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Reflections

Why Would We Pray for Courage Over Comfort?

What have you asked of God today? Would you like trials and tests or are you hoping for smooth sailing? Does that seem like a dumb question? Why would we pray for courage over comfort?

One morning I asked my kids for some of their favorite Bible stories. They answered, “David and Goliath, Moses, and Esther”, among others. We discussed what made the lives of these people exciting and worth reading over and over again.

We noticed that these were regular human beings like us, but they were brave enough to face difficult tasks. And God showed up mightily every time. They did not cower from situations which invited the miraculous intervention of the ultimate hero.

Then we wondered why we so often pray for a ‘good day’, and for things to be ‘quick and easy’. Shouldn’t we pray instead for the courage to do hard things with Jesus? For what has He saved us? To spend smooth days in comfort, or to stand up and display His strength and power for the benefit of our faith and everyone else’s?

A person on the highest peak: Why would we pray for courage over comfort?
Photo by Roman Pohorecki on Pexels.com
Soli Deo Gloria – All for God’s Glory!

Are we spectators – fans of God’s glorious work? Or are we in the game – leaving it all on the field for His glory? What would be different if David, Moses, and Esther did not embrace their trials and tests, but pursued smooth and simple things instead?

How will we pray differently this year? Will it be the same ole’ “God bless me”, or will it be “God use me?” Will we ask for epic, or plead for easy? Why wouldn’t we pray for courage over comfort?

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

1 Peter 1:6, 7
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Reflections

The What, Why, and Wonder of Every Day Facades: Part 2

Hey there! Happy Wednesday! I’m so happy you’re here! Did you read Monday’s post about everyday facades? We talked about what some of those look like and how we might see through them. Feel free to click below if you need a refresher.

Thank you so much for coming back for Part 2. Today, I hope you’ll converse with me about why we use everyday facades. I think this is a critical part of understanding ourselves and others.

The what, why and Wonder of everyday facades: Part 2 – The Why

Everyday facades are not material. When I use this term, I am not referring to an actual mask or costume. These facades are false fronts which we use to create illusions about who we are.

Facade (noun)a way of behaving or appearing that gives other people a false idea of your true feelings or situation

merriam-webster.com

Why do we put up facades?

We all need companionship, connection, and love. We were made by our loving Creator by plan and with purpose. So why do we jeopardize it all with our facades? I can think of four quick reasons.

Fear of rejection

Fear of rejection is the reason for most of the facades we use. We are afraid that if others saw the real us, they’d be disinterested. We use facades to either attract their interest or provide a faux persona for them to reject. If they reject someone who is not the real us, it is easier to deflect the pain. But if we attract them to an alter ego, we live with the fear that eventually they will figure us out. Rejection seems inevitable.

“Having grown up so familiar with creating a pleasing facade, I now end up compelled to reveal things inside and say, ‘Okay, now you really see me. Do you still love me?’”

― Kathryn Harrison

Desire to be sensitive

This is a tricky one. Sometimes celebrating our blessings seems to be insensitive to others who have not received the same things. Pregnancy, promotions, happy marriages, etc. These things can cause us to put up a muted façade so as not to appear too celebratory in front of those who would like to have what we have. When we are not careful, we can come off as ungrateful or flippant, and that works against our desire to be sensitive.

Protection of privacy

To protect our privacy, or that of someone else, we resort to everyday facades. We use them to deflect attention and steer people away from the information we wish to hide. This goal can be a worthy one, but we need to proceed with caution. It is easy to cross a boundary into dishonesty.

Hesitancy to accept reality

Oh friend, sometimes our reality is just not what we wish it to be. When we are hesitant to accept the truth, our tendency might be to live as if things were different. There is a saying that advises to “fake it until you make it” but this is a dangerous way to live. If we are honest about what is, we are more likely to find a real path to improvement.

“I feel confidence in myself, but at the same time there’s these cracks in the façade and those little things underneath that are unstable.”

