Let’s start off the year of recipes with one of our family favorites: homemade tortillas!!
When I was in college (and arrived in Madagascar), I could make a very limited repertoire of meals. Noodles with red sauce (from a jar), scrambled eggs, grilled cheese . . . honestly that was about it.
Thankfully, some sweet American ladies living in Madagascar started teaching me how to cook. One was Kristi, and this is her tortilla recipe.
all-purpose flour – 2 cups
oil – ¼ cup
salt – 1 tsp
warm water – 2/3 cup (as needed)
Mix flour, salt, and oil in a large bowl with a fork. Add water slowly, stirring with a fork, then with one hand. Water should be warm—not hot or cold. When the dough is ready, it will pull together away from the sides into a ball. Be careful not to add too much water. Do not overmix.
Once dough is in one ball, divide into smaller, golf-ball-sized balls. Begin heating a non-stick pan on the stove. Roll out each ball (or use a tortilla press!). Cook tortillas one by one in the hot pan, flipping, until small brown spots appear on each side. Tortillas are especially good / ready / right if they blow up with big bubbles. Serve warm.
This quickly became one of my weekly staples. When Nathan and I got married after we moved back to the USA, I tried to switch to store-bought tortillas. Nathan came home from work one night, and I had fixed tacos and heated tortillas from the grocery store. When he saw them, Nathan’s face fell. He asked me, “You just didn’t have time to make the homemade ones?” I explained that the ones from the store are a lot easier. “But I’m sure it’s cheaper to make them yourself,” he suggested.
I laughed–“Not really! This pack of 30 is about three dollars!” But Nathan was just so sad about it–and let’s face it, the homemade ones are delicious!–so I always made our own after that 😉 And then my sister-in-law blessed me with an electric tortilla press . . . definitely made the process faster and cleaner!
Enjoy this recipe y’all! Fix ground beef or chicken with your favorite spices, chop up some fresh veggies for salsa and guacamole, grate some cheese, and put out a large container of sour cream . . . yum! Have fun!
Tomorrow the United States inaugurates a new president.
If you’re anything like me, this last election cycle has brought out a lot of questions. I’d love to hear yours. Here are some of mine:
What is a Christian’s role as a citizen of a country?
What does the Bible say about abortion?
What does the Bible say about refugees?
What does the Bible say about the poor?
What does the Bible say about how a government should be run?
Is there anything inherently Biblical about representative, democratic government?
What is the role of my vote versus my responsibility to serve my community . . . and what is my community?
Does the Bible actually say anything about voting in a democracy?
And, finally, what in the world is going on? 😩
Maybe some of you share some of these questions. Actually, we’d like to try to address some of these over the next few months, as we’re trying to find answers ourselves. But today, I’d like to hone in on this one:
Does the Bible actually say anything about voting in a democracy?
I’m still a little baffled by the examples I hear from some comparing our current president to a biblical king used by God. In 2016, it was Nebuchadnezzar. Recently, I heard comparisons to Cyrus or even King David. Notwithstanding that only one of those kings was actually the from the same country as the people of God, and not enslaving them, my question, again, since I heard this line of reasoning is, “What does the Bible actually say about voting in a democracy?”
Our government is by representation, which means we don’t have kings who inherit power, or are appointed by God as David was, and so far we don’t have political leaders from another nation and culture who conquer our nation, deport us, and enslave us, as in Nebuchadnezzar.
So does the Bible actually say anything about representative democracies? Certainly there are verses we could appeal to about how Christians should act. But what about an example of voting in the Bible? The following story is actually something I was looking at and wrote up in 2016. At risk of adding fuel to the fire of the political ire at the time, I never did anything with it. Same song, second verse, this past year. But now that the votes are cast, and especially after what the last few weeks have held, I’d like to share it.
The story is, of course, a Bible story. Here in Madagascar, we turn to Bible stories to try and understand what’s going on. This particular story is from the book of Judges (chapter 9), and in my 2016 search it was the closest thing to voting in a representative democracy I could find in the Bible.
God’s people electing their own king in 1 Samuel chapters 8 – 10 might be another example but even then God selects Saul and puts him forward for the people’s approval. Abimelech seems to be the best example of something close to democratic election.
