only help my unbelief

Who do you worship?
June 29, 2008, 9:00 am
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Once again, I’m hoping to bless you with a writing from the pastor of my church on this Lord’s day. If you’d like to subscribe to these devotionals, which come twice a week, click here.
“Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?  The Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.”Rev. 5:2, 5

A Roman centurion had a slave who was about to die.  He sent word to Jesus asking Him to heal his servant, saying, “I am not worthy for You to come under my roof; for this reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed” (Lk. 7:6f.).  Jesus applauded the Gentile’s sober recognition of his unworthiness and of Christ’s worthiness: “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith” (Lk. 7:9).

The world tells you to worship yourself because you are worthy of self-worship.  God says He alone is to be worshipped.  Who is right – God or man?

God gave John a celestial vision of the victory secured by Jesus for Christians.  John sees God sitting on His throne holding in His right hand a book containing the comprehensive revelation of the future’s history purchased with Jesus’ blood (Dan. 12:9f.).  Though believers have not yet experienced total triumph, John says, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 11:15). 

The book remains unopened because the book’s opener is responsible for the fulfillment of the book’s contents – he is the executor.  That is why John sees and hears a strong angel crying out to the universe for the one worthy to fulfill the future’s predestined history. 

Are you worthy to open the book and break its seals?  Your spirit may be willing, but your flesh is too weak.  All of creation is stilled when addressing the angel’s request.  No angel is worthy; no devil is worthy; no one in Adam’s line is worthy.  No creature can stand in this gap (Eze. 22:30).

The occasion’s significance assaults John’s senses.  He knows that mankind cannot induce its own consummation because God alone is God.  Peering through tears, John discovers grace’s comfort. 

An elder who has experienced his own soul’s salvation commands John to stop weeping.  He refers to the book’s fulfiller via two Old Testament Messianic titles of the worthy one: “the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah” (Gen. 49:9f.), and “the Root of David” (II Sam. 7:12ff.; Isa. 11:1, 10).

The opener of the book, the breaker of the seals and the executor of its contents overcame Satan’s seductions and the world’s distractions.  How did Jesus overcome life and death to secure eternal life for those He called to Himself?

“Although He existed in the form of God, [Jesus] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself… to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6f., 8).


Seven of my favorite CDs
June 28, 2008, 9:00 am
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I guess CDs are a little outdated in the iPod age, but I tend to download whole albums on iTunes when I do buy songs, so I’ll let it stand.

I love music. I love finding out about new music. And I especially love good music written by godly people. Here’s my top seven, in no particular order.

1. The Builder and the Architect – Sandra McCracken
Christian gave me this CD after we saw her in concert on our first real date. It’s a collection of hymn-like songs. Some of them Sandra wrote; others are old classics. I love this CD because even though the songs are hopeful, Sandra has a really melancholy feel to her singing and songwriting. Kind of like how life is, sometimes.

2. Redemption Songs – Jars of Clay
I like most of Jars of Clay’s albums, but this one is my favorite. It’s all hymns, but most of them are really upbeat and, thus, a part of my working out playlist. I think my favorite song is “God Will Lift Up Your Head,” which is a poem written by Paul Gerhardt. It’s awesome.

3. Mockingbird – Derek Webb
Derek Webb is probably one of my all time favorite musicians. I know that a lot of people think he’s all liberal/hippie now, and sometimes he seems that way, but it’s clear from his music that he loves the Lord and the Church. Also, a lot of people think this is his worst CD, but it’s my favorite. The musicality of the songs is good, and some of the lyrics are incredibly brutal – but true. My favorite song is the title track; in fact, that’s my ringtone.

4. Indelible Grace I, II, III, IV, V – Indelible Grace
I couldn’t pick just one. I just couldn’t. But probably IV is my favorite, what with “Who is This?” and “Beams of Heaven” both on the same disc. If you’ve never listened to Indelible Grace, don’t do another thing before you go to their website and listen to clips of their songs. The music is incredibly God-exalting, and most of the songs are really well done.

5. Radiate Eric Peters
Christian gave me this CD two Christmases ago, and while I liked it then, I love it now. The lyrics are honest and real, coming from a guy who struggles a lot with doubt (like me).

6. 40 Acres – Caedmon’s Call
They are my all-time favorite band, and while I love all their CDs, this is one is generally recognized as their best – for good reason.

7. The Puffin Mix – Christian Crouch
No, Christian didn’t really record a CD (although that would be quite entertaining). But the first summer we were dating, he made me a mix CD that I still listen to. From U2 to Selah to David Crowder, it’s pretty much the best CD ever created.

Fitness Friday #3: I met my goal!
June 27, 2008, 11:00 am
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That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. I weighed myself yesterday (remember, I’m headed up for a wedding today), and the scale said 199 on the dot. I met my goal – by the grace of God – with a few days to spare, and aside from the weight loss, I’m feeling better and my clothes are fitting better as well. I’d say that’s a goal well met for this month.

