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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Cheesy Chicken Salsa Casserole (sans cheese)

I’ve recently decided to meal plan each month as a way to hopefully save money. We just started tackling our budget with more discipline, and saving money on food is something we realllllly need to get a handle on, so… meal planning is in the works! I have always admired my sister Jessica’s organization skills. With a family of seven, she uses a whiteboard calendar each month to color-code about a million different appointments and events, AND she has EVERY meal planned, too, right down to when they are eating certain leftovers! I figured if she can grocery shop and plan meals for a family of seven (with several pick eaters!), then I can plan for a family of three! ☺  Part of my planning involved “pinning” a million different new recipes on Pintrest that I want to try. (I felt really productive with all the “pinning” ☺) To my own surprise, I have actually tried a few of the things that I’ve pinned, and most of them have turned out tasty! I say “most” because there’s a certain crockpot dish I tried this week that could have been much better. 

It’s called “Cheesy Salsa Chicken Casserole,” and it’s (supposedly) a very simple crockpot dish. It actually was very simple, until I doctored it up… You see, I have always been very apprehensive about leaving my crockpot on all day. I envision my apartment being a pile of ash when I get home because I didn’t leave enough liquid in the pot, so then my food would be scorched and catch on fire before I could get home to turn the crockpot off. I may be a little psycho about this, and I’m honestly not sure why it makes me so nervous. However, this recipe seemed so easy, and with my new meal planning, I had prepped the night before so that Patrick  could turn the crockpot on when he left for work, and supper would be done when I got home! So, I decided to brave the crockpot even with my fears. But just to be on the safe side, I added (way too much) extra water to the dish so that the house wouldn’t burn down for lack of liquid in the pot for too long… Patrick added the chicken to the pot and turned it on before he left for work. (I told him that his assistance with the crockpot couldn’t be counted as him actually cooking the meal…He sometimes likes to take credit for cooking meals when he takes them out of the oven, as if he made the whole meal!) So, because of my irrational fear, I raced home after work to find that all of that water that I put in the pot….yep it was alllll still there. None of it had cooked out! Mind you, the dish didn’t call for an ounce of water to begin with, and I poured a good cup (or maybe more) of water in there. Plus I added corn and didn’t drain it. And then I added black beans and didn’t drain them… (both of which the recipe didn’t call for, either…) It was a soggy mess!!! I think I basically created a whole new recipe because mine looked (and I suspect tasted) nothing like the Pintrest picture. To top it all off, there was supposed to be a mound of grated cheese melting on top (hence the casserole name), but since there was so much water, the cheese just soaked right into the casserole rather than melting on top. When Patrick got home, the deceptively yummy smell greeted his nose. He’s been excited to see what I’m cooking up each night since I usually cook the same four dishes. He asked what it was called, and I said, “Cheesy Salsa Chicken Casserole.” Then he looked in the pot and said, “Well, where’s the cheese?” “Well, it didn’t quite turn out as planned… The cheese is not having the same effect as what the Pintrest picture shows.” I, then, explained my need to “doctor it up” before I left for work. He didn’t feel any need to claim that he had cooked this particular supper due to the way it turned out! We had a good laugh… It was an interesting meal – not really chicken casserole, more like a strange chicken soup. It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t at all what the recipe was supposed to be. Next time, I’ll leave it alone and trust my crockpot and the Pintrest recipe lady. 

