the fear of failure, though, let’s focus on the possibilities. Even seasoned fishermen don’t always get things right.

I love the story in Scripture where Peter, the expert fisherman, worked his nets all night and had nothing to show. Nada.

That feeling must have been way worse than my failed zucchini boat lasagna attempt. But I digress.

When Peter and those with him returned to shore, Jesus asked them a simple question, “Children, have you any food?” When they answered in the negative, Jesus then said, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some” (NKJV John 21:5-6). Now what’s so amazing is that this event took place after Jesus’ resurrection, and the preceding verse made clear that the disciples didn’t know it was Jesus Himself who was talking to them.

But there must have been something undeniably special about Him, because Peter and his friends listened and did exactly what He said. And guess what? They cast their nets and couldn’t even pull them back in because they were overloaded with fish! At this point, Peter recognized Jesus for who He is, and, in typical impulsive Peter fashion, jumped overboard to get to Jesus first.

There’s so much more to this story, and I hope you’ll take the time to dig deeper into it, but here’s my takeaway for today: If God gives us a nudge to do something, whether it be learning to be a better cook or befriending the neighbor next door, let’s do it. Let’s plunge right in like Peter!

There’s the chance we’ll bomb dinner or get a door in the face. But just maybe that recipe will become our new favorite or we’ll discover a best friend living next door. Let’s fear failure less and be brave more.

The Bottom Line

Although I’m nowhere near ready to call myself a cook, there’s a healthy rotation of meal options in our home, and even though cooking for company intimidates me, I’m determined to try more … and be content to order pizza the rest of the time. Kidding not kidding.

Seriously, though, I think I can cook with cast iron. I even bought myself a skillet so I can try Ashley’s Peach Dutch Baby recipe. Maybe it will become our next favorite Saturday breakfast tradition.

Regardless, here’s my dare for you: If I can cook with cast iron, you can too. Be brave and willing to try something you’re not good at. You might just discover a new world of possibilities.

If I can cook with cast iron, you can too. @khogrefeparnell

Happy cooking, friends!

~ Kristen

I’m grateful to my friend and gifted author Ashley L. Jones for inviting me to share this post first on her beautiful blog at BigSisterKnows.com. Check out her blog for more encouragement and delicious recipes for your everyday life.


About Ashley’s Book: Modern Cast Iron

In Modern Cast Iron, self-proclaimed cast-iron connoisseur Ashley L. Jones recaptures the ease and joy of cooking with cast-iron cookware. Jones introduces readers to the best brands and types of cast-iron cookware to fulfill any cook’s needs. She offers detailed tips and tricks for rescuing old, rusted pans and keeping them properly seasoned, and she shares recommendations for the best cooking oil for every recipe. With Jones’s help, both experienced and beginner cooks will be able to rival grandma’s cooking. Chock-full of stories from Jones’s own childhood growing up with cast-iron meals, as well as recipe after tantalizing recipe―from breakfast quiche to gluten-free meals and beautiful blueberry cobbler―Modern Cast Iron explores the countless ways that cast iron benefits health and happiness.

Get Your Copy.

Upset the World – Giveaway & Review

When I first read the title Upset the World, it immediately grabbed my attention. “Upset” so accurately describes our society these days. I was curious to learn what Tim Ross meant by “upset the world” and how being an “upsetter” could radically change people for good.

His definition provided the starting point: “An upsetter is a person who has been upset by the overwhelming love of Jesus and upsets others” (Ross 12).

Before we can do that, though, we must first allow Jesus Christ to upset our lives. In other words, we need Him not only to save us, but also to make changes. As Ross says, “If you come into a relationship with Jesus Christ but nothing about you changes, then you probably didn’t really meet him” (17). He makes the point that Jesus upset the world so radically that he literally split the calendar before and after Him (20). It is our job to follow His example by rocking the world’s boat with the overwhelming love of God. Ross encourages us to use our testimonies and share how God has personally upset or changed our lives.

Before Ross moves into how we can upset others, He also explains the Holy Spirit’s role and work in our lives (chapter 3-4). He challenges us readers not to become “trapped” with religion but evaluate the heart motivation behind all our actions (chapter 5). Then, we’re ready to “do good” (chapter 6), love life in spite of what happens to us (chapter 7), be willing to disturb the “piece” of people’s lives that doesn’t match God’s will (chapter 8), and get used to upsetting people on a regular basis in obedience to the Holy Spirit (chapters 9-10).

Takeaways

I absolutely love that Ross explains that to upset the world, we’re not supposed to use hate or anger. We are simply to “go out and share the love of Christ in the most relational way possible” (13). He recognizes our current politically- and racially-charged climate and urges readers to take all their passionate feelings and convert them into love for people.

