When Racism Died at a Well

The title of this post should make most of us Christians say, “well of course.” However, the word “racism” is a modern word. When we read Biblical accounts sometimes we miss modern applications because we don’t see our modern words in the text. That is exactly what happens when we read the account of the Woman at the Well (John 1:1-42).

I have read that section of scripture many times and I have generally focused on the words of Jesus introducing salvation to this Samaritan woman. It is a beautiful story, but my previous casual reading of this text made me miss so much that is buried in these ancient words. But that changed recently when I was given the opportunity to teach this account to the youth group at my church.

About a year ago, I came across a little paragraph in my Chronological Bible that discussed some of the cultural realities of the time and I remember being blown away by how Jesus was turning the prevalent sexism of his time on its head (more about this in a later blog). But it was only recently, in preparing to teach the youth that the racial aspect of this account jumped out at me.

To see it, you have to understand the racial realities of Biblical times. By the time Jesus was walking on this earth, there was a centuries-old feud between Samaritan’s and Jews. When the Israelis had been taken captive by the Assyrians in approximately 722 BC, their captors had brought in colonists who intermarried with the few Israelis that had been left behind. This intermixed group of people would later be known as the Samaritans. Fast forward over a hundred years later, and a remnant of full blooded Jews had been allowed to return to their homeland by the Babylonians. This group of full-blooded Jews and their descendants came to despise the Samaritans and resented the fact that these Samaritans were now racially and religiously intermixed. (For a little more detailed history of this conflict read here.)

Enter Jesus and the Samaritan woman. Jesus was a rabbi, and rabbinical standards of that time dictated that any “good” Jew would go nowhere near a Samaritan.  Why? Because Samaritans were considered “half-breeds.” When I asked my youth group class what that sounded like using modern terms, a very perceptive junior high student responded, “racism.” The most “religious” of Jews hated Samaritans so much that if they needed to travel between Judea (in the south) and Galilee (in the North), they would travel west into Perea and go completely around Samaria which was sandwiched in between Judea and Galilee. Considering that travel time by foot was about two and a half days from Judea to Galilee, to take such a detour would have been very taxing. The hate ran deep.

Another common belief by religious jewish leaders at the time was that anything a Samaritan touched was unclean. That means that drinking out of the same vessel as a Samaritan would have been unthinkable. When I reflected on this, it brought to mind the American segregation era when blacks were not allowed to drink from the same water fountains as whites. Yes, the prejudices against the Samaritans can only be described as good old fashioned racism.

But what does Jesus, the rabbi do? For starters, he didn’t take the long route through Perea to get from Galilee to Judea. He went straight through Samaria. The text actually said that he needed to go through Samaria and many Biblical commentators rightly point out, I believe, that the need was a spiritual one. He had a divine appointment, even if the intended party had no idea what awaited her. The account says that he reached the Samaritan city of Sychar and he sat at the well and asked the Samaritan woman for a drink. With the simple words, “Give me a drink,” he broke down centuries of cultural, social, and racial biases. Why? Because by asking the woman for a drink, the King of kings was telling the woman, “I am willing to drink out of the same vessel as you because to me, you are not unclean, you are worthy.”

Obviously, none of us are worthy. We all have fallen short of the glory of God. Our worthiness comes from Christ alone and as He proceeds to talk with the Samaritan woman, he invites her to drink from His living water to eternal salvation. But his actions stand in stark contrast to the corrupted doctrines and biases of the religious leaders of his time. No wonder the Pharisees hated him so much, but Jesus would have none of it. If anyone had any right to feel superior to any other human being, it would have been Him. And yet, He did not act superior. A couple of years later in the ultimate act of humility he would die for all of us, for all races and ethnicities, even for those that hated him the most.

In this beautiful account of the woman at the wall, the actions of Jesus are a good reminder to all of us that we have to check our own prejudices and biases at the door when interacting with others. There is no room for racism in Christianity. On the contrary, Christianity is about love, love for even those we consider “unworthy.”

