(Thank you for the book endorsement, Jana!)
Food first. Everything I made for the ladies' Bible study was good. I absolutely LOVE the black-eyed pea dip recipe from Paula Deen. I made it exactly the way the recipe goes except I just didn't add any oil. I can't imagine it being any better than it is, so I don't know what the oil would have added (other than a bunch of calories!!!). I just finished a HUGE bowl of it for lunch. You could do this easy, of course, and just use a bottled salad dressing, but I don't think I'll ever make it like that -- the recipe was perfect and healthy and just so good.
The other things were good, too, but that recipe was my favorite.
The point of the Bible study, of course, was not my food. We are studying a book about Romans 8 -- it's called How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home by Derek Thomas. It's...okay. He preached a series of sermons about Romans 8 and this book is basically an accumulation of those sermons. Some of them are very good, some of them are just okay. (I hate to say that -- Romans 8, of course, is worthy of many sermons, it's just some of the chapters you think might be kind of...longer than they need to be.) Anyway, this week's lesson focused on verses 26 and 27: "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God." So, basically, prayer.
I need a study on prayer, but that's not what I've been thinking about. We talked about not knowing "what to pray for as we ought" and we talked about submitting our wills to the Father's. Which led us to think about Christ's prayer in the garden where He prayed, "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
I can't get this out of my mind. It's one thing -- almost unthinkable -- to know you are going to be executed. But Christ's fate was so much more than just that. A period of torture -- the King of the Universe taunted and spat upon -- can you wrap your mind around that? -- a horrific execution that lasted for hours -- and then, even worse (even worse!), to be separated from the Father for the first time in all of eternity. And yet all he said was, "If you are willing, remove this cup from me." Followed by, "Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done."
It brings tears to my eyes. The whole thing makes absolutely no sense. When I think of how often I demand my own way, how often I do whatever I want to do because I am spoiled and rotten, and yet this Man who loved me even before I was born was willing to suffer unspeakable pain and loss for me.
Yes, of course, this is what the gospel is all about. But I've known this since I was a very small child, so the incongruousness of the situation was not something that really HIT me. Thinking about this in conjunction with Francis Chan's book on hell has kind of caused me to look at this in a slightly different light. Chan is very open about the idea that some of what he was writing about was not the way he wanted it to be. Some of the stories we read about in the Bible really don't make a lot of sense to us -- we would have done things differently. Then, of course, Chan looks at Christ's sacrifice and has to admit that he'd never have done that either. We are just lumps of clay questioning the actions of the Potter.
As I get older I find that I'm getting better at balancing two kind of opposite drives. First, I want to know more, everything. As I read my daily chapters in Numbers or in Ecclesiastes or in Hebrews I want to understand MORE, to dive into these books and not resurface until I understand everything about them. On the other hand, however, I grow increasingly content to let God be God. I don't have to understand every single thing -- it is enough to know that He understands. What a comfort -- both in an immediate sense of the word and from an intellectual standpoint. Nothing ever surprises God. Nothing slips through His fingers. Nothing happens outside of His will. He offers us everything -- everything!!! -- as a gift, ours for the taking. Wow.