This is such an important point. Too many people think that hate and violence are healthy expressions. Feeling angry about injustice is absolutely justified and understandable, but channeling that anger into violence accomplishes nothing but more hurt. Ross explains this so well:

“We need to take all that passion and hostility toward people and turn it into love for others. You need to love them, because if you don’t love them, then His Kingdom can’t come to them. Let me put it another way: if you’re mad at somebody, you will also be mad at Jesus” (35).

Another point he makes is that we can love people without agreeing with them (48-49), which is also powerful and true. We can hate their sin without hating the person.

That said, a person who gives His life to Christ shouldn’t remain the same. Even though each one of us comes to know Christ just as we are, we can’t stay the way we are once we’ve accepted the gospel invitation. As Ross says, “We want everyone to come, but we don’t want anybody to stay the same” (167). Amen to that!

Review

I highly recommend the book as a whole with one personal caveat. I am a Bible-believing Christian and recognize different preferences in worship and practice. For example, some of my fellow believers and friends are highly conservative while some are pentecostal. I personally think God cares about the heart of our worship more than the means of expression. Ross is much more charismatic than I, which is neither here nor there, but I personally felt uncomfortable with some of his practices, such as attending a presbytery service where his wife supposedly received a “word” that her deceased father was “pleased” with her (101).

Now I certainly believe we can feel God’s pleasure in our lives when we are obeying Him, but from my knowledge of the Bible, receiving affirmations from deceased loved ones is not a Scriptural practice. Again, this is my understanding, and I am not a pastor like Tim Ross. However, this is the reason I’m giving the book a four out of five stars review.

That said, I am sincerely grateful to have read this book and highly recommend it, especially for those who are seeking a biblical perspective on how to deal with all the hostility and hate in our world. We are to upset people in the nicest way possible: with the overwhelming love of Jesus.

Enter the Giveaway

People need both to hear us tell about God’s love and to see us showing it. Ross provides practical examples and insights on what love-in-action should look like, and that’s why I’m excited to share a copy of the book plus study guide with one of my readers! I truly think these resources will be a blessing to you.

Upset the World by Tim Ross – Giveaway & Review by @khogrefeparnell

To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post or last week’s post. You can share why you think this book would be a help to you or someone you know. You could even just say something like, “I want to learn how to upset the world for Jesus!” I’ll announce the winner on the blog next week.

~ Kristen

Special thanks to the Blog About Blogger Network for hosting this giveaway.

All quotes are taken from: Ross, Tim. Upset the Word. Gateway Press, 2020.


And the Giveaway Winner Is …

Congrats to Nancy on winning our Upset the World giveaway!! Thank you to everyone who participated and shared about the giveaway online.

Another Giveaway Opportunity!

The month of August, I’m hosting a giveaway for a Kindle Fire HD8 to encourage readers to “go places” through reading, even if we’re limited in our travel opportunities due to Covid19.

For more details, read the full post. To enter, click here or the image below.

Renovating Our Homes and Hearts, Part 3

If you’ve been following along with our kitchen remodel story (now on day four), you can only imagine how eager we were for Monday to come. Having already waited an extra two days to use our kitchen, I silenced my alarm when it went off and ignored the snooze button. “Hurry up and get over!” I told the day. Yet once it started, the day dragged by.

Pound. Whack. Thud. Pound. Pound. All. Day. Long.

We started to get nervous when the crew wasn’t done by dinner time. Then the project manager arrived, and James and I offered Gatorade and snacks to the workers. Finally, they reached the last part of the project, spackling the drywall. And then their spackle machine broke, and they had to find an alternate solution. It must have been 9:30 at night when they finished and left.

With the house finally silent, James and I soaked in the finished product. The cave with its Neanderthal fluorescent lighting was gone. In its place was a more open, well-lit space. We still had to put in new top cabinets, but at the moment, I could have hugged the kitchen.

Before/After

Rebuilding is messy, time-consuming, and loud; but it is so worthwhile.

Before we accept God’s gift of salvation, we are spiritually dead. The only future we have is eternal destruction (with no demo option). But look what Christ did! “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).

Don’t miss this part, because it is incredible. In and of ourselves, we have nothing to offer God, for it is only by grace we are saved through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8). But when we become God’s children, we also become His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10), and as His workmanship, He gives us everything we need to build effectively. Essentially, we become “God’s fellow workers” (I Corinthians 3:9). 

In I Corinthians, Paul compares believers to builders who are building on Jesus Christ’s foundation. The only way that’s possible is because God first laid the foundation (I Corinthians 3:11), with Jesus Christ being “the chief cornerstone” (Matthew 21:42). In other words, we are not only God’s work, but He also allows us to be part of His work (I Peter 2:4-5).