― Pete Wentz
Family wearing paper bag masks: the what, why and Wonder of everyday facades- part 2
Photo by Daisy Anderson

Can you think of more reasons why we might use facades instead of presenting our true selves? Do you think facades are effective around you? Do you tend to respond to people according to how they present themselves? Sometimes I think I do.

Even when I clearly see the façade, I might treat an acquaintance in accordance with it. I assume that I’m being respectful of their wishes. If they went to all the trouble to put up their façade, I don’t feel the need to call them out.

But as I get to know someone better, I don’t want to let them hide. I want to show them that I see them, and I appreciate them. I want them to feel confident that they are valuable just the way they are. I hope I am looking deeper than what they are presenting on the surface.

This is critical relationship stuff with which I’m wrestling in my own life. Is it relevant to you? Have you noticed facades in your circle of acquaintances and friends? If so, why do you think that is?


I sure hope you’ll return to the Back Porch on Friday to discuss one more facet of our everyday facades? What do you suppose could be the wonder revealed by them? Feel free to subscribe so you don’t miss the conversation. You are precious to me, dear friend.

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Reflections

The What, Why, and Wonder of Everyday Facades: Part 1

Hello everybody! It’s November 1, and this is one of my favorite days of the year. Today, in the USA, we turn our hearts toward gratitude. And, as if we need a place to begin, candy is 50-75% off in most stores. (Hey, if you like peppermint and happen to see bite-sized York Patties on sale, grab a bag in preparation for an upcoming story and recipe post!)

In yesterday’s How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart article, I said Halloween costumes remind me that what we see is not always what we get when it comes to the people around us. It is easy to look through an obvious disguise and realize the person inside is vastly different from who or what they are pretending to be. But the facades we hide behind every day are more complicated.

The what, why and Wonder of everyday facades: Part 1 – The What

Facade (noun)a way of behaving or appearing that gives other people a false idea of your true feelings or situation

merriam-webster.com

Everyday facades are not material. I’m not referring to an actual mask or costume. These facades are false fronts which we use to create illusions about who we are. Here are some examples.

Masquerade masks: The What, Why, and Wonder of Every Day Facades: Post 1
Photo by hitesh choudhary

What are some everyday facades?

Fancy facade

Do you know someone who goes to incredible lengths to present perfection? Sometimes (of course, not always!) someone who is obsessed with fancy clothes, or degrees, or some other impressive thing, can be hiding feelings of inadequacy. These people get abundantly noticed for their efforts, which often drives their resolve to continue.

“It’s easy to get by on a facade of fancy style, but sooner or later, people are going to see through it. I’m trying to be as honest as possible.”

Jim Carroll

Happy façade

I present this façade every day. I am in the habit of answering the simple question, “How are you?” with the deceptive answer “Great! How are you?” And I usually get “Good, thanks!” in return. None of it is completely genuine. But it is easier to paste on a giant happy smile and quip cheerfully than to answer with thoughtful truth. Feigning happiness does not bring joy. In fact, it often does the exact opposite because we fail to connect with others in a meaningful way.

Grotesque façade

This one is near to my heart. There are precious people in my life who rely on grotesque façades to hide deep, painful wounds. They use shock and repulsion to keep our eyes diverted so we don’t see their actual pain. They expect we would cringe in disgust at their real plight, so they create a different reason for us to turn away. And when we do, they stay alone in their misery.

Plain façade

A plain façade is effective for anonymity. If someone can blend in, they can hide in plain sight. When they are disregarded, they stay away from scrutiny, and nobody sees what they perceive to be their gaping flaws. They often wish someone would care enough to notice them, but they simply are not willing or able to put themselves out there in a way which makes it easy for people to pay attention.


Friends, so often you and I hide our real selves. Do any of the everyday facades above hit close to home? What others can you think of?