Please prepare yourself for the absolute cheesiest (pun intended…) analogy ever, but of course my failed Pintrest casserole showed me something about my commitment to Christ! ☺ 

Here’s the analogy: 

The actual recipe (Cheesy Chicken Salsa Casserole) when prepared properly: God’s intent for our walk with Him, complete with the guidelines (The Word) and means (His Holy Spirit) to walk with Him successfully 

Watering down the casserole with ingredients not on the original list: Living a watered down Christian life that looks nothing like the original recipe because we add things, take away things, and change things to fit our idea of what our lives should look like

The cheesy goodness not having the correct effect due to the water: There’s no evidence in our lives that we are actually following Christ because we have done things our own way

Sorry, I told you this analogy was over-the-top cheesy, but it resonated with me. As a believer, my life is supposed to look a certain way. No, I don’t have to follow a list of do’s and don’t’s. No, it’s not about rules. No, I don’t have to look exactly like other believers around me and make all the same decisions they do and live by their convictions. But if I’m truly a follower of Christ, then there are certain things I will do and certain things I won’t do because of my love and devotion for Christ and because of the ways His Word and Spirit have convicted me. So, in considering the casserole, it was supposed to look a certain way (namely, NO water and lots of cheese). When looking at my life as a Christian, it should be evident that I love Christ in the things I think, say, and do. There should be evidence of that love in my daily life. BUT if I water down what Christ has commanded me to do, how He has commanded me to love, how He has commanded me to think and speak purely, how He has commanded me to leave my comfort zone for the sake of the Gospel, how He has commanded me to love and serve the Church, His Bride, how He has commanded me to submit to, respect, and love my husband without strings attached – if I water down those things, then my life (aka casserole…sorry again!) is not at all going to look like the recipe (cheesy goodness), but rather a watered-down version of someone who says they follow Christ, but really only follows Him in the easy things and just changes the “Christian life” to fit her own agenda…ouch! 

APPLICATION

- READ/STUDY: Read Luke 6: 43-49 – “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of the evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it. Immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”
- EVALUATE: The message of the verses above are two-fold: 1) What kind of fruit are you producing? That fruit reveals what’s in your heart. And 2) What is the foundation of your life? Is a firm foundation built upon Christ? Or is it a shaky foundation built upon religion without a real, vibrant, and deep relationship with your savior. Have you “dug deep and laid the foundation on the Rock” or have you built your life on yourself – which is essentially no foundation at all? These verses deeply challenge and convict me. I don’t want to live a watered-down Christian life, but so many times I settle for just that because I am lazy or apathetic or too busy or have some other excuse. But when I settle for less than what God has for me – which is an intimate relationship with Christ – then I can’t expect to produce good fruit. I will keep struggling and failing and feeling overwhelmed and living in the “desert” season of my walk with Him instead of living a fruitful and fulfilled life as a true follower of Christ. Evaluate your own life in light of these verses. 
- PRAY: Be brave enough to ask the Lord to reveal where you have placed the foundation of your life. Is it on Christ? Do you want it to be on Him? Do you live your life in a way that trusts in Christ as your solid Rock? Ask the Lord to convict you, challenge you, and mold you in to the woman He wants you to be. Ask Him to produce good fruit in your life. Ask Him to show you how to base your life on Him as the firm foundation. Ask Him to show you how to live in a way that honors Him, rather than a way that waters down His commands and your faith. 

I pray that you will be so in love with Jesus that a watered-down life will seem disgusting to you. I pray that you will ask the Lord to search your heart and soul to reveal the motives, intentions, attitudes, and lifestyles that are in opposition to His will for your life. And once He reveals those things to you, I pray that you will dive deeper into a genuine relationship with Him, rather than an unfulfilling, watered-down relationship. Jesus is worth far more than we could ever imagine, and everything in our world will try to convince us otherwise. Even when you’re tired, spending time with Him is worth it. Even when your fleshly sinful self really wants to engage in that particular sin, choosing Jesus is worth it. Even when you’ve failed for the millionth time, returning to Jesus is worth it. Even when obedience is tough, Jesus is worth it. Even when you feel alone, Jesus is enough. Don’t settle for living a watered-down Christian life. For the sake of the analogy, live a “cheesy life” that follows after the real casserole recipe (aka God’s true intent for your walk with Him), rather than a life filled with wayyyy too many cups of water that were not even in the recipe to begin with! God wants so much more for you!

Always, Jacquelyn 

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