So what of the Samaritans? I am not sure, but I do know that a word that once was considered so vile by so many now has a positive connotation. Thanks to Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan, we now associate Samaritans with something really good. There is even a law named after it, the good Samaritan Law, to protect those just trying to be good neighbors. But what I want to remember when I think about the word Samaritan is my King, and how he loved us all then and how he loves us all now.

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Serving the Gray

Volunteers ready to serve the elderly.

Most Fridays mornings, New Vision Community Church is bustling with activity. The parking lots are full, people are swarming in and out, and volunteers are hustling. This isn’t your regular church service activity. No, these are the days that New Vision Community Church provides free groceries to the elderly known as their Silver Star Program. It is one of their many on-going ministries and my girls and I were happy and proud to be part of it all.

This is not a haphazard operation. On the contrary, it is a well oiled machine. Every week, the church and its volunteers prepare to host 150 to 300 people and provide them with free groceries. Early in the week, Pastora Lucy, as she is famously known in Laredo (and who also happens to be my mom), makes an effort to ensure that there is enough inventory of food products, to include baked good and fresh fruits and/or vegetables when available, to accommodate those that will be collecting their “mandado” on Friday. If the inventory is insufficient, a volunteer driver and/or my dad, the senior pastor, will pick up donated goods from various places around Laredo and have it delivered to the church so other volunteers can package it into grocery bags. Things like beans and rice are usually donated to the church in bulk so those must be packaged by volunteers in their own little bags first and be ready to be placed in grocery bags.

My girls packaging bulk goods.

There are a lot of moving parts and each part has a designated set of volunteers that ensures their part is functioning and ready. For example, a husband and wife team are responsible for the dry goods and packaging individual bags so that the elderly will receive a wide variety of product. They faithfully come every week and pack paper bags with things like rice, pastas, beans, chips, salad dressings, honey, bottled drinks, and yes, even chocolate or some other type of candy.

The day of the event, everyone is in place. The church secretary has a registration table set up where each person will present their ID and she will double check that they were indeed slated to pick up that week. This is done to prevent fraud and to make sure that every “grandma” and “grandpa,” as my daughters like to call them, will get their share for the month. The kitchen staff has coffee and pastries available for the elderly to enjoy before picking up their goods and a faithful servant leads worship and shares the gospel in the sanctuary for those that want to participate. The pastors will be walking around making sure everything is running smoothly, greeting the visitors, and pitching in whenever and wherever they see a need. In the back of the church, volunteers are moving bags and handing them out to the elderly as they show up. If a person is to weak to walk, they are kindly instructed to park, and a runner will gather their groceries for them.

Young volunteer patiently waiting before the big rush.

The same process is repeated week after week and it has happened many times where the pastors did not have enough inventory to meet the demand for Fridays, but this will rarely unsettle them. They do what they can, scrape from every corner of the church, trust in God and patiently wait for His provision. What they won’t do is cancel it. And God has been faithful; the elderly have received their “mandado” every Friday that the church has scheduled it since the beginning of this ministry in 2008. On several occasions when there has been a shortage, a major food donation arrives at New Vision the day before and sometimes even that same morning. The pastors and their volunteers are used to operating in this uncertainty. Personally, I would be pulling my hair out.

I have been at the church many times in the past when I have visited my parents, , but since usually I am just vacationing, I had not experienced the full scope of work and preparation that goes into something like this. This time my daughters and I packed grocery bags, sorted and repacked bulk goods, moved inventory from one room to the other, and interacted with the sweet people that came to collect their “mandado.” I think I might have lost a few pounds that week just because of the physical aspect of the work. I was moved by the hard work of the volunteers and their faithfulness to service. And I was able to better understand my parents and the amount of logistical planning that goes into running this ministry and the many others that are part of New Vision Community Church. They have a large load on their shoulders. The Silver Star Programs runs in addition to normal church services on Sundays, Bible studies, prayer sessions, counseling and then its other non-traditional ministries.

A previous team of missionaries greeting the elderly.

