Overnight Oats

I think its funny how excited I am about overnight oats. I tell anyone who will listen. I believe it is something more people should know about. I am in a very hot part of Arizona and I appreciate a hearty but not necessarily hot, breakfast.

So here is how I make my version of overnight oats.

  • 1/2 cup of oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup of frozen blueberries (almost any fruit can be substituted)
  • 1/2 cup of unsweetened apple sauce. (I buy it in the serving sized containers, which are 1/2 cup.)

Mix all these ingredients together and refrigerate. They should sit at least overnight, but seem just as good after three days. I purchased little containers that are just the right size for holding this mixture. This allows me to mix several days worth of breakfast in a single sitting. When you pull it out to eat, notice that it has congealed a bit like a pudding. You might enjoy this texture. I prefer to stir it up again before eating.

If you want a larger portion just increase the amounts you use of each ingredient equally. Also feel free to experiment with other ingredients. For the fruit I have used raspberries, peaches, and more. I have added spices such as cinnamon and ginger. Other people have similar recipes that include peanut butter, nuts, or any number of other foods.

I have experimented in a number of ways, but I always keep the oats, water and applesauce. The oats and water are essential for obvious reasons, but the unsweetened apple sauce is less apparent. It adds the necessary sweetness. This is often done without the apple flavor coming through at all. One favorite variation added ginger and molasses instead of berries. Another used a packet of hot chocolate mix for a strong cocoa flavor.

I said at the start of this article that I find my enthusiasm for overnight oats to be surprising. Especially when as a Christian I have a Savior who needs to be proclaimed to the world around me.

But unfortunately, I am like too many other Christians. I find it easier to talk about oats, or other meaningless things, than to proclaim salvation in Jesus. Lord Jesus, help me to be bolder.

Cactus Wren

Cactus Wren

This is a cactus wren, the state bird in Arizona. This bird knows how to exist in the desert. It doesn’t need any freestanding water to survive, being able to get all the moisture it needs from its food. It also has learned to take good advantage of the prickly nature of cactus.

Perhaps the most menacing of the cacti is the jumping cholla, a plant that will have sections break off and lodge itself in unwary passersby. These sections then will work their way deeper into the victim as they attempt to get free, unless they know exactly how to remove them. Cactus wren will commonly nest in these plants though, skillfully building down in the middle of the cacti’s natural defenses.

This does not stop all possible predators, but attempting to raid a nest is unlikely to succeed because not only is the location highly defensible, but the birds are known to aggressively defend their homes. When a predator attempts to access it, the birds will knock them off balance amid the deadly spines.

One story of such an event is on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website. They mention a Yuma antelope squirrel that was knocked into the spines and then to the ground. The cactus wren is able to successfully defend its nest because of the combination of a defensible position and aggressive defensive behavior.

Believers should take note of this combination.

The first step to success is to find a defensible position. The easiest way for a Christian to remain in a defensible position is to carefully and closely align yourself with God. Being in agreement with Biblical morality and strong in your personal relationship with God through Christ will allow you to miss the attacks that come from being unprepared and practicing immorality. Much of the warfare believers face is because they are living morally compromised and spiritually distant.

The second step is to know when and how to fight back for the remaining attacks. This can be tricky because our warfare is not like the battles of this world, so our defensive behavior needs to be different. Very often it is a Spirit led word of witness for the Lord. There may be times when the appropriate defense is to simply to explain a misunderstanding, socially or theologically. Increasingly in our world, the defensive component includes political involvement such as voting, campaigning, and political action campaigns. In all cases, our defense includes speaking out, not rudely, but gently and truthfully.

Consider Ephesians 6:11-13 (HCSB)

Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand.

 

 

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret Flying (800x533)

This is a snowy egret. I know it is because of the yellow feet. Wading birds might have yellow, black, green, blue, or red legs. This is the only bird I know with just yellow feet.

I am not sure why it is that God gave this critter yellow feet. Many times I have heard birders describe him as the bird wearing little yellow socks, and my field guide refers to them as golden slippers. More than all the white wading birds out there, this bird has an easy point of identification to give to new birders.

But as great of a tool as this is, I remember being a new birder and being fooled. I have seen frustrated beginners looking for snowy egrets among a small flock, which were all snowy egrets. They were searching in vain for the yellow feet.

The reason they didn’t see them is that the egret is a wading bird. Commonly the feet are covered by water, or worse, by mud. When they are covered in mud they can appear the exact shade as the legs. The birds get their feet covered in mud because of a feeding pattern they use. They will rush around shuffling their feet in the muck to stir up food.

It might be wise if we slow down and consider if we can see any parallels here. Do Christians have any field marks that make for easy identification? 1 John 4:8 (HCSB) says the one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. There are other passages that concur with the idea our easy field mark is love.

But if that is the truth why is it we both know believers who seem to be anything other than loving? I suggest the primary cause is the same reason that people have trouble identifying snowy egrets. They have been stomping around in the mud. The difficulties of this world get us all down, but they aren’t necessarily going to defeat us. However if the mud, the mess we have been walking through, is the result of our own sinfulness then you can pretty much guess it’s going to win the battle and hide our love. Of course, there are struggles of life that are not the result of our sin, and these can be a source of rejoicing in the face of challenge. But perhaps that is for another devotional.

So why is it that we do this? Why do we get in the habit of stomping around in the mud? Most often it’s the same reason the birds do. It’s their feeding pattern. People also often mess themselves up the most, while trying to earn a living and provide for their families. The workplace often is the hardest place for adults to maintain their witness. But beyond that some people have been convinced that either by political correctness or the pressures of staying competitive, they must set aside their faith in the workplace. I don’t just mean not witnessing, praying, and reading their Bible, but also not living with the Biblical moral or ethical code.

It might be the subtlety of the salesman, profiting from addictive behaviors, or simply maintaining your social status by participating in idle talk. All of these are things the believer should not be involved in. While you are involved in them, it should be no surprise that your coworkers do not see the love of God at work in you. In this case you have been made useless for God’s Kingdom by what you considered to be ‘just business.’

Consider 2 Peter 1:5-9 (HCSB) focusing on the last sentence.

For this reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For these qualities are yours and are increasing, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. The person who lacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten the cleansing from his past sins.

Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow

This chipping sparrow took off right as I was trying to take his picture. Despite it not being the picture I planned I really like the picture.

This bird is named for his song, and is one of the most commonly heard song birds in North America. But the song, is not very musical at all. It lasts about 3 ½ seconds, and in that short time it repeats the same note about 55 times. This trill is what was being referred to by the name chipping sparrow.

There is a little variation in the sound of chipping sparrows from bird to bird, but every bird repeats its own note over and over again in that short burst of sound.

Do you ever feel like a chipping sparrow? Do you think your communication has been reduced to a broken record of making the same statements over and over? This repetition can be for bad reasons, but it can also be a positive experience.

It might be you feel like no one is listening and your repetition is an expression of your frustration. You repeat yourself hoping they will hear you this time.

But it can also be that you have found something important enough to make it your life message. Jesus will give you a personal testimony. Your testimony is the story of how you can to know Jesus as Savior, but He may also give you other messages to speak forth on His behalf.

Speaking on behalf of the Savior is a very repetitive experience, but if you keep your relationship with Him fresh then He will keep your message on His behalf fresh.

Consider 1 Peter 3:13-15 “And who will harm you if you are deeply committed to what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed, but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”