Week nine: Can you hear me now?

I don't understand

It happens to me on almost a daily basis.  I’m outside with Toby Dog and I call out to him, “Come on, Toby, time to go in!” and turn to walk in the house.  As I reach the deck I glance back and he’s still in the same spot, his head turned away from me.  I call out a second time, “Toby, Mama said come on!”  Still not even the slightest move in my direction.  He stands stock-still, head slightly lifted as he sniffs the air; the only movement is the breeze gently blowing the feathers (long hair) on his legs and tail.  At that moment I am completely convinced I can hear him humming nonchalantly, saying to the bird that just flew past, “Did you hear something?  Nah, didn’t think I did either.”

It’s at this point that I calmly, gently and in complete control yell at the top of my lungs, “Toby!  Did you hear me?  I . . .   SAID . . . COME . . . NOW!”  Most of the time that will put Toby’s feet into motion and he’ll coming running (but usually takes the long route), grinning as if he has not a care in the world (and he really doesn’t).  He’ll lope up to me laughing in the way dogs do, tongue hanging out to the side, goes straight to the door and looks back at me and I know he’s thinking, “Well?  What are you waiting for?”

Don’t get the wrong idea – Toby Dog knows Mama is the alpha dog.  If he’s really misbehaving (which is a rare occasion), I don’t have to speak a word.  I stand very close to him and give him “the look.”  Within seconds Toby will slowly lower to the floor and put his head between his paws, never looking me in the eye, complete submission in a dog’s world.

It reminds me of how we are when it comes to hearing God and knowing when He’s speaking to us.  Just as Toby does to me on occasion, we sometimes go into “selective hearing” mode when God speaks to us.  We don’t want to hear what He’s saying so we tune out and play deaf.  But sometimes we don’t hear Him because we either don’t know how to discern His voice from our own inner desires, we have issues that may be blocking us from hearing Him or maybe we haven’t talked with Him enough to be able to recognize our Master’s voice.

In last week’s Reflections, we talked about making the time for quiet time with God and the reasons we can be distracted from having time alone with Him.  Other than making quiet time with God, free from distractions, it is also very important to have the right attitudes, such as humility and courage.  Humility doesn’t mean to grovel, have low self-esteem and be a wimp.  Humbling yourself before God is to come before Him free of pride and arrogance.  You know that as a sinful human, in your flesh you are inadequate but you know who you are in Christ – valued, loved, cherished and made righteous through His blood sacrifice!  Woohoo, can I get an AMEN on that one!

The second important attitude adjustment we need to make in order to hear God is to have courage.  When we fully submit and surrender to God, He may call us to serve in a way that we’re not comfortable with.  Or, when we ask for direction or the answer to a problem, He may give an answer that’s not what we want to hear.  Not only should we come before him in humility, we should prepare our hearts to have the courage to do what He asks us to, no matter how fearful we are or how our selfish desires may try to lead us to do otherwise.  God never wants anything lesser for us; He only wants to make our lives here on earth better, fuller and more joyful!

Another obstacle to hearing God – and perhaps the biggest one – is an unclean heart.  If we go to God with unconfessed sin in our lives, He’s probably not going to answer until you deal with the sin first.  Psalm 51: 10 reads:

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

The sins that can cause us to be tone deaf to God’s voice are different for each of us and change with the seasons we’re currently living in.  Here is a sampling of some of the things that may block us from a right relationship with God and keep us from hearing Him:

  • Seeking/focusing on advice from others and ignoring internal/God-driven guidance.
  • Becoming impatient that He isn’t answering quickly enough or isn’t going to answer at all and taking matters into our own hands.
  • Holding on to resentment against others
  • Holding on to things that we know are sinful, or having “secret” sins in our lives.

If you have read my testimony (http://inperfectunity.com/index.php/who-is-kim/), then you know that for many years I did not live a Christian lifestyle.  While in this sinful lifestyle, I still talked to God but it was a one-sided conversation that took place only because I felt guilty if I didn’t.  I was doing all of the talking and not even giving Him the opportunity to answer.  I was like Toby Dog, I didn’t want to hear what God had to say because there was sin in my life that I didn’t want to let go of and had “convinced”myself that that in today’s world, it was okay.  I listened to others who filled my ears with what I wanted to hear, that life was too short to not be happy (i.e. it’s okay to live by the world’s standards).  I can tell you that while I was in this season God gave me a taste of my own medicine and turned a deaf ear to me; He would neither listen nor talk to me.  God cannot be in the presence of sin, and it was only when I confessed, humbled myself before Him, asked for forgiveness and let go of those sins did He communicate with me again.

Not only do we have to have the right attitude to hear God as well as remove any obstacles that may keep Him from speaking to us, we also need to be able to recognize His voice.  If you are a parent, you know what it’s like to be able to recognize your child’s voice, even if they’re in different room playing with other children.  You know and are familiar with the pitch and inflection of their speech patterns and can hear it above all the other little voices chattering away.