Providing free groceries to about 1000 people each month (and this doesn’t include the free groceries that are given to poor people in the outskirts of Laredo) is not a cheap enterprise. How can the church afford this? The church has only about 100 members and most are people with limited means. The church tithings barely cover the church’s electric bill. So how is that possible? First and foremost, it is the strong faith of the church leadership and volunteers that God will come through. The second, is hard work. I could barely keep up with the people that worked along side me. Truly, they put me to shame and I always considered myself a hard worker (yeah, little did I know). Thirdly, the church through God’s grace has built an extraordinary relationship with organizations, companies, and individuals that provide donations to make some of these ministries happen. Lastly, the church operates outside of the box. They fund many of their ministries by running a non-profit café, a non-profit grocery store, and a working ranch.

My little girls will not understand anything that has to do with logistics nor appreciate all the moving pieces of these ministries. They will probably mostly remember the silly hats they had to wear when packaging food and having to work, “for hours, and hours without end,” as my five-year-old liked to complain (In full disclosure she really only worked about 10 minutes at a time, but if you asked her, she would have you believe she had been doing that for days.) But I do hope and pray that they took away that we serve, because we serve the King. That we do this out of love and we love, because God first loved us. I pray that they will cherish the smiles of those that we served. And I hope that they remember all the faces of the wonderful volunteers who not only served the elderly, and the poor, but also took the time to serve my two young daughters (sometimes against my pleas and wishes).

I leave you with the verse that was the genesis for the elderly ministry. It was the verse that drove my parents to move forward with this ambitious endeavor that is now in its ninth year.

Leviticus 19:32, “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.” (ESV version)

Letters from the Forgotten


A few of the women here at New Vision Community Church minister to female prisoners in Nuevo Laredo, a town in Mexico right across the border from here in Laredo, TX. They go there every Saturday morning to share the gospel and to comfort and bring a little joy to a dark and somber place. And although I am unable to cross the border (didn’t bring my passport), my girls and I were still able to take part in this very important ministry.

My father, the pastor, asked me if I would help respond to letters some of these women had written. I volunteered to do six and in my typical father fashion, he left me eleven to write. As I opened each letter and peeked into each woman’s soul, my heart ached for them. These were all women that had come to accept Jesus Christ in prison. They had experienced liberty in repenting, but they were still bound by their circumstances. They will have to finish their time served before they could be free from their jail cell.

Each woman had a different story to tell. Some just needed to vent, others desperately asked for prayers so that they could return to their families, their children. One insisted she was innocent, others admitted that they were guilty and asked God for help in becoming better people. While being on the outside, it is easy to look at these women and judge. Only God knows if they are truly repentant, but I am convinced that the abuse, the loneliness, the rejection, the extreme poverty many of these women endured played a significant role in propelling them to their current situation.

My girls coloring verse pictures for the prisoners.

Regardless of our feelings about why these women are there, Jesus has instructed us Christians to minister to those in prison (Matthew 25) and I was thankful to be part of it. These are women, that in many ways, have been forgotten by society and even by the church. I have to admit that at first it felt a little overwhelming, especially since I had already committed myself to helping in other ways and I don’t like writing letters by hand. But after reading each of the women’s letter, I felt compelled to respond. And since being here is suppose to help teach our entire family the importance of service, I asked my ten-year-old and five-year-old to help me. I had them color scripture cards to accompany my letters.

The letters and cards were done and we turned them in. A few days later, the woman in charge of the prison ministry thanked me and told me what an amazing blessing it had been to the women. They were overjoyed to have received letters and were able to take them back to their cells. I have to admit that I felt a little guilty that I first saw this important task as just another chore, but I am glad that I followed through with it. I do hope and pray that with God’s help, I was able to write the words that would help them in their spiritual journey.

I may have a chance to write a few more letters with the remaining weeks I have in Laredo and after I leave, I will go back to PA and continue doing the things that I do. However, there will be two women here in Laredo that will diligently make their way across the border every Saturday to minister to new and old souls. I am thankful for their service and their example of Christ’s love.

 

Family Mission

One of the poorest areas in Laredo.

Early this year, my husband and I decided that we needed to do something a bit out of the ordinary for the sake of our girls. Like many American kids in their generation, they carry an entitlement attitude and have the expectation that we exist only to cater to them. This is despite our best efforts to not spoil them, to not buy them too many toys, to often say no, and in many ways to make life a little difficult for them. Honestly, our girls do not truly have a concept of hard work nor do they know what it means to experience need. So we decided to give them an experience that would put both of those things front and center. We decided to spend a month working at my parents’ ministry in Laredo, TX.