Abimelech was from a privileged family. His name means “my father is a king,” because his father, Gideon, had led Israel and been treated like a king. But Abimelech was the forgotten illegitimate child. Until, one day, at a time in which Israel is being led by a multitude of privileged aristocrats, Abimelech campaigns to lead them. His strategy was careful, his message simple: (1) Better for one to lead than many—a strong leader can cut through the bureaucracy and get things done. (2) Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. Abimelech uses his influence to persuade the citizens that he is “one of them” in order to get their vote.
But the citizens are going through a rough time politically, so they listen to the outsider. He convinces them he’s a better option than their current government because he is really one of them. So they give him religious blood money (taken from the temple), he quickly gathers other evil-minded people around him, and promptly goes and kills off all their leaders, 70 of his half-brothers. What a leader.
But one of the brothers escapes from the slaughter and decries this new leader’s actions. This guy tells a parable that reveals that while their government had problems, the citizens knew Abimelech was a bad choice. Strikingly, this guy prophesies that the citizens have elected a worthless man who treats the lives of others as worthless—and they will be held responsible for their choice.
For a while it looks like the prophet’s wrong. Things go for fine for three years. But then God brings justice. The citizens decide they actually don’t like their leader now that he’s leading. So they try to get him out of office. That goes poorly. Abimelech starts a war, razes a city, and burns the citizens inside the temple. Like I said, fun guy. Then, while trying to do that same thing to another city, Abimelech is maimed by a woman with a millstone. So God brings justice on Abimelech for his destruction and justice on the citizens for electing him. As Bible scholar, Daniel Block, sums up, God gives the people the leader they deserve, and Abimelech what he deserves (Block, 335).
There is so much in this story, but I just have three questions as we read this story:
What do we learn about people?
What do we learn about God?
What do we learn about voting?
What do we learn about people?
People are blinded and corrupted by what they want.
Now there is obvious unrest in the community. How do we know? The parable describes leaders who act too good to help. The citizens are also willing to get rid of their leadership by paying off their illegitimate, distant relative—which is still pretty shameful in today’s majority cultures. It means these people really wanted something to change in their leadership—enough that they were apparently completely blind to what Abimelech really was.
In part this is because the citizens treat the lives of others as worthless. People who do not respect all life often usher in death. They pay a shekel apiece for the lives of the 70 brothers at a time when you had to pay 50 shekels to buy someone’s life back out of slavery or poverty (The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, 258).
And with the measure they use it is measured to them (Matt 7:2). Those who do not respect life (unborn, weak, strong, the dying, black, Muslim, etc.) create a culture of death. These citizens mistook hubris, a lack of respect for life, and an insatiable lust for power as the ability to get things done.
What do we learn about God?
God is unfortunately absent in this story—not because he’s not there but because the people don’t care about him. Still, justice is meted out.
God lets his people face the consequences of their decision.What can we say? the people want what they want. So God let’s them have it. And chaos ensues. God basically lets Israel destroy herself (Block, 309).
God always wins; His kingdom always stands. In different ways, both Abimelech and the citizens were only using each other to get their hands on power. Abimelech wanted to be the ruler and the people wanted a new form of government. Both completely ignored the fact that God rules over all, and it cost them their lives. “In the end Abimelech’s egomaniacal ambition must yield to the kingship of God” (Block, 334).
What do we learn about voting?
God respects the votes of citizens, but allows voters and elected officials alike to reap what they sow.
The Hebrew wording draws out the idea that the people of the town are leaders able to make decisions for the community. Or, as the NIV translates it, they are “citizens.” These citizens have the right and power to elect a leader (king) for themselves (Block, 313-14).
What we see is that in a setup where people are electing a leader to make decisions for them, those people are held responsible for their vote, especially for the brutality they invoke. In the context of this story, we might say they are held even more responsible when they know they are choosing to be led by a ruthless man.
Again, these citizens make a bad choice to solve their political situation. The parable shows that for sure there were already problems with Israel’s government leaders. It’s not like those before didn’t have their own issues. But it shows God outright rejects Abimelech’s style of leadership (Block, 321).
Regardless of how bad the government is, these citizens do not take their grievances to God. Instead, they elect a ruthless man who is contributing nothing to society or God’s kingdom . . . but he does think a lot of himself (Block, 318).