When we allow God’s spiritual reconstruction in our lives, we can then help spread His Word so more people can know Him and join His “household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). What a privilege that is!

In our home, James is the outgoing one. I’ll be working at my desk and all of a sudden hear him talking with neighbors in the backyard or starting a conversation with the couple across the pond. His friendliness paves the way to relationships that might one day let us share the Gospel with others.

Although I truly believe my writing is a ministry, God has also challenged me to get out of my introverted comfort zone and start up conversations with people I meet while jogging in the neighborhood. You never know how one conversation might open doors later.

The bottom line is that as God’s children, He can use us wherever we are to share the Good News with others. Let’s not take that responsibility lightly.

A Prayer for Willing Hearts

Our kitchen renovations aren’t finished, although I’m proud that we were able to install all the top cabinets by ourselves. You can check out the video, and you’re welcome that it’s sped up, or you’d be watching for hours.

Wa-la! We make a good team. And yes, when James didn’t need me, I was editing my manuscript. 🙂

The bottom line is that we’re on this adventure together, and along the way, we’re learning and growing so much. May that also be our mindset as God continues His renovating work in our lives.

Dear Lord, thank you for sending your Son Jesus to die for and redeem a sinner like me. I confess that I am very much in need of your saving grace and sanctifying work in my life. Thank you for your patience with me even when I complain about the refining process. I trust that you can use me where I am right now to share your Word with others and be a light for you in this hurting world. Amen.

~ Kristen

Giveaway Opportunity!

I’ve been reading Victoria Duerstock’s devotional called Heart & Home: Design Basics for Your Soul and Living Space as a supplement to my daily quiet time. In it, she draws spiritual parallels to design principles that make our homes inviting places for our families and guests.

Through July 25, you can enter to win an autographed copy of Heart & Home, special thanks to Victoria herself! I’ll announce the winner (must have US address) the week of July 26. You can enter several ways for more than one entry.

Click here or the image below to enter.

Stay Connected for Future Giveaways

Subscribe to Kristen’s newsletter for monthly book buzz about Christian fiction for adults and teens, plus be the first to learn about giveaways and personal takeaways for your everyday adventures. 

When you join, you’ll receive a free copy of Kristen’s novella, A Cord of Three Strands, the prequel to her award-winning novel, The Revisionary. 

Renovating Our Homes and Hearts, Part 2

Day one of kitchen renovations went so quickly that we had high hopes day two would complete the job and let us get our home back to normal. Seriously, have you tried not using the kitchen sink for a full day? Go to your kitchen right now and thank God for your sink.

Okay, back to the story.

Around noon on the second day, we started getting worried. “He is coming, right?” I asked James. Although the AC duct guy was almost done, the electrician had just arrived, and we hadn’t heard a word from the project manager.

“He’s supposed to,” James said and shot off a text. By two o’clock, the electrician was almost done but still no word from the manager.

At four o’clock, James received a text to this effect: We’ll finish on Monday. Have a nice weekend.

This was the state of our kitchen.

Long story short, there was a miscommunication. When the project manager told us two days, he meant two days for his crew plus another day for the electrician and AC guy. Since the project began on a Friday, that translated into four days.

Need I mention that Sunday was Mother’s Day, and James’ mom was coming over? Even though our kitchen wasn’t functional, we made the best of it. James grilled, and we ordered take-out Pizookies from BJs for dessert. Thankful for our screen porch, we celebrated outdoors and truly enjoyed our time together.

Celebrating James’ beautiful Mom on Mother’s Day

God’s Sanctifying Work

The kitchen situation reminded me a little of God’s sanctifying work in our lives. We want fast results. We tell God, “Okay, hurry up and get this painful process over so I can move on with my life.”

But that’s not how God works. His molding process is part of His purpose for our lifetime, not a “quick fix.” It began before we were born when He formed us in our mother’s wombs and “skillfully wrought” our frames (Psalm 139:13,15). It continues throughout our lives as He “mars” and remakes us as He sees “good” (Jeremiah 18:4). Ultimately, God designs us to be “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

He refines our rough edges to make us more like Him. For me, one area the Lord continues to shape me is in the area of patience. Some people have told me I seem patient, but they don’t have any idea how much I agonize over waiting. For over a decade, I prayed God would send me a godly spouse before He answered my prayer with James. Then, we had to wait over a year before we found our new home. I could go on with personal examples, but the point is that waiting is part of the refining. God teaches me things in those “waiting room” days (and years!) that I might not otherwise learn.

How might God be refining you today? Let’s not resist His work but trust He knows best.