I know for certain that the God who made us does not make mistakes. When we hide ourselves and try to put a different face forward, aren’t we cheating the world out of the contribution God intended us to make? If we spend our efforts maintaining our everyday facades, aren’t we robbing ourselves? The greatest joy comes from fulfilling the purpose for which we were created.

Will you join me on Wednesday and Friday this week to discuss this topic further? Let’s consider why we hide behind everyday facades. And what do you suppose could be the wonder revealed by them? Feel free to subscribe so you don’t miss the conversation. See you then – have a great week!

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Reflections

How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 5

When my daughter was two, she brought an important lesson to life for me. We were walking in our neighborhood in October, and she was noticing the creepy decorations on people’s porches. She would turn to me, wild eyed, and stiffly say “I’m not scared”. Her expression and her body language said otherwise. Day after day, until those decorations came down, she illustrated the fact that people sometimes present a front that is different than what they are feeling, or who they are on the inside.

Since then I’ve had many interactions with people where I realized that what they were presenting to my eyes and ears was not what I was perceiving with my heart and spirit. And I will admit there have been times when I was reticent to reveal my true self. Haven’t we all been on both sides of this equation? And this brings me to the fifth, and final truth in this series.

How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 5

The Halloween season reminds us to look beyond the disguises that people wear.

Today is the day for disguises

Today is the day that highlights this truth like no other. We will see people in obvious costumes all around us. We will look at them and know that they have altered their appearance and are playing a character which is not who they really are. We will perceive children beneath their disguises and people we love behind their masks. We will treat them for who we know they are, not for who they present themselves to be today. And oh, what a picture of discernment that we can hold onto for the rest of the year!

It is obvious on Halloween, but next week it won’t be so easy. When our loved ones look like themselves, and hide behind everyday facades, it takes more effort to notice. But it is more crucial than ever that we look through the disguises and into the hearts that lie beneath. What types of costumes might we see on Halloween which mirror those we see in daily life? (Shameless plug for tomorrow’s post on this very topic – I sure hope you’ll join in!)

Halloween disguises: How to have a healthy hope and a happy heart as Halloween hastens: truth 5
Photo by Yan Krukov
Disguises are obvious on Halloween

There is no time like Halloween to reflect on costumes and disguises. When I see the costumes today, and easily look through them to see a cherished person underneath, I am going to fill my tank of resolve to see through the facades I see all year. Any time I get an opportunity to improve my interactions with other people for God’s glory, I want to lean in.

This Halloween, may you have a healthy hope and a happy heart in light of Who God is and who He has created you to be. On a personal note, this has been my first Halloween season as a blogger, and I realize this series may have been counterintuitive to many of my readers. I cannot thank you enough for reading and engaging and for being so gracious with my point of view. You all are amazing! God is continually blessing me through you.

Click here to read the Introduction to this series.

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Recommendations

This Ultimate Harvest Recipe Tastes Like Fall in a Pumpkin Pot!

Autumn! I love this time of year! The weather gets cool enough for me to want to use my oven and the fresh veggies are flavorful and ripe for my comfort food recipes. I hope to start sprinkling my blog with more of my favorite recipes and stories which go with them. Be sure to tune in if you’re the cooking and baking sort! And if you’re not, you’re invited too. Maybe you can pass them along to someone who will appreciate them and let you be a taste-tester in exchange. Let me know what you think about this idea. Today’s post, and this recipe and story, are examples of what I have in mind.

This ultimate harvest recipe tastes like fall in a pumpkin pot!

I must share this one with you quickly, before the pumpkins are gone from the stores! Maybe if you’re lucky, you have your own growing in your yard. Or, if you don’t carve the pumpkins on your front porch, this is a great recycle (upcycle?) idea.

A hallowed pumpkin, filled with stew, and baking in the oven: This Ultimate Harvest Recipe Tastes Like Fall in a Pumpkin Pot!
Harvest Stew Baking in a Pumpkin Pot

The background story

This is Fall in a pot! And it has a wonderful story attached. To tell it, I need to take you back a few (!!) decades… The elementary school I attended had two adults in each classroom, one teacher and one monitor. I had the same monitor for 3 years in a row, from 4th to 6th grade! Mrs. S. kept moving up with us. She became someone very dear in my life.