Old Testament scholar Daniel Block (from whom I have pulled from throughout) has this priceless quote:
“ . . . persons of honor engaged in constructive activity have no time for political agendas. They are too caught up in serving humanity, and so the rule often falls to the despicable elements of society. Third, rulers have a tendency to desire power for the worst reasons—their own narcissistic self-interest. In order to gain power they are often forced to offer promises they cannot fulfill. Fourth, in the words of a modern sage, people tend to get the leaders they deserve. Jotham’s fable is not only a polemic against a certain kind of kingship; it is actually directed primarily at those who are foolish enough to anoint a worthless man to be their king.”
Daniel Block, Judges-Ruth (NAC; Nashville: B&H Publishing, 1999), 321.
Foolish votes in a democracy have consequences. We should vote in the fear of God, who rules his kingdom with perfect justice and watches over the lives of all. We will be held responsible for who we choose to represent us.
This past week at the Capitol shows very clearly the kind of president we voted for (and when I say we I mean an overwhelming majority of evangelicals) and the kind of violence and shame he has ushered in . . . thanks in large part to evangelicals. We must take responsibility for that. That does not stop with our vote.
Our form of government is built on the principle that the voter is in charge. As Christians, it is our right and responsibility, no matter who we voted for, to use our voices, time, and resources in the fear of God, for the sake of all life, and putting others before ourselves. The issues facing our nation are complex, and aren’t solved with just our votes. We must intentionally invest ourselves in the issues we voted on, learning from both sides–that’s what it means to be in a democracy. We have to sow better things or risk our choices crashing down on our own heads.
Every day, same plan,
same game every day:
Eat a little better, work a little harder, get a little smarter, make love a little longer.
The internet algorithms got us figured out,
a clip, an email, a picture or a twitter
la petite mort
a thousand little deaths has our
veins thumping for another. But don’t bother
that your life is stringing you out.
You say I don’t have time any more
But it’s time to be holy
It takes time to be holy.
Don’t just hide in the garden with Jesus.
He’s out here walking the streets.
We’ve got to go with him through the scum and the mud
use our skin as collateral.
Let him cut through the media hum
buzzing and fuzzing up your brain.
We’ve got to feed on His Word instead of
feasting on our feeds.
Keep up his pace, steady feet,
The more we look at him, the more we’ll look like him.
It’s time to be holy.
Take the time time to be holy.
We keep calm and carry on as we sail on through this storm
Even though Jesus is strutting on the water.
Keep your eyes on him as you sink
beneath the waves
he’ll pull you down through the bottom
into fountains of love.
The dog was barking again. It was another beggar outside. She’s cripple and a widow with six kids and her elderly mother to care for. She’s the third one in the last hour.
As I’m talking to her my phone is franticly buzzing in my pocket. It’s someone else calling for financial assistance. I’ve already gotten calls about five other calls this morning from other people with problems. There’s the guy who lost his job, the farmers who don’t have seed to plant, the in-debt mom trying to pay for her kids’ schooling, the twins whose mom died, the guy who lost three family members in one week, and a seemingly never-ending stream of people who are sick. They all need my help.
And do you know what I’m feeling at this moment? Annoyance! Oh sure, there’s a lot of pity. I have shed my fair share of tears over people here. And only due to the Spirit of the Living God bound to my own is there a “but for the grace of God go I” conviction that I should help.
So I help. But do you know what? Only a few minutes after I finish with the crippled, widowed mother of six, the dog starts barking again . . . only this time I don’t go out. I’ve had enough. “I cannot do this,” I think. “I cannot help everyone.”
It reminds me of a story Jesus told in Luke 11. . . Let’s say you’re in bed one night. You’ve had a hard day, you’ve finally got the kids down and you’re finally asleep in bed. Then, around midnight, the dog starts barking and someone starts pounding at your gate. You look out the door and you see your friend. He calls to you and says, “Hey man, I just had some family stop in unexpectedly. Everything’s closed, do you mind if I borrow some food from you to host them with?”
What are you going to do? asks Jesus. Nothing! The kids are in bed. You were asleep! You will say, “Get out of here, man! I can’t help you right now!”