God’s molding process is part of His purpose for our lifetime, not a “quick fix.” @khogrefeparnell

Giveaway Opportunity

I’ve been reading Victoria Duerstock’s devotional called Heart & Home: Design Basics for Your Soul and Living Space as a supplement to my daily quiet time. In it, she draws spiritual parallels to design principles that make our homes inviting places for our families and guests.

Through July 25, you can enter to win an autographed copy of Heart & Home, special thanks to Victoria herself! I’ll announce the winner (must have US address) the week of July 26. You can enter several ways for more than one entry.

Click here or the image below to enter.

Learn about Revived and Renovated, Victoria’s Upcoming Project!

Victoria Duerstock, along with her friend Paige Rein, are launching a new video series soon! They’ll be sharing honest conversations on the intersection of faith and design in our spaces.

You can sign up to hear all the good news and updates at revivedandrenovated.com.

Renovating Our Homes and Hearts, Part 1

My kitchen is currently two different colors: blue and chestnut. From an outside perspective, it looks ridiculous. From where I’m standing, it’s a huge win.

Last March, my husband and I bought our first home together. Cosmetically, it was a real fixer-upper. Both bathrooms were pink, the kind of pink that only belongs in Pepto-Bismol bottles. The kitchen sported a cave-like drop-down ceiling and baby blue cabinets. Dear 90s, if only you knew the pain you’ve caused.

I’m incredibly blessed that God gave my husband the ability to watch almost any YouTube video and figure out renovations himself. I don’t possess that gift but am more than happy to embrace my helpmate status. I can identify most of his tools and am talented enough to hold almost anything under thirty pounds.

Even so, when we stared at the cave that was our kitchen, we decided to bring in the experts: demo and drywall team, electrician, and AC duct guy (because the original home designer thought it would be fun to place the air return in the drop-down ceiling).

The two-day job turned into four and caused more stress than I’m proud to admit. Yet looking back, I’m grateful we went through the mess.

What if we could have that same perspective with God’s renovating work in our own lives? Walk (and laugh) with me through this ordeal and see if we can find some wisdom for our Christian journey.

Stage 1: Demolition

Demolition is easy, right? All you do is knock everything down?

Not quite. I think we often confuse demolition with destruction. As I watched the crew on demolition day, I realized the opposite is true. Demolition is intentional. These hard-working men carefully taped a giant tarp around the entire kitchen space to keep debris isolated. They then went about the removal in stages, careful to secure AC duct work and raise support beams.

On a spiritual level, the distinction is even greater. Scripture makes clear that God tears down to rebuild, but man tears down to destroy. In John 10, Jesus uses the metaphor of a door to describe His relationship to His children or “sheep.” He contrasts Himself with impostors or anyone who seeks to injure or harm.

Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:7-10 NKJV)

Thieves destroy. They demolish not to improve but to hurt. On the other hand, Jesus tears down to make peace and reconcile (Ephesians 2:14-18), prunes His children to produce fruit (John 15:2), and casts down strongholds to help us submit our thoughts in obedience to Him (2 Corinthians 10:5). He does all of this for the purpose of giving us the most abundant life possible.

Next time, we’ll look at Stage 2: Refining. Until then, let’s prayerfully consider what constructive demolition God might need to make in our lives to pave the way for what is better.

Home and heart renovations have more in common than you might expect! Learn more and take advantage of a special giveaway of Heart & Home by @vduerstock. Hosted by @khogrefeparnell.

Giveaway Opportunity!

Recently, I started reading Victoria Duerstock’s devotional called Heart & Home: Design Basics for Your Soul and Living Space. In it, she draws spiritual parallels to design principles that make our homes inviting places for our families and guests. I enjoy using it as a supplement to my daily quiet time.

For the next three weeks, you can enter to win an autographed copy of Heart & Home, special thanks to Victoria herself! I’ll announce the winner (must have US address) the week of July 26. You can enter several ways for more than one entry.

Click here or the image below to enter.

About Victoria

A multi-passionate creative and entrepreneur fueled mostly by coffee, Victoria Duerstock pursues her dreams with verve and intensity. Wife and mom of three, Victoria divides and conquers the never ending to-do list while working to maintain her sanity and pleasant demeanor.

She is currently on a fascinating writing journey which has plunged her deep in the social media landscape and she enjoys sharing her tips and tricks for growth and engagement with others through coaching and teaching online courses. You can read more on her websites www.victoriaduerstock.com and www.heartandhomebooks.com.

She is excited about two new releases for the Fall of 2020 with Skyhorse publishing titled Christmas Crafts and Advent Devotions for Kids and Biblical Hospitality. She also authored Heart & Home: Design Basics for Your Soul and Your Living Space and Heart & Home for Christmas: Celebrating Joy in our Living Space combining short devotionals with home design tips and full color pictures with Abingdon Press last year.