The numbers
I ran 7.74 miles total this week, with my longest distance 2.48 miles. Remember that this includes running and walking. I’m running 3 minutes / walking 3 minutes for 30 minutes, and I’m going to repeat that next week until I can comfortably run at a 10-minute-mile pace (6.0). Right now, I’m doing 5.4 – 5.6 mph comfortably.

Perhaps the area of my biggest improvement. I did a total of 121 pushups this week, with my longest rep 18 pushups (!!!). I’m going to go back to week 1 of the Hundred Pushups program next week, but instead of going down the first column, I’m going to do the third column. Whew. We’ll see how that goes.

I worked out twice this week with two notable improvements: I increased my weight on the shoulder press (which typically has been my hardest machine), and I increased my reps on the triceps (I don’t want to look like an American Gladiator, so I’d rather increase reps than weight). I’m going to try increasing my reps on biceps Monday, but Wednesday it was really hard. We’ll see.

No numbers here, except for I’m supposed to take in about 1,900 calories a day, and the most I’ve taken in has been about 1,700. I feel like I’m eating a lot, but I’m going to need to make some adjustments next week so I don’t feel like I’m starving at 10 p.m. The problem is that I don’t know what to eat. I get tired of eating the same things. Although last night I found one solution: take advantage of the desserts your co-workers bring. I needed 500 calories when I was done with dinner last night, and wasn’t sure what I was going to do, until someone announced they had brought a pina colada cake. Well, OK, I’ll have some.

So I’m feeling pretty good at the end of this week, though I’m slightly anxious about the wedding I’m going to tomorrow. Tonight is the rehearsal dinner, and tomorrow is what’s sure to be a delicious reception. It’s hard to keep track at food events like this, so I’m going to work hard to make good choices without stressing. I want it to be fun, after all!

I hope you all have a great weekend. Tomorrow for Saturday times seven there’ll be my seven favorite CDs, and Sunday I’ve got another devotional from my pastor.

God bless!

Good eats: The Mary Catherine smoothie
June 27, 2008, 9:00 am
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Because she inspired me with her comment about how to please picky eaters, this smoothie will forever be christened “The Mary Catherine smoothie.”

I went to the grocery store Wednesday with two dilemmas: First, where did they keep the frozen fruit? Second, would I be able to find a cheap blender?

The first problem turned out to be worse than the second. There was no sign for “fruit” in the frozen section like there is for “vegetables.” They had dinners, pizzas and ice cream, but no fruit.

Finally I found the frozen strawberries, tucked in with the pie shells. I guess they think fruit is only good to put in pies.

The blender dilemma ended quite well, I must say. They actually had a single-serve blender for $13.84. It’s small and compact and, as I found, makes an excellent smoothie.

It’s efficient, too – you can drink it straight from the glass you blend it in.

(Please excuse my just-worked-out look.)

Wait, what was that?

Oh yeah, the recipe.
The Mary Catherine smoothie
1 cup frozen strawberries
1 cup fat free plain yogurt
1/2 cup pineapple orange juice
1/2 tbsp. honey

Put in blender. Blend.

This took about five minutes to make, and it was delicious. You could use any kind of fruit or fruit juice, I would think, and it was creamy and thick, even without bananas (which I loathe).

So thanks, Mary Catherine. You just changed my life.

Good eats: Cilantro bean salad
June 26, 2008, 9:00 am
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I promised I would post this recipe, and this time, I took pictures. I’m so proud of myself.

Honestly, if I were scrolling through a list of recipes and saw this title, I would pass it right by. Cilantro sounds weird, and I don’t like beans.


This is probably one of the best, most versatile “dips” I’ve ever had. I tried it over the weekend at my parents’ house and resolved to make it for myself, even though it contains two things that are basically my sworn enemies: beans and tomatoes.

Here’s the thing, though: Most of my food dislikes are psychological. It’s all in my head. If I can convince myself I won’t be able to taste it, I’m fine. And so I looked at the dip, thought to myself, “There’s so much stuff in here, I won’t be able to tell which bite is the tomato,” and took a bite. It was delicious. And the beans aren’t cooked first, so they aren’t too mushy (which is why I don’t like them).

Anyway, here’s the recipe…
Cilantro bean salad
1 can corn, drained OR 2 cups frozen corn, thawed
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 large tomato, chopped
3/4 cup chopped peppers (any color – I used red and green)
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup Italian salad dressing
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
3/4 tsp. hot pepper sauce
1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Mix first five ingredients together in large bowl. Mix last four ingredients together in smaller bowl. Pour contents of smaller bowl into larger bowl. Mix well and refrigerate. Best if refrigerated for several hours before serving.

The only “cheat” on this one is to use fat free Italian salad dressing.

I doubled the recipe – kind of – ’cause I wanted to have it all week. However, I didn’t double the beans or the tomato (come on, one baby step at a time, OK?). Instead of hot pepper sauce, which I didn’t have and didn’t want to buy, I used Texas Pete hot sauce. I think I might also add jalapenos next time to give it a little more spice.

The finished result?

How good does that look? All the colors make you just want to grab a few chips and start devouring it.