But you know what? says Jesus. Even though you won’t help him just because he is your friend, if he keeps knocking on the gate and making that dog bark, you’ll help him with anything he needs just to get him out of there!
Man, Jesus knew people well!
Then, Jesus says the famous words, “I’m telling you, ask and you’ll get something, look for it and you’ll find it, knock and the door will be opened to you. Everyone who asks receives, everyone who looks finds and everyone you knocks will have to door opened to them. Dads, if one of your kids asks you for a sandwich, are you gonna give them a scorpion instead? If they ask for a cookie are you gonna give them a copperhead? No! And you guys are terrible fathers! But even so you know how to give gifts to your kids. So how much better do you think the God who created and keeps the world running is at giving you what you need, especially his own, life-giving, empowering, Holy Spirit?” (Luke 11:5-13)
Let me just confess. Most days, I am not a very good father. I am one-hundred percent more like the guy who won’t be inconvenienced until you annoy the living daylights out of him. Again, one of my primary emotions these days is either exasperation or annoyance. Thank God he is not like that. He has the audacity to say, “Eh, bother me whenever you like. Everyone . . . EVERYONE is welcome. I’ll always give, always find you, and always open the door to you.”
In years past, even when things were bad here, I could review the people in my life and unconsciously think, “Whew! Everyone else is doing ok.” Well, not so this year. Literally, there is only one person I know right now that it does not weigh me down with grief to pray for them. This year has been hard for everyone. And these words literally came out of my mouth yesterday. “It’s like everyone I know needs God to help them in some major way.”
Me writing this, and most of you reading this, have so much historically unprecedented wealth and security that it has taken a year like 2020 to make me realize that every single one of us wake up every day vitally in need of God’s help. The fact that one of my primary responses to the suffering around me is annoyance and self-pity is proof positive that I need Jesus’ help (or I will continue as a pretty terrible person). We will never know the pain and suffering that people in a place like Madagascar deal with day to day. Yet still, if God does not help each one of us, we will die without his life-giving Spirit in us. We think social distancing is bad; we’re all in danger of being separated from those we love and the One loves us Himself, if we do not ask God to help us.
It’s true, I get overwhelmed with all the people who need my help. Especially because, as Jesus points out, I’m not all that special. But he is. And I need his help. We all need his help. And thankfully, because he’s not like you or me, he’s never annoyed by that.
Tessa here, with a quick monthly family update. At the bottom is our downloadable monthly update I sent out January 1–please let me know if you’d like to receive that by email! Let us know ways we can be praying for you!
We’re praying for our home country in this time of upheaval and uncertainty. As American Christians and especially as American missionaries, we know we personally have much to learn and repent of. We’re praying all who are believers are looking to Jesus to guide us in love and repentance as well. We’re realizing–though we should know this, but maybe haven’t lived it out–that repentance is really a daily part of the life of the Christian.
For us personally, over the last year the uncertainty of COVID, the murders of George Floyd and others, the subsequent protests over the summer, and the protest at the Capitol this week, have been very eye-opening to sin alive and well in our own hearts. It’s at that point–the clear look at our sin–that we most need Jesus to transform us. Praying we look to Him–not within ourselves for justification or hope or help–so He can make us more like Him. We’re always open to talking if anyone wants to share or ask us anything or for prayer.
We’re all doing well as a family. The kids are loving having each other to play with, and Chyella is definitely still a huge fan of French school. She’s learning a lot of French–still not speaking a ton, but growing! Jairus is crawling at record speed and still cruising . . . we know that walking milestone is right around the corner!
We celebrated our seventh marriage anniversary in December, along with Jairus’ first birthday! We also loved celebrating Christmas and New Years’ at our local Toliara church. Online visits with family are always a huge lift during the holidays–we know many of you may have celebrated with family that way too this year! We also enjoyed some beach time to celebrate the holiday season!
We as a couple have both enjoyed some focused reading and writing time, and also are thankful for some time this month to think through goals with the local believers here. We feel a little silly setting annual goals when last year turned all of everyone’s plans on their heads! Still, the time to hear the local leaders’ priorities and pray about how we can help is very encouraging to us.
We think we’re about halfway through hot season right now, so hanging in there. We’re also praying hard for rain for the south of Madagascar, as the people here need it for a harvest. Please join us in praying for this big need!