Laredo is a not-so-small city right on the border with Mexico. Although you will see some wealth, there is also poverty so extreme, that you wonder whether you are still in the United States, but you are. And my parents’ church has a mission in Laredo to reach out to the poorest of the poor.

Well, today was our first day and we hit the ground running. Our first task was to fill grocery bags of food that will be given to the elderly later in the week. We had to sort through various boxes and make sure each grocery bag had an adequate mix of goods. It was quite the operation, pulling boxes off shelves, taking empty boxes to the recycling, moving filled bags to storage, etc. But the most beautiful part of it all was seeing the determined look on my daughters’ faces as they diligently accomplished each of their tasks. It felt good to do this as a family and know that our efforts would bless the lives of so many people. This took up most off our morning.

After a wonderful lunch of deep-dish pizza, made by my mom in the church kitchen for us and all the volunteers, we went to Ein Gedi Ranch. Ein Gedi is a small working farm owned by the church in the middle of one of the poorest and most forgotten areas of Laredo. It was sad to find out that people will use this community as a dumping ground for their garbage. But this isn’t a land fill. There are families, children that live, work, and play here. And thanks to Ein Gedi, the children have a safe place to come play, to learn, and to eat.

While at Ein Gedi, we distributed shoes to children that had attended Vacation Bible School the week before. Each family waited patiently to receive their shoes while the local school district provided lunch. The church has a working relationship with the school district in their efforts to make sure poor kids are still getting at least one nutritional meal a day during the summer break. Since there were many volunteers helping with the efforts we let our girls play outside. They loved seeing the ducks and chickens and playing with the dogs that live there ignoring the outside temperature of 100 degrees.

After Ein-Gedi, there was still more work to be done. We returned to the main church to sort boxes and boxes of donated goods. Each donated appliance had to be tested to make sure it worked. Other items had to be thoroughly cleaned before going into its respective bins, and some items would just need to be tossed out. My husband pulled the boxes from the truck into the sorting room. My ten-year-old worked with grandma to price items that would be sold in the church store to raise money for their ministry. My five-year-old was the runner. She was sent to deliver things like tape to the church secretary or plastic forks to the church kitchen. I loved how serious to took this important mission taking off in a full sprint every time she was sent out.

We finished our day by making a run to Wal-Mart to buy shoes for the kids who did not get shoes earlier in the day at Ein-Gedi (their shoe-size had not been available). Their shoes will be delivered on Friday.

All in all, by the end of the day we were all exhausted and maybe even a little cranky. We will be sleeping soundly tonight, and hopefully we will be well-rested to start this all over again tomorrow.

 

Removing the Sin to Remove the Violence

Another school shooting. Another violent end. As I find my emotions raging, I try to bring myself down and reflect on the God that made me and the God that created us. I try to reflect on His word and His words of wisdom in times like these. Otherwise I think I might just go crazy. In my reflection, I came across these verses.

Psalm 141:4-5 Do not let my heart incline to any evil,
to busy myself with wicked deeds
in company with men who work iniquity,
and let me not eat of their delicacies!

Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness;
let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head;
let my head not refuse it.
Yet my prayer is continually against their evil deeds.

Let those words sink in. Meditate on them. The Psalmist here gives us the anecdote to preventing evil deeds. It is reproof and correction. He is begging for righteous men to correct him when he begins to stray so that he does not fall into wicked ways.

It is no wonder that as a nation we find ourselves in the place we are in. We have become so afraid to correct and reprove in fear of offending, that we are now letting evil run amuck. We are in a society where we teach children that everything is okay because we don’t want to ruin their sensibilities. We in turn produce children that feel entitled, selfish, and eventually some of them become wicked. And even if our children don’t initially turn out to be bad kids, we produce weak-minded children easily manipulated by evil doctrines. They are easily manipulated by the internet, by a godless entertainment industry, by wicked thoughts.

