I sat on my couch on a snowy morning in early January. It was cold outside, around 10 degrees to be exact, so I curled up underneath a plush grey blanket and opened my Bible.
Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. Later Simon and the others went out to find him. When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.”
But Jesus replied, “We must go on to the other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came.”
So he traveled throughout the region of Galilee, preaching in the synagogues and casting out demons.
If you’re like me, then January is a time to refresh and reset. We finish up our evaluating, our pondering and reflecting on the previous year, then we fix our eyes on what’s ahead.
We take a deep breath; we exhale; and we say, “What do I want this new year to be?”
I asked myself this question several times in the waking weeks of 2018. I entered this year with a lot of open space in my mind and open time in my schedule. I had big plans to take it easy, to relax, to pray, and to write because that’s what I felt like God was calling me to do. But somehow, between January 1 and 31, that space began to clog up, and I lost sight of what this year was supposed to be
I didn’t realize this was happening at first. This clogged up state of being happens so often it just seemed like my natural way to live. I constantly turn over so many “what if,” “how to,” what about this,” and “what about that” questions that there’s really no space for anything else to exist inside me.
However, as I sat on my couch reading Mark on that snowy, early-January day, I was drawn to the way that Jesus prayed:
Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.
Jesus was busy a guy. He had a lot to do and a lot of people to see. He had a full schedule, and people were literally following him around ALL THE TIME asking him to do stuff for them. Nevertheless, Jesus stopped and he prayed. He went to an isolated place, and it was in that isolated place of prayer that Jesus became open to all that God wanted to do in and through him.
Now, I’ve heard this message before.
You know, the one where someone tells me that it’s important to spend time alone with God. The one where someone explains that I need God to fill me up so I can do the work he’s has called me to do. But the thing that struck me about these verses is that after praying, Jesus was able to see past the immediate needs of now and trust that God was already taking care of the how.
Mark tells us that when Simon and the others found Jesus they said, “Everyone is looking for you!”
I laughed when I read this, imagining what else was likely said:
“Jesus! Come on! There’s a crowd! There’s stuff to do! People are counting on you! Get out there and get stuff done!”
While Jesus was God, he was also fully human. We know for a fact that he wasn’t immune to temptation so I have to imagine that this high stress job of healing people and forgiving sins caused the occasional anxious thought to slip through the cracks of his mind. If I were Jesus, I would probably become so overwhelmed with trying to figure out how to fix every problem that I’d eventually just give up and watch Netflix (thus, crowding my mind again, with something other than God).
But Jesus knew that if he was going to survive the pressures of ministry, he needed to sit back and tap into the power of God. He needed to do this not only to fill his soul, but also to clear it so he could see the bigger picture of what God was working out through him.
Too often, when we don’t take time to pause, we become blinded by the immediate and miss out on the eternal. Anxiety narrows our focus, but God opens it up.
“We must go on to the other towns as well,and I will preach to them, too,” Jesus said.
“That is why I came.”
Jesus knew he didn’t need to worry about the everyone Simon was referring to – the pressing crowds, the demands, the responsibilities. He knew God called him to spread the good news to everyone, and if that calling left one town a little bit undone, God had a plan to take care of it.
I keep thinking about this level of openness and surrender that Jesus constantly lived in. It’s magnetic. It’s desirable. It seems scary and almost unattainable.
I’m not sure what your plans for 2018 were, but my guess is that something is already threatening to clog up and crowd out the things you felt God leading you towards.
For me, the clogging has come in the form of worry, of financial responsibility, of work that was left undone at my previous job, and by fear that I’ll just never get life figured out and will always be in a state of flux. Fear, worry, uncertainty. That’s what’s clogging me up.
For Jesus, it was literal crowds and more work than he could humanly handle that threatened to clog him up and drown out the peace and plan God had for him.
I believe God has open spaces for all of us in 2018. He has depth and breadth. He has time and ability. He has peace and a plan. If you’re two months into 2018 and already feeling clogged up and crowded out the same way I am, ask God to show you what it looks like to be open today. Ask him to help you trust him with your future and your fears. Take your eyes off the immediate and off the right now, and thank God for already taking care of and walking you through the how.
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Since this blog is called The Faith Feast, I’ve included a little recipe for you. This recipe is for my favorite gluten free chocolate chip cookies. When I realized I needed to become gluten free 5 years ago, I sat on a park bench and cried, knowing I would never get to eat pizza or my mom’s chocolate chip cookies again.
Luckily for me, Chicago has birthed dozens of delicious gluten free pizza spots, and I set out on a mission to find a gluten free recipe that mimicked my mom’s cookies. And guess what? I found it! And this is it! I will let you know the step of chilling the dough for at least an hour is crucial for the perfect consistency in your chocolate chip cookie.
(This recipe comes from My Gluten Free Kitchen)
2 1/4 cups (~282 grams) good all-purpose gluten-free flour blend
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum omit if gluten-free flour blend has xanthan or guar gum already)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 ounces cream cheese, room temp
3/4 cups (12 Tbsp.) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 egg yolks (room temp)
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together gluten-free flour, xanthan (unless flour blend already has xanthan or guar gum), baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of your stand mixer, place the cream cheese, then pour melted butter over it. Add brown sugar and sugar and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. (I use the paddle attachment on my mixer.)
- Add vanilla extract and egg yolks (one at a time) mixing on low-medium speed until well mixed.
- Add the flour mixture that you set aside earlier, beating on low until just combined.
Add the chocolate chips and mix on low or by hand, just until mixed thoroughly.
Cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate a minimum of 4 hours and up to 4 days.
- When you are ready to bake, remove from refrigerator and let sit for about 15 minutes to soften enough for easier scooping.
- Preheat oven to 375°.
- Line cookie sheets with sheets of parchment paper or silicone liners. Do not spray!
Use a#20 cookie scoop to scoop even mounds of cookie dough spaced several inches apart. I can get 12 per cookie sheet.
- Bake the cookies for 11-12 minutes at 375°. Remove when edges are set and just browning. The centers will look undercooked, but will continue cooking as they cool.
To ensure you don’t over bake, I suggest you bake a few test cookies so you can determine the right baking time for your oven. If you like gooey centers, cook less, if you like crunchier cookies, cook longer.
Let the cookies sit on the cookie sheet for just 2-3 minutes before removing to a cooling rack to finish cooling.
by Michelle Palin ~ My Gluten-free Kitchen