Happy New Year! We Bakers are starting this year off with high hopes for lots of reading and learning . . . we’ll see how we feel a few months in!
For us, 2020 was extremely eye-opening. It seems that many things we had been oblivious to were revealed. We still have a lot to learn.
We’d love to hear from you what you learned in 2020, and what you’re hoping to learn in 2021. Any book recommendations or reading goals? Any new podcasts we should check out?
For our resources spotlight this month, we want to share our Bible reading plan and our reading lists for 2021. Remember, it’s January 4, so our reading list is . . . ambitious . . . to say the least. Again, ask us how we’re doing a few months in!
Last year we did Bible Project’s yearly reading plan. We loved it, and we love Bible Project and the fantastic Scripture resources they have available–check them out! This year, we wanted to try a chronological plan–where if a prophet is talking to a king, you’ll read that portion mixed into reading 1 and 2 Kings, for example. Here’s the one we found that we’re going to try. Feel free to join us and share your thoughts!
Here’s some of the books on our reading list–would love to hear your thoughts and recommendations and what you’re reading too!
Tom Steffan’s and William Bjoraker’s The Return of Oral Hermeneutics: As Good Today as it was for the Hebrew Bible and First-Century Christianity: We work with oral-preference learners here, and we have so much to learn about how oral people learn and think. We are so used to only reading to learn that we’re constantly having to re-examine our efforts here where the majority of people don’t read–which is a good thing! We’ve seen people grow deep in their knowledge of God and His Word, and their obedience to it, through storying. Still, when we talk about things like seminary education the impulse is always to do more and more reading. We’re hoping this book (ironic to read a book about oral methods!) can continue to challenge our thinking and help us learn tools that will better serve our people.
Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.’sDemocracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul: One thing we’ve learned this past year is that not everyone thinks the same way we have about America, about race in our country, about our history. That includes the local believers and pastors we work with here! We have a lot to learn. We as a couple have been remiss in assuming that we understood our history and the current racial landscape when we’ve only ever really heard about these topics from one perspective. This year we’ve intentionally listened to African-Americans and other minorities on race in America, and we have learned so much–but only scratched the surface. Looking forward to learning what this book has added to the conversation.
John Owen’sOn Sin and Temptation: I confess I started this one in April of last year and haven’t finished!! I got pretty bogged down. A sweet friend and I were reading a whole series of books on spiritual formation, but I didn’t make it any farther than April! Oh dear. My plan this year is to keep plugging away at this one all year 🙂
James Cone’sSaid I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobody: The Making of a Black Theologian: Even theologically, the sources we’ve taken in over the years have come from an extremely limited perspective. I don’t think I’ve ever read a theology book by an African-American Christian, or an Asian Christian, or a Native American Christian . . . much less an African Christian (other than Athenasius and Augustine, of course). And yet I think I can contextualize theology to Malagasy Christians much further from me culturally? Whew. I have a lot to learn. Here’s to a start.
Eugene Nida’sMessage and Mission: The Communication of the Christian Faith: We read another book by Nida (who has some foundational works on Bible translation) that gave us new frameworks for understanding aspects of what we would call a concrete (not abstract) culture here in Madagascar. Hoping this book can add to those types of frameworks in a helpful way.
Dean Fleming’s Contextualization in the New Testament: Contextualization–how truths are understood and expressed in different cultures and languages–is a big part of our life and work here. The reality is, as Mark Charles and Soong-Chan Rah point out in their book (Nathan started it this week! 🙂 all of us are living in a contextualized Christianity, as no human currently on earth shares the specific context of the Hebrew Bible or the New Testament. Understanding how the first Christians contextualized, we hope, will help us recognize contextual decisions our own culture has made, and help us learn from local Malagasy believers as they contextualize Scripture and the Gospel in their own culture.
Michael Gurian’s The Wonder of Boys: I’ve got no brothers and now a son! 🙂 I have a lot to learn about the ways boys communicate and learn. What a challenging moment for children we’re in, where discussions around gender and sexuality have become so complex. I believe that God’s Word provides answers to gender and sexuality questions–but honestly I’m not even sure what questions people are asking, and so certainly can’t answer them effectively. Looking to read a lot more on this topic. We welcome suggestions! Hopefully this will be a good start.