In High School, Mrs. S’s kids and I played on the same sports teams and even after graduation, we stayed in touch. We are still Facebook friends today. Several years ago, she posted about this meal, which she was making with her grandkids. When I asked her for the recipe, to make with my family, Mrs. S told me that she had actually gotten it from my mom, who is a preschool teacher and had made it with her little students!

I just thought that was incredible. It is a passed-down recipe that took a detour on its way and came through, not one, but two of my most cherished Christian mentors! Don’t you think that is pretty special? Well, even if you’re not the nostalgic type, I’ll bet your heart will melt for this pumpkin pot filled with all the flavors of harvest!

The recipe

A medium pumpkin is perfect, maybe a 10-12 pounder. First, cut a circle in the top. Then scoop out all the seeds and stringy parts. You want a thick shell with the flesh intact. That is it! Your pumpkin pot is ready to stuff with your favorite fall flavors!

Mrs. S fills her pumpkin pot with sautéed garlic and onions, browned ground turkey, shredded carrots, mushrooms, spinach, broccoli slaw, stewed tomatoes, and kidney beans. But she emphasized that this ultimate harvest recipe is completely customizable.

The possibilities

You can change the protein to stew meat, chicken, something plant based, or leave it out altogether. You can add or delete any veggies you wish. You can season to your own liking too.

Curry? (If you follow this blog, you know how I feel about curry. If you don’t, you can find out here.) Italian seasonings? Mexican spices? Do it your way with the ingredients you like and have on hand. The possibilities are endless!

The instructions

The instructions are simple. Just fill the pumpkin with whatever harvest fare you crave and replace the top. Place it on a baking pan and put it in the oven at 325 degrees. It will bake in there for 2 hours. Make sure to watch toward the end that the pumpkin pot doesn’t get too done and lose its structure.

Stew baked to perfection in a pumpkin: This Ultimate Harvest Recipe Tastes Like Fall in a Pumpkin pot!
It’s Healthy and Hot – It’s Harvest in a Pot!

When it is finished baking, your house will smell amazing! Serve it right from the festive pumpkin pot, scraping the sides to get a serving of pumpkin in every spoonful. Top with cheese, parsley, avocado, sour cream or anything you like!

More options

Mrs. S suggests serving your masterpiece over rice. Do you like jasmine rice? Brown rice? Cauliflower rice? Do you prefer potatoes or noodles? Or do you skip the carbs? Any way you serve it, this is the ultimate harvest recipe. I think you’ll agree that it takes like fall in a pot – a pumpkin pot! What’s not to like?

Are you going to try this recipe? Have you made something similar in the past? What would be your preferred ingredients? Mmm… is anyone getting hungry?

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Reflections

How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 4

This is my favorite of the 5 truths I have to share about how to have a healthy hope and a happy heart as Halloween hastens. I know the phrase “life-changing” is over-used and under-appreciated these days, but this experience I am about to share really did effectively change my life, and definitely for the better. I hope it does the same for you!

Front yard graveyard: : How to have a healthy hope and  happy heart as Halloween hastens, truth 4.
Front yard graveyard

It happened like this. I was jogging around my neighborhood in October, a few years ago. There were several houses in a row which were decorated to the hilt for Halloween. It was one front yard graveyard after another. I was trying to keep my focus on the sidewalk in front of me and thinking that I couldn’t wait until November 1, when all of this décor would be put away. In my head, I hummed, “What a day of rejoicing that will be that will be!”

If you don’t recognize those lyrics, they are from a song called “When We All Get to Heaven” by Brad Paisley. The refrain became my pace, as I rounded the corner by these decked out homes.