It’s the same with you and God.  If you have never taken the time to really get to know Him, it will be difficult to discern His voice above all the other chatter and distractions.  Just as you have to spend time with anyone else to get to know them, you have to spend time with God to get to know Him better and strengthen your relationship.  This includes not only prayer, but also through study of scripture, quiet time and learning from fellow Christians.

If you have asked God for direction and are not sure if what you’re hearing is from Him or your own emotions, the best test is that God’s voice will never contradict His word given to us in the Bible.  If anything you’re thinking, feeling or being told by others goes against scripture it is not from God.  This is why study of scripture is so very important – it enables you to clearly discern His voice and know His truths.

Scripture:  John 10:27:  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

Prayer:  Father God, thank you for loving me and wanting to be a part of my everyday life.  There is no detail of my life that is too small to be of importance to you.  Help me to focus on strengthening my relationship with You so that I will hear and know when You speak.  Help me to examine my life and remove any sin that is blocking my communication with You.  When You speak, give me the courage and faith to do as You ask.  I love You, Lord.

toby dog laughing

Strawberry Vanilla Yogurt Popsicles

frozen

My childhood memories from summer include picking butterbeans in the sticky, humid morning hours before the sun became intolerable, sleeping in occasionally (okay, whenever I could!), nighttime softball games, climbing to the tip top of the pine trees in my yard and running through the sprinkler. And oh, the sweet treats that were always better in the summer!  Watermelon, crisp and cold, the refreshing juice running down my chin and getting just about everything sticky.  Strawberries warm from the vine, intensely flavored like no other time of year.  Toasted marshmallows.  And popsicles – does anything say summer more than those frozen treats?

On a hot summer day, there’s nothing quite like a popsicle to cool your insides.  The ones I remember were the Fla-Vor-Ice.  You could get a hundred or more in a box, take them home, pop them in the freezer and in a few hours have a frozen water and sugar concoction that would turn your lips and tongue all shades of colors.  But the ingredients, be still my heart.  All sugar, artificial ingredients and preservatives, but not that much different from any other popsicle on the market.  Highly processed and loaded with refined sugars, they taste good going down but leave you low after the initial sugar rush and have little to no nutritional value.

In a recent conversation with a friend, she mentioned that one of the things she loved about summer was spending time with her grandchildren and buying them ice cream and popsicles to eat outside.  Of course, this led the conversation to being an example to our children and grandchildren and offering them healthier alternatives to sugar-laden treats.  I love a food challenge, so I set to work researching and experimenting.  This week’s recipe is the result, and I think it’s going to be one of my favorites.  Incredibly simple, kid-friendly and healthy – you can’t ask for more than that!  If you have summer days that are filled with activities and need a quick, healthy breakfast on the go, grab one out of the freezer, breakfast is done.  How would the kids in your life love that – a popsicle for breakfast!  I’ll let you in on a secret – Toby Dog and I both had one, he was pretty thrilled!

You’ll notice that I used plain Greek yogurt and added vanilla extract instead of buying vanilla yogurt.  I made that choice based on the ingredient list of the vanilla yogurt; it had 26 grams of sugar per serving vs. 6 grams in plain yogurt as well as a lot of artificial ingredients and preservatives.

This recipe very versatile, see the options below for combination suggestions.  As always, have fun and if you come up with a great combination let me know!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sliced strawberries, fresh or frozen and defrosted
  • 4 tablespoons stevia, divided
  • 2 cups nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Place the strawberries and 2 tablespoons stevia in a food processor and blend until smooth.
  2. Mix the yogurt, remaining stevia and vanilla extract in a bowl until well combined.
  3. Taste the strawberry and yogurt mixtures before adding to the popsicle molds and adjust sweetener if necessary.
  4. Spoon half of the strawberry mixture into each mold, then layer half of the yogurt mixture. Top each mold with the remaining strawberry mixture then the remaining yogurt mixture.  (Note:  You don’t have to layer, you can combine the strawberry and yogurt mixtures then spoon into the popsicle molds.  Layering will yield a slightly icy strawberry layer and a creamy yogurt layer, mixing the entire batch will result in the entire popsicle creamy. I layered because it’s purdy, entirely up to you!)
  5. Freeze until solid. Dip the molds in warm water for a few seconds before pulling out the popsicles.

popsicles_rotate

*Makes enough to fill an eight-popsicle mold.  If you don’t have popsicle molds, use paper cups and popsicle sticks and put on a baking sheet to freeze.

Options:

  • Strawberries and bananas
  • Blueberries
  • Watermelon
  • Peaches
  • Get really creative and choose some of the combinations from Unity’s May 6 nutrition article (http://inperfectunity.com/index.php/2016/05/06/week-four-drink-better-health/). Next time I’m going to try something adventurous.  Cucumber, watermelon and mint or lemon and blueberry or ginger?  Let me know what you try!

toby_popsicle

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