Richard Delgado’s and Jean Stefancic’s Critical Race Theory: An Introduction: The topic of Critical Race Theory has gotten a lot of attention recently in evangelical circles. At this point, we as a couple don’t even know enough about it to explain it to someone or form any kind of statement on it, so we’d like to learn about it from the primary sources first–thanks to Dr. Christina Edmondson for her encouragement to do this on the Be the Bridge Podcast!
Hello, it’s me again, the Traveler, and I have a story to tell you. It’s a story from a book of holy writings called the Bible. This book is a collection of many stories, and they have all been brought together to tell the whole story. It is the story of our ancestors, and our story. Let me tell it to you.
The story is called, Birth!
It came true! God’s promise to send the long-awaited One. He sent the Savior here to earth. This is how he came . . .
There was a young lady, Maria, who was a virgin. A young guy, Joseph, had already asked her parents to be her husband. But then, Maria got pregnant. She was pregnant because of God’s Spirit in her, even though she and Joseph had not yet been together. Joseph was lost. Now, he was a wise and upstanding guy. He didn’t want to shame Maria in front of everyone, but to separate from her quietly.
So, he made up his mind on this. But then, one of God’s messengers appeared to him. It said, “Joseph, descendant of King David, do not be scared to take Maria into your house to be your wife. Though she is pregnant, the child in her is from God’s Spirit. In some time, she will give birth to a son. His name is Jesus. This is the Savior of all humans, who will make clean by blood the curse of all humans on the earth.”
Suddenly, the messenger left. With that, Joseph woke up and set about doing what the messenger had commanded: he brought Maria into his house and married her. And yet, they did not share the same sheet as those who are married, even though they were husband and wife—not until Maria gave birth.
After a few months, they went to a town far away, Bethlehem. Maria gave birth to a son while out there in Bethlehem. After eight days, they gave this child the name, Jesus, as the messenger had said.
Now the story is getting good. A few weeks after that, they also went up to Jerusalem. There in Jerusalem was where there was the Great House of God, a place to sacrifice to him for people to make clean their curse by blood. But also, there in Jerusalem, was a particular elder, and old, old man, expecting the coming of the Savior upon the earth. When Maria and Joseph came to the Great House of God there, the old man came and took Jesus in his arms. And this is what this elder said, “I see the Savior God has sent. This is him.”
Joseph and Maria were surprised by the old man’s words about Jesus. Later, the elder blessed him. This is what he said to bless him, “This child has been chosen. There will be many who fall and do not follow him. But many also will rise, who follow him.”
Then, when the words of the elder were finished, they all left. Joseph and Maria went home, returning again to their town far away. This child grew up, got bigger, and became wise and only God’s goodness was with him.
And that is the story taken from the holy writings.
I’ve posted this recipe before, but in honor of Christmas I’ve got to post it again! Cinnamon rolls are a critical part of my Christmas morning memories and tradition. I searched for several years of Nathan’s and my marriage for the perfect cinnamon roll recipe for us to use overseas, from scratch (I grew up on the pop-can ones!).
But, I’ve always been so intimidated by trying to use yeast! When I read in this recipe that the author also found yeast intimidating, I knew it was at least worth a try. And it worked!! Now I’m a loyal fan!
Chyella and I enjoy making this fun recipe each Christmas Eve, in preparation for a special Christmas morning. I hope you enjoy it too!
OK, time for a Christmas favorite! I first made this cake for a friend who loved chocolate and peanut butter together. We could never have imagined how rich it would be! After that, Nathan swore it off—he said he needed years in between eating it, lol. So we compromised and made it our Christmas cake.
I follow this cake recipe pretty closely. The cake itself is incredibly moist—definitely a staple when you need a chocolate cake! The peanut butter cream cheese frosting is so fluffy and tasty, and the ganache really seals the deal. Enjoy!!
My God, my hope
My nothing less
Come quick, come fast
And land again amidst the roiling swell
Burning dove of Zion,
Reigning kind and friend to men.
Hunker in my hurting heart;
Hiding, humble in the crowded cave.
Boom out to all with ears to hear
Your joy for all the worlds:
You’ve stayed your hand,
You’ve stayed with man.
My God, my God
Come dwell again in me.