When we all get to heaven
What a day of rejoicing that will be
When we all see Jesus
We'll sing and shout the victory

Suddenly, I had a realization so powerful, it almost knocked me to my knees. I stopped mid-stride and stumbled to a halt. My rhythmic breathing caught in a half a startled inhale and half a sob in my throat, as the revelation settled over me. These front yard graveyards were powerful and victorious visuals of the future!

How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 4

The Halloween season gives us a victorious visual!

“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord for ever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17 (emphasis mine)

I stopped and I looked around me with fresh, astounded eyes that must have taken up half my face, I was so incredulous. They were also brimming with uncontrollable tears. God met me right there and gave me something to anticipate about Halloween. Even now, as I retell the story, I can feel the awe in which I stood at that moment.

Since then, instead of turning away from the yards full of tombstones and half buried corpses, I stop and photograph them. They are victorious visuals of how the grave has no power over me! One amazing day, in a glorious instant, these scenes will play out, for real, in graveyards all around the world.

Halloween decor, skeletal remains in the grass: : How to have a healthy hope and  happy heart as Halloween hastens, truth 4.
The dead will be raised, imperishable. Oh death, where is your victory?
1 Chronicles 15:52, 55

“For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’

‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’”

1 Corinthians 15:52b-55

I no longer live in that neighborhood, but I jogged to it yesterday to re-live the occasion with God and take a photo to share with you. I was disappointed to find that there were no front yard graveyards there anymore. I smiled at the thought that maybe God showing up on the sidewalk that day had taken the enemy’s fun from that corner. It is more likely that the families have moved from there, like I have.

Either way, I was genuinely bummed to NOT find the elaborate graveyards. I had been looking forward to reveling in the best styrofoam and plastic visuals I’d ever seen. If you had told me, years ago, that one day I’d seek out a Halloween scene like this for its hope, I would’ve thought you’d lost your ever-lovin’ mind. But here I was, sorry to behold a blank lawn.

My dejection is why I can to say with certainty that this event, a few years ago, was “life-changing” for me. An encounter with God should always be that. I believe this is the correct use of the, otherwise over-used, term.

I will never be able to ‘unsee’ the glory in what was meant to be gory. Every grave WILL be opened. Every corpse WILL rise. And that is an event to which I look forward with great anticipation.

“But your dead will live, Lord; their bodies will rise – let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy – your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.”

Isaiah 26:19
Happy skeleton rising from the earth : How to have a healthy hope and  happy heart as Halloween hastens, truth 4.
“Let those who dwell in the earth wake up and shout for joy” Isaiah 26:19

I want to be somber for a moment right here, though, and say that the victory in this visual is not guaranteed. The terror that is attempted in most front yard graveyard depictions cannot hold a candle to the horrifying possibilities which accompany the real event. Jesus DID die and rise again (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). In so doing, He DID conquer the grave (Romans 8:11). He DID make a way for ALL of us to partake in His victory (1 Thessalonians 4:13-15). But we MUST accept it while we live here on earth (John 3:16).

The day will come, when everyone, previously dead or never so, will find themselves in front of Jesus. Those who are His, because they chose to accept Him when they were given the opportunity on earth, will be ushered into eternal glory. Those who are not, because they refused Him when they were presented the choice on earth, will be cast away into eternal damnation.

You are being given the opportunity to decide, right here, right now. If the Lord comes back tomorrow, are you ready? Have you chosen Him? If not, will you choose Him today?

Please ask if you have any questions, or if you are unsure whether you have settled this matter with God. It is the most important, life-changing, eternity-defining decision of your existence. Please my precious friend, don’t let another day pass you by without knowing that you know that you know.

I can be reached via the comments below or the contact link at the top of this page. I have posted more information here. My hope and prayer for you is that you have a healthy hope and a happy heart as Halloween hastens. May you revel in the victorious visual of a front yard graveyard. May you look forward to the actual event and say with certainty, “What a day of rejoicing that will be!”

Click here to read the Introduction to this series.