My husband had an experience recently that is telling of how far our society has strayed. While in class for a course that he is taking, he noticed that there was a young man that was continuously holding a conversation while the instructor was trying to teach. Many where annoyed by this man’s lack of respect for the professor but no one was willing to correct the young man. No one, until my husband stepped in. Yes, he chided the young man. Yes, he probably embarrassed him. My husband is a former Marine so I know it probably was not pretty, but the young man was silent for the rest of the class. And although he might be mad and embarrassed for a time, he will probably think twice before doing the same thing again in another class.

That hold incident forced me to ask the question, where were the other men or women of courage? What puzzled me even more is the thanks and pats on the back my husband got from his classmates afterwards. What once would have been expected, an adult correcting and disciplining an unruly young man, is now so out of the ordinary that my husband’s actions where a surprise. But by everyone else’s response, I could also tell that my husband did what everyone wanted done, but no one had the courage to do.

Here is the bottom line, if we do not step up and correct now, even if it is not our own children, sin will fester in their hearts. Sin is what leads men to do evil and wicked deeds, not the weapon itself. I have my opinions on gun control. Personally, I am all about background checks but I also know that unless states share criminal histories with one another, background checks are useless. I am also for stricter penalties for irresponsible gun owners (leaving a gun within reach of a child for example). However, the gun doesn’t cause a man or woman to do evil things. I know this because we own many guns, and I my neighbors own lots of guns, but neither we nor they would ever be the type to randomly shoot people.

It is a sin issue. We want to change our violent society? We need to target the sin in men’s hearts and there are many ways of doing it. One is reproving and correcting our children and youth. We also need to stop glorifying sin through music and movies. And we need to give room to the only one that can completely heal us from a sinful past, Jesus Christ. And for those that we cannot influence, we can do what the Psalmist says, “my prayer is continually against their evil deeds.”

Get Ready for War!

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Amazingly, the War Room is now the number one movie in America! My heart rejoices knowing that such a powerful movie is moving the hearts of God’s people and calling them back to a life of prayer. Prayer should not be relegated to five minutes before we go to bed. It should be a central part of our time and efforts. And that is what the movie showed.

Reflecting on the movie, and as begin to host prayer events in my house, I wanted to put together a cheat sheet, especially to those that are new to prayer to help them improve their prayer life. It will help you not only elongate your prayer, but also improve the quality of it by using Biblical principles. These are principles that I learned from women in my life that are prayer warriors that will spend hours on their and knees and who actually hear from God (not surprisingly). These are the Miss Claras in my life. Obviously, prayer does not have to follow this pattern exactly, but I have found that including these elements will help keep your heart in the right place day after day and you will see God move in your life more and more.

Get ready for War!!

PRAYER OPERATIONAL PLAN

Evaluate Your Strategic Environment

1. Praises and Thankfulness: 

Begin your prayer by praising God either through words or songs. Through your praises you will be reminded about how big He is and how little the enemy is in comparison. Through thankfulness you will strengthen your faith. You will be reminded about all the things that He has done for you and all the ways that He has blessed you. It will give you confidence that He will come through for you once again.

Psalm 69:34 I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with     thanksgiving.

Psalm 95:2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

Phillippians 4:6  do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Psalm 9:1 ….I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.

Set Up Your Defenses

2.    Forgive and Be Forgiven: 

Because prayer is such a powerful force, if you start praying more, you become a bigger target for the enemy. The enemy will look for weaknesses in your life to attack you or your family. Therefore you need to make sure your walls are built up high to keep the enemy out. All he needs is a little open crack to wreak havoc so patch up those cracks quickly. Open cracks include unconfessed sins especially a failure to forgive others.

During this portion of you prayer you want to forgive anyone you have not forgiven and you want to ask for forgiveness for your errors. Be specific, acknowledge your sins/mistakes and ask for forgiveness. It also puts you in a place of humility and helps you search your heart to make sure the petitions you ask of God are coming from a pure heart.

Matthew 6:15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Luke 17:4 and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

I John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Hebrews 12:15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;

James 4:3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

I John 3:22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.

3. Ask God for Protection:

This is essentially where you set up spiritual forces around your perimeter. You do this by asking God to protect you either through His mighty hand, through his angels, and through what Jesus accomplished by his blood (think Passover Lamb).