Which is what I did.

Actually, I restrained myself. I tried a couple bites, confirmed its deliciousness, then put it in the fridge. But I pulled it out again to pack my dinner for tonight. It may have been the best burrito ever.

I simply grabbed a whole wheat tortilla and scooped about 1/3 cup of the “salad” onto it. Then I heated up about 15 medium shrimp in a saute pan and coated them with pepper. Put the shrimp on top of the salad, roll up the tortilla, voila – a healthy and filling burrito for less than 400 calories, including lots of protein and fiber.

Looking back on a good day
June 25, 2008, 6:46 pm
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Today was just… a really good day.

I don’t know what it was.

I woke up this morning excited about going grocery shopping. That was weird. Who likes going to Wal-mart?

At the gym, everything seemed pretty easy today, and I felt good when I finished.

I went to Target first and got five boxes of name-brand cereal and 24 of my favorite granola bars for $12.47. At Wal-mart, cereal generally runs for at least $3 a box, so this was a substantial savings. The deal was, if you bought 5 boxes of Kellogg’s cereal, you got a $5 Target gift card. So I technically spent $17.47, but I go to Target a lot, so I’ll make sure to use the $5 gift card I got for something I need.

Wal-mart was also a success. I stuck to my list, and I got some new things to try. Some of you aren’t going to believe this, but I got black beans and a tomato. A momentous day, indeed. If you’re wondering what those were for, come back tomorrow, because I took pictures – finally.

When I got home, I quickly went to work fixing something to fill my hungry belly. I bought a special item to use to make something I’ll post about on Friday – something that may have been the best thing I’ve ever tasted. Seriously.

I got out of my yucky gym clothes and took a shower. When I was getting dressed, I realized my pants are seriously looser. Hooray!

After putting away groceries and packing a dinner for tonight, I turned some pump-me-up music on and put away the laundry I’ve been sleeping with for two nights. No, really. I felt bad leaving it on the couch, where it had been for the previous two days, so I put it on the corner of my bed. This morning I woke up with a towel and a shirt entangled in my legs.

Once that was put away, I straightened up the rest of my room and made my bed. Then I settled down with my computer to check out the blogosphere and upload the pictures I took of my food purchases (I promise, you’ll see them soon!).

It was so nice to sit there clean, healthy and productive. I just finished eating up dinner here at work (on my dinner break), and I feel great. I’m not tired. I’m not hungry. And I’ve got a water bottle and apple to fill me up later.

Yes, today has been good. Thank you, Lord.

Grocery shopping changes
June 25, 2008, 9:00 am
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I’ve been fearing this day for a couple weeks now, and it’s finally here.

I have to change my grocery shopping and eating habits.

I’m tracking my food at, and thought I’d be surprised that I was eating too much. Instead, I’ve discovered I’m not eating enough calories, and my carbohydrate/fat/protein ratio is really off.

For example, today I ate a huge bowl of cereal for breakfast, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch, a Moo Moo Mr. Cow from Moe’s for dinner with queso, salsa and chips, and then for a work snack I had some mini graham cracker things (really good). But I also worked out today, so I was still about 500 calories short, and I’m feeling it. I’m hungry.

The problem is, many, many foods are unappealing to me. I’m already a fairly picky eater, but lately foods that I used to like are starting to sound yucky. Unfortunately, a lot of foods that I don’t like are healthy foods.

I was going to list the fruits and vegetables that I don’t like, but then realized it would be faster to list the ones I DO like:

  • broccoli
  • yellow squash
  • zucchini
  • apples
  • grapes
  • pineapple
  • onions
  • corn
  • peppers
  • strawberries
  • raspberries
  • romaine lettuce
  • There you have it. I don’t like tomatoes, or carrots, or bananas, or any other kind of fruit. This makes it really hard to eat in a healthy way, because it’s hard to plan a menu around what’s in season.

    The other issue is that some foods that were appealing aren’t anymore. For example, when I think of having a sandwich, lunch meat doesn’t sound good. That’s why I’ve been eating peanut-butter and jelly. But if I could convince myself to have lunch meat, I could add lettuce and onion to my sandwich and get some extra veggies. Herein lies my dilemma.

    But tomorrow I’m going to go to the grocery store, and I’m going to try some new things that might help me get my calories but also be healthy.

    On my list: oatmeal, cottage cheese, shrimp, and the ingredients for cilantro bean salad (which my mom gave me over the weekend). It has diced tomatoes and beans in it (obviously), so it’s going to be a big step for me, but I tried it Sunday and actually really enjoyed it.

    I’m also going to shop once a week now instead of every two weeks. The reason for this is that I eat lots of fruits and veggies the first week, but once they go bad or I run out, I don’t eat them anymore. This happened to my grapes and strawberries this week. I hate wasting money.

    So we’ll see how it goes. I’ll post the cilantro bean salad recipe (and maybe a picture, if I get courageous) once I make it – probably tomorrow afternoon.

    If anyone knows of any recipes that aren’t too crazy and don’t involve any of the things I don’t like, let me know… haha.