Sunday, April 18, 2010

Rules, Rules, Rules...

Gosh, I'm afraid to tell you this because some of my friends are here and have received cards from me... When I sit down to write a card I often feel rushed. I keep one of those books of mementos close by and I look something up in the book. It's just so much easier to find a formula for a thoughtful note than to actually put my heart and mind into writing an authentic note. But my use of rules and formulas goes deeper than that. When I'm knitting or crocheting stripes, I have a formula for placing the colors. I put them in rainbow order. It's just easier than laying out all the colors and experimenting with different combinations. Of course I have a formula for preparing meals: protein, fruit or veggie, carbs. So much easier than looking up a recipe. Rules and formulas are great, especially for busy, task-oriented people like me, but they are not so great when we create rules and formulas for our relationships.

I think one of the greatest Biblical examples of rule-users is Saul. In 1 Samuel 15, God commands Saul to completely destroy the Amalekites and their possessions. Does Saul do it? NO! "7 Then Saul attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, to the east of Egypt. 8 He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword. 9 But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed."
Of course the Lord's prophet Samuel finds out that Saul has disobeyed God's directions. When Samuel confronts Saul, he has this answer:
"But I did obey the LORD," Saul said. "I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. 21 The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal."

22 But Samuel replied:
"Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD ?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams."

Did you see Saul's thinking? I can do whatever I want if I say that I'm sorry after and make a sacrifice to God. What a rule! I have complete control over my life. Please note Samuel's reply, of course God forgives us when we confess our sins, but He's more pleased when we obey Him.

Please don't get me wrong. I'm not talking about when you sin and authentically repent before the Lord. 1 John 1:9 tells us "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." We can't fool God. He knows when we are truly sorry for what we did and when we are just sorry that we got caught. His words tells us that in Hebrews 4:12 "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." We can't apply the rule of sinning followed by a sacrifice/confession to our walks with God. He wants a real relationship with us. He desires that we seek Him out. Jeremiah 29:13 "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."

Contrast Saul's rules about God with his replacement, David. When difficulty came to David's life he boldly sought God's counsel. We see it in 1 Samuel 23:4, 23:10, 30:8, 2 Samuel 2:1... I could go on, but you get the idea "David inquired of the LORD." There is no replacement for your personal walk with God. No rules can guide you through life like a real relationship with God.

I'm sure you've noticed that this is also true of your relationships with others. No amount of rules or formulas can replace authentically and openly sharing your heart. Think of your acquaintances at the gym, work, or play group. You talk with them, but you don't tell them what's really going on. You keep everything on the surface, nice and polite. Real relationships must go deeper than this. They get messy. You share your struggles and emotions. Your real friends challenge you to be more open. You challenge them to grow. Rules and formulas cannot replace you being present and engaging your heart and mind. My hubbie and I are learning this anew in our marriage. We were following the rules: we spent time together (sitting on the couch watching TV), we prayed together (a rote prayer before meals), we were faithful to each other (but we didn't really share our hearts with each other), and we grew apart. God allowed difficulty into our lives in the form of a miscarriage. We had to connect. Now we take a few minutes every day to talk about our struggles (mine is overeating) and pray for each other. We feel so much closer.

I know you are busy. I know you have a lot of demands on your time. I know you may be afraid that if people really knew you and what you struggle with, then they would run away screaming. But you will only find the intimacy you crave with God and others if you break out of your insulating rules, formulas, and plans and become vulnerable. I encourage you to do this in a small group where you will be cared for and where you can care for others. I also encourage you to do this in your own personal time with God. Remember: Jeremiah 29:13 "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."

Sunday, April 11, 2010

My Boozy Bubbly Shampoo Bar Experience

In celebration of curly girls everywhere, I'm trying to concoct the perfect curly girl shampoo bar. Here's my first attempt!

The night before:
1) First I took 2 bottles of beer (Budweiser, that Toby's favorite brand) and simmered it on low heat until it was only 4 ounces in volume.

2) Then I put 2 Tablespoons of dried rosemary into a little coffee filter bag and steeped it in 1.5 cups of hot filtered water. I let this sit in the fridge overnight before I removed the rosemary tea bag.


The big day:

3) I mixed the lye into the rosemary tea. I like to do this outside to keep the lye fumes away from my family. Of course I wore gloves and goggles while working with the lye solution.

4) I measured out the oils and melted in a crock pot on low. I like to soften the solid at room temperature oils in the microwave for about a minute to reduce the time it takes the crock pot to melt everything.

5) When oils were melted, I blended the lye into the oils to reach a light trace.

6) At light trace I blended in the beer, Castor oil, vitamin E, and honey.

7) I made sure that the crock pot is on low and cooked the soap with the lid on the pot for about 30 minuets. What did I do during this time? I cleaned the kitchen, prepared my molds, and crocheted.

8) After 30 min had passed, the soap was gelling. I stirred in the un-jelled raw soap and continued heating it.

9) I checked on the soap in 10 min. intervals until the soap had completely gelled (about 1 hour total time). Then I gave it the icky licky test. (Scoop out a marble size blob of soap. Allow it to cool. Roll it in your palm to create a ball. Give it a little lick. If you get a zap, then continue to cook and check it at 5 min intervals.)

10) At this point I needed to mix in the fragrance oil and vinegar. I started to wonder if I had over cooked the soap because it was so stiff that I had to have Toby mix in the fragrance and vinegar.

11) I spooned the soap into the molds. For this batch I used silicon muffin molds. I let it cool and set up overnight. When I un-molded it in the morning I was disappointed. Most of the bars looked really lumpy. So, what did I decide to do? REBATCH I think I could avoid this in the future if I cooked it less. I fear I let it dry out a little too much.

The next day:

12) Greg and I used the cheese grater to break the soap into little pieces.

13) We heaped those pieces back into the crock-pot and poured 1/4 cup water onto them.

14) With the lid on the pot and the pot on low, I heated the soap until it had all melted. I stirred it occasionally just to check the consistency.

15) When the soap was nice and smooth, I poured it into a new mold. This time I used a rectangular Rubbermaid container. I know it looks like bar cookies, but don't eat it!

16) The next day I released the soap from it's mold and cut it into rectangular bars. I was really pleased at how much smoother the rebatched soap appeared. I did let this soap cure for 3 weeks before using because it had a lot of water to lose.

I love this soap! It seems to enhance the curl in my hair. I think it might be a little heavy for someone with fine hair, but for my dry, curly hair it works great!

Want the recipe?

2 ounces cocoa butter
6 ounces Coconut Oil
14 ounces Olive Oil
12 ounces Crisco Oil
14 ounces Sunflower Oil
12 ounces rosemary tea
6.45 ounces lye
4 ounces reduced beer
1.5 ounces castor oil
2 ounces honey
6 grams vitamin E
0.4 ounces Oatmeal, Milk, and Honey Fragrance Oil
3 oz vinegar