Psalm 91 (the whole thing) but some specifics part of it… verse 11: For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. verses 9-10: Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place—the Most High, who is my refuge, no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.

I John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

Colossians 2:15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

Go on the Offensive

4. Put Forward Your Petitions:

This is the time to tell God your needs. It is the first step in going on the offensive by identifying the targets.  Give him every detail and make your requests specific. This is your time to “gossip” with God. Tell him what bothers you, what things in your life are affecting you. If you think about it that way, you will find that your prayer just turned from a five minute prayer to an hour prayer.

And think about your requests. Do they line up with the word of God? Is your request something that would please God to do based now what you know of the Bible? Asking for the latest new gadget to show off to your friends probably does not line up with the word of God, but asking for healing for a family member or asking for your financial needs to be met so that you may provide for your family and be able to give to others probably does.

I John 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:

James 1: 6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

John 15:7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

Matthew 21:22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

5. Let God Lead You in Prayer:

At this point you want to quiet your heart. Let God talk to you. If something comes to mind that you should pray for, then do it then. I have often found that it is at these times that God tells us what areas in our life and the lives of others need prayers. These are the times that God tells you what areas the enemy is attacking and encourages to pray more fervently for those areas. This is the time where you are actively engaging the enemy and where somewhere in the spiritual world God is focusing his forces against the enemy’s minions! This is where the supernatural happens! This is where the miracles happen!

John 4:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

Luke 12:12 For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.

READ Daniel chapter 10 to see how God’s angels actually engage in war against the enemy.

Introducing The “Need Prayer?” Shirt

IMG_7693If you follow my blog on a regular basis, then you know prayer is a big part of my life.  It used to not always be that way but thankfully, through the encouragement of friends and family, I now make it part of every morning. I have seen its power, I have seen lives changed, and I cannot help but want to encourage everyone else to pray a little more.

With that in mind, I am excited to introduce the “Need Prayer?” T-shirts.

What better way to let others know, even complete strangers, that you are willing to take some time to pray for them. Maybe you have been wanting to share your faith, but are a little intimidated by walking up to total strangers. This is a low key, but still powerful way of letting people know that you are willing to lend a hand through a prayer. Wear it next time you go to the mall or go out in a group and see what kind of lives you can change by saying a little prayer and sharing the gospel.

You can purchase this shirt or the women’s version by clicking here or by looking for our Fruitfully Living Store at the top of our website. Part of the proceeds will be used to support the missions of New Vision Community Church. And please, do send me your stories of the lives you will touch when you pray for someone.

A Child’s Faith

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I have spent a lot of time teaching my daughters about prayer and trusting God. I have also taught them to expect miracles. Seeing that I have several years of knowledge and experience ahead of my daughters, sometimes I have gotten stuck in my own adult arrogance. As my seven-year-old daughter likes to say, “Sometimes your brain just gets in the way.” However, a few months ago my daughter showed me that sometimes she can also teach me something.

We were in our kitchen and heard the rain start to fall. Shortly after, I heard the thunder and saw flashes of lightning. Very much like her mommy, my daughter does not like loud noises and dislikes thunderstorms. She marched right up to me and told me, “Mommy, I am going to pray for this thunderstorm to stop.” In an effort to save her from disappointment, I explained to her that the grass, the flowers, and trees need rain to grow.  She looked up at me annoyed and said, “Mommy, I am not going to pray for the rain to stop, just for the thunder and lightning to stop.” What was I to say? Even as I heard the thunderstorm getting closer and closer all I did say was, “Okay, honey.”

She closed her eyes, bowed her head and very simply said, “God I pray for the thunder and lighting to stop in the name of Jesus Christ.” As soon as she stopped, the thunderstorm was gone. It was still raining, but there was no more thunder and lightning. After teaching my children to expect miracles, I don’t know why I was even surprised.

The funny thing is that that she would do that again a few weeks later and most recently she did it again, or shall we say, God did it again. As soon as she stopped praying, the thunder and lightning were gone. Out of curiosity, those first two times I pulled up the weather radar and sure enough it was a sea of green intermixed with large red areas but right over our little town I could see only a green bubble. It is as if the worst of the storm went right around us leaving only the rain. Jokingly, now when we see a weather anomaly, we always say, “Emma must have been praying again.”

