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, steady heart, steady faith. 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!
Love you all!
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.’s Democracy 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’s On 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 🙂
Mark Charles and Soong-Chan Rah’s Unsettling Truths: The Ongoing, Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery: We work in a country that was colonized by our European neighbors–even possibly ancestors. We can see evidence of this all around us–of the ongoing effects on life here for Malagasy people. Our presence here as missionaries does not exist in a vacuum from this fairly recent history of colonization. We have a lot to learn about how this history affects even faith and religious practice here. Martin Meredith’s The Fate of Africa: A History of the Continent Since Independence is in this category as well, and is also on our list.
James Cone’s Said 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’s Message 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.
Christmas morning is fast approaching!!
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 Than all. 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; Make refuge, 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.
Thanksgiving is coming up! Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It was one of my dad’s favorites too.
Now, on the subject of turkey, in my circles I’ve noticed two main comments around turkey:
- I don’t really care for turkey—it’s too dry.
- No, I’ve found the perfect way to make turkey. This is the only way to make it!
Anybody with me on this? But, unless you’ve had my dad’s turkey and your perfect way is his way, then I’m going to have to disagree with you 😉 My dad loved turkey and dressing so much that when he was a bachelor, he used to make the full Thanksgiving meal for himself all throughout the year. He truly mastered it. So many amazing Thanksgiving memories with him and our family every year.
And, so special, Dad once wrote out in detail the way he made the turkey for our dear friend Kristi. Now we have the recipe just the way he did it, in his own words. I’ve added some of my own notes to the bottom, which I made when my lovely friend Jodie made her turkey this way a few years ago.
And now, I would have to say, my sister, Nathan and I have also mastered the turkey. Molly can do it all by herself! And she handles the lovely table arrangements.
Also, another note, you must enjoy this recipe with TONS of cranberry sauce!
And we’ve also enjoyed adding the Baker favorites to our traditional Thanksgiving, as we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving together many times since our marriage! Maybe we’ll share those recipes later! 🙂
I hope you enjoy it! We do every year!
I BUY A 20 POUND FROZEN BUTTER BALL TURKEY. IT TAKES ABOUT 2-3 DAYS TO THAW OUT .
TAKE OUT THE HEART, NECK AND LIVER AND COOK IN A LARGE POT UNTIL SOFT AND PUT THEM IN THE REFRIDGEATOR OVER NIGHT.
I COOK THE BIRD ON 180 DEGREES OVERNIGHT FROM 11 PM TO 7AM.
I PEEL 2 LARGE SWEET ONIONS AND PUT THEM IN THE TURKEY RIB CAGE.
I CUT UP 2 STICKS BUTTER AND STICK THEM IN ALL THE SKIN FLAPS AND UNDER THE WINGS AND LEGS.
I SPRINKLE SALT AND PEPPER, POULTRY SEASONING ALL OVER THE BIRD. THE INGREDIENTS ARE: THYME, SAGE, MARJORAM, ROSEMARY, BLACK PEPPER AND NUTMEG.
NEXT I DOUBLE WRAP THE BIRD IN 2 LAYERS OF HEAVY DUTY FOIL.
I FOLD 2 MORE SHEETS OF FOIL TOGETHER AND PUT IT IN THE BOTTOM OF THE COOKING PAN.
PLACE THE WRAPED UP TURKEY, BREAST DOWN, ON THE PAN, WRAP THE 2 FOIL SHEETS AROUND THE TURKEY AND PUSH IT DOWN NICE AND TIGHT, ADD 1 MORE SHEET OF FOIL OVER THE TURKEY THE PUSH DOWN TIGHT.
(YOU PROBOBLY THINK I HAVE A LOT OF REYNOLDS WRAP STOCK IN MY 401K, BUT IT IS IMPORTANT TO SAVE ALL THE TURKEY BROTH AND MELTED BUTTER AS IT IS USED IN EVERY PART OF THIS MEAL, FROM GRAVY TO DRESSING.
IF EVERTHING WORKS OUT THE TURKEY WILL BE FULLY COOKED AND SITTING IN 3 TO 5 INCHES OF GOLDEN STOCK BY MORNING. POUR THE BROTH INTO A LARGE BOWL AND COVER.
NOW FOR THE DRESSING.
I USE 1 BAG OF SEASONED CROUTONS AND 1 BAG OF CORNBREAD CROUTONS.
4 TO 6 STALKS OF CELERY CHOPPED 1/8” TO 1/4” SATAUED WITH THE COOKED ONION FROM THE BIRD CUT UP
TAKE ALL OF THE MEAT OFF THE TURKEY NECK, CUT UP THE LIVER AND HEART, PUT ALL OF THIS IN THE BLENDER ALONG WITH SOME BROTH AND PURREE IT. THIS LOOKS AWFUL BUT IT GIVES A GOOD FLAVOR TO THE DRESING.
PUT THE 2 BAGS OF CRUTONS IN A PAN AND ADD SOME BROTH
THE ONIONS AND CELERY AND THE PUREED MIXTURE AND STIR AROUND
AND ADD 2 TO 3 CANS OF CRÈME OF CELERY SOUP.
ADD POULTRY SEASONING AROUND TO TASTE. THE DRESSING SHOULD BE FAIRLY WET.
COOK IN THE OVEN UNTIL THE TOP IS BROWN AND CRUNCHY AND THE BOTTOM IS SOFT BUT NOT WET,
LET ME KNOW HOW IT ALL TURNS OUT!
For the poultry seasoning, I just use poultry seasoning from the store—I think he included the list of ingredients in case poultry seasoning wasn’t available.
The goal is 180 for 8 hrs. You’ll want a poultry thermometer to plunge in in the morning just to be sure it’s done. We have typically pulled it out then, drained out much of the broth (for dressing, gravy, etc.), but left the turkeys wrapped in the foil for most of the day while we do other cooking. Sometimes we’ve put them back in for a warm up later on—right before serving. I think as a family we’re used to eating the turkey at room temp, and we don’t mind that (since it’s cooked), but if you want it hot you’ll want to reserve time at the end for putting them back in—just be aware when you put them back in that that can dry them out.
We don’t put our stuffing in the turkey, so we don’t stuff them and then put them back in—but we need the broth for the stuffing, so we drain it out and then close up the foil. Sometimes if you’ve done the foil well you can poke a small hole near the bottom and pour out a lot of broth without even opening up the turkey, and I usually do the poultry thermometer through the foil, so as to keep the turkey sealed for warmth.
The foil is really important. You’ll want to put two pieces side-by-side and fold them together (connecting them on the long side, sort of like a hem), and lay that in the bottom. Then put the turkey on that (in a casserole dish or on a baker or something). Then, do the same thing again (two pieces, folded with a hem), and lay that over the top, then connect the top section and bottom section with the same kind of hem . . . does that make sense? The foil is really important for making lots of broth and keeping the meat moist—because turkey has such a tendency to be dry.
If a am a tree I am dead Dried-up wormwood, Eaten through With homegrown lies— A dirty dearth of earthly material. Burn through me; Cut me down. Grow your fresh green shoot Up through my roots Reengineer ancestry And plant me by the stream That feeds the boughs which Blossom in the eons.