Watching my daughter pray and see God answer her prayers, is a reminder of just how much God loves us. No prayer is too big or too small. If He can be moved by the heart of a seven-year-old who is afraid of thunderstorms than He can also be moved by the cares that we bring before Him at the throne of grace.  All you need is to trust that He is able and willing and have that child-like faith.

Avoiding Food Wars

FOOD WARSHow do I deal with friends and family that continue to eat “bad” food?  And worse, what do I do when they try to give my kid their food?

Believe it or not, I have seen these two questions pop among other moms that are health nuts like myself. If you are not a health nut, I know that it may be hard to understand, but think of this way. To feed a kid a blow pop is the equivalent of feeding them a toxic chemical to “healthy” moms.  That is how their brains internalize it (at least it is how my brain internalizes it). It is no surprise then that a lot of “healthy” moms are now finding themselves in this predicament: What do they do when their friends and family do not share their food values?

Although I know many will disagree, here is my take. Healthy moms, stop worrying about it so much. Don’t misunderstand me. I am all about pushing daycares and schools to provide more wholesome foods for our kids.  I am about pushing our leaders to stop subsidizing bad food practices. I am about pushing restaurants to provide better options. I am about educating people about food. It is one of the reason I have this blog. And yes, if a family member or friend watches your kid on a regular basis, then it is important to lay out your expectations as far as what they can and cannot eat. But there is a right way and a wrong way to deal with people. The wrong way is to be confrontational. The right way is to be gracious and loving.

People do not need a lecture about how bad they eat. They also do not need to be belittled because they may not have the same food standards as you. The more time that friends and family spend with you, the more they will notice how you eat without having to hear it from you.  With time, they may even come to you for advice on how to be “healthier.” Better yet, you might find that when you go visit, they will have some of your foods on hand. I know, because that has happened to me. Even if they do not, that is okay too. Enjoy and be thankful for the relationship.

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On the flip side, if you constantly refuse what friends and family offer your kids, feelings are going to get hurt and that can turn into bitterness. They are more likely to sabotage your efforts rather than help you. I will never forget an incident when I first started on this health journey. A “healthy” mom came to my house and asked if she could have some of my kid’s baby food. She then proceeded to read the ingredients and lecture me on how bad that was for my kid. I now know she was not trying to be mean, but I was so hurt at the time and it certainly did not help our relationship.

A few years later, I found myself in her shoes. I chided family members for giving my kids unhealthy foods and then I saw the hurt in their eyes. I was rude, obnoxious, and arrogant. Thankfully, I came to realize that what matters most is building and establishing relationships.  Yes, I get it.  Once you know that yellow no 5 ( found in popular kids products like Kraft food’s macaroni & cheese) is toxic, you cringe at the thought of your kid even having a bite.  However, the reality is that your kid is not going to die from it because you spend 90 percent of the time feeding your kids only healthy and nutritious food!  The exception is not going to be the demise of their health, but letting bitterness build up and letting relationships fall apart because of food will affect your health and your kids’ health.

I encourage you to read this article to put things in perspective and learn about the women who refused to leave the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. They live in an area where the soil, water, and air are the most contaminated in the world.  If anything will kill you, it is living in the area affected by one of the greatest nuclear disasters of all time. Yet the women that returned to Chernobyl have outlived those that never returned.  Why? They were happier.

My toddler with her Uncle Richard.

My toddler with her Uncle Richard.

I think about the relationship my toddler has with her Uncle Richard.  I found him giving her a lollipop when she was about 10 months old and who knows what else he has given her when I had my back turned. Yet my toddler and Uncle Richard have an amazing bond.  It brings my daughter joy and that joy is more important to me than the junk he likes to feed her when I am not looking.

All of this can be summarized in one simple proverb:

 

 

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones (Proverbs 17:22).

 

 

Tarta de Fruta Saludable

El postre favorito de mi esposo es la tarta de fruta. Por lo general, lo compro en Wegmans y tendría que pagar un precio ridículo para que lo pueda disfrutar del día de su cumpleaños. Este año, en lugar de comprarlo, decidí hacerlo yo misma.

fruittartspansihAunque el primero que hice no tenia ingredientes saludables, cambie la receta un poco para crear un version mas sana de este postre delicioso.

Esta version saludable no es una receta sin grasa o de baja calorías. Aquellos de ustedes que siguen mi blog, saben que no soy de contar calorías, y no creo en dietas bajas en grasa (mientras sean grasas buenas). Lo que si creo es en el uso de ingredientes orgánicos saludables y nutritivos y que es posible comer cosas como postres pero en moderación. ¿Qué es lo que hace este postre mejor para la salud que un postre normal? Yo he usado harina de grano germinado en lugar de harina blanca (más información sobre los granos germinados se puede encontrar en mi blog de panes). También, en lugar de azúcar regular, use azúcar de coco.

Azúcar de coco proviene de la savia de la planta de coco. La diferencia principal entre la azúcar regular y la azúcar de coco es que la azúcar regular no tiene ningún valor nutricional. Al contrario, la azúcar de coco conserva ciertos nutrientes esenciales como el hierro, zinc, calcio y potasio. Aunque es cierto que la azúcar de coco es mejor para usted que la azúcar regular es importante tomar en cuenta que todavía es un tipo de azúcar. Eso quiere decir que en altas cantidades, todavía es mala para la salud.  Entonces, disfrute de este postre, pero consumido en moderación (o por lo menos eso es lo que yo me digo a mi misma para prevenir que agarre otro pedacito).

Usted puede encontrar fácilmente estos ingredientes en Wegmans, Whole Foods, y/o en TraderJoes. Si su supermercado aún no ofrece estas opciones, puede hacer clic en los vínculos que aparecen en la lista de ingredientes y ordenarlos en Amazon.

Ingredientes:

 

Suministros:
Una bandeja de 12 pulgadas

Para la corteza

1/2 taza azúcar orgánica en polvo ( no he podido encontrar una buena alternativa para esto, pero si usted tiene una por favor comparta!)
1 1/2 tazas de harina de grano germinado
1 1/2 barras de mantequilla sin sal orgánica (suavizado y cortado en trozos)

Para el relleno

(8 onzas) de queso crema orgánica
1/2 taza azúcar palma de coco
1 cucharadita extracto de vainilla orgánico

Para el glaseado
3 cucharadas de azúcar de coco
2 cucharaditas maicena orgánico
1/2 cucharadita de jugo de limón
1/2 taza de limeade (tipo de limonada) orgánico o jugo de piña orgánico  (Yo no tenía a la mano ninguno de estos jugos para una de las tartas que hice. Entonces use un jugo de mis niñas que vienen en cajita y salió bien también).

Decoración de frutas

variedad de kiwis, “blueberries”, fresas, piña y/o frambuesas

 

Instrucciones:

 

Precalentar el horno a 350 grados.

En un procesador de alimentos, combine azúcar, la harina y la mantequilla hasta que se haga una pelota. (Si utiliza harina normal se forma una bola bien facil, pero con la harina del grano germinado, la bola se hace un miguero. Sólo recoja las migas y la bola con las manos y forme una bola blanda. Con sus dedos presione la masa sobre la bandeja. Con la palma de las manos estire la masa hasta que la masa quede plana.  Hornee durante 12-14 minutos, hasta que la corteza quede un poco dorada. Deje que se enfríe completamente.

 

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Bata el queso crema, el azúcar y la vainilla, hasta que esté bien mezclado. Heche el queso crema sobre la corteza enfriada. Esta es su oportunidad de ser creativo. Decore con las frutas a su gusto.

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Para el glaseado, combine el azúcar y la maicena en un cazo. Agregele el jugo limeade hasta que este bien mesclado. Llévelo a ebullición y revuelvalo durante dos minutos o hasta que se espese. Deje que se enfríe completamente. Ahora hechelo encima de la fruta con un broche y tome en cuenta que no utilizará todo el glaseado.

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Este es la tarta sin el glaseado. Si quiere cortar un poco el dulce lo puede disfrutar sin el glaseado.

Ahora admire su creación!