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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Quips, Questions and Quotes 9-6-14

Words from the week...

If ye keep watch over your hearts, and listen for the Voice
of God and learn of Him, in one short hour ye can learn more
from Him than ye could learn from Man in a thousand years.
    ... Johannes Tauler (ca. 1300-1361)

Jesus came to bring the good news to the poor, not to those who serve the poor! 
I think we can only truly experience the presence of God, meet Jesus, 
receive the good news, in and through our own poverty, 
because the kingdom of God belongs to the poor, 
the poor in spirit, the poor who are crying out for love.
Jean Vanier

Power offers an easy substitute for the hard task of love
It seems easier to be God than to love God, 
easier to control people than to love people, 
easier to own life than to love life.
Henri J. M. Nouwen

Not one of us yet knows how to pray. All we have done has only been pottering and guessing and experimenting... God cares not for the length of our prayers, or the number of our prayers, or the beauty of our prayers, or the place of our prayers; but it is the faith in them that tells -- believing that prayer soars higher than the lark ever sang, plunges deeper than diving-bell ever sank, darts quicker than lightning ever flashed. Though we have used only the back of this weapon instead of the edge, what marvels have been wrought! If saved, we are all the captives of some earnest prayer.
    ... Thomas De Witt Talmage (1832-1902)

Fascinating article on Asian-American ethnic identity in the Christian church (or lack thereof)

Study universal holiness of life. Your whole usefulness depends on this. Your sermon ... lasts but an hour or two -- your life preaches all week. If Satan can only make you a covetous minister, or a lover of pleasure, or a lover of praise, or a lover of good eating, he has ruined your ministry for ever. Give yourself to prayer, ... and get your texts, your thoughts, your words, from God.
Robert Murray M'Cheyne, 1813-1843

Humility is not thinking less of ourselves; it is thinking of ourselves less. 
C. S. Lewis

Christ seeks from us deeds not words. Devotion to him is in the first place not sentimental but practical. If the Christian faith has no power to restore or recreate the human will, leading one to deeds of unselfish service, then it stands self-condemned.
C.F. Andrews

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Quips, Quotes & Questions 8/30/14

Things that I am reading and thinking about -- from this week...

Excellent post by my good friend Nancy on the events in Ferguson: 

"Our spirit should be quick to reach out toward God, not only when it is engaged in meditation; at other times also, when it is carrying out its duties, caring for the needy, performing works of charity, or giving generously in the service of others. Our spirit should long for God and call him to mind, so that these works may be seasoned with the salt of God’s love, and so make a pleasing offering to the Lord of the universe." John Chrysostom (4th century church father)

By committing themselves to meet regularly together, Christians become aware of those who are not gathering together—those who are absent. This is how the community develops the practice of pastoral care and evangelism, the skill of memory for those missing, the virtue of love for the lost, and the notion of the communion of saints. 
Samuel Wells

Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. 
Let all that you do be done in love.
(1 Corinthians 16:13-14)

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the desolate pit,
    out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
    making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
    and put their trust in the Lord. 
(Psalm 40:1-3)

Outstanding call to the American church in light of the events in Ferguson:

The renewal of the Church will be in progress when it is seen as a fellowship of consciously inadequate persons who gather because they are weak, and scatter to serve because their unity with one another and with Christ has made them bold.
Elton Trueblood

"The heavenly city, while it sojourns on earth, calls citizens out of all nations and gathers together a society of pilgrims of all languages. In its pilgrim state the heavenly city possesses peace by faith; and by this faith it lives." 
Augustine of Hippo

Happy are those who consider the poor;
the Lord delivers them in the day of trouble.
The Lord protects them and keeps them alive;
they are called happy in the land.
You do not give them up to the will of their enemies. 
(Psalm 41:1-2)

"Let us leave a little room for reflection in our lives, room too for silence. Let us look within ourselves and see whether there is some delightful hidden place inside where we can be free of noise and argument. Let us hear the Word of God in stillness and perhaps we will then come to understand it." 
Augustine of Hippo

Much of our difficulty as seeking Christians stems from our unwillingness to take God as He is and adjust our lives accordingly. We insist upon trying to modify Him and bring Him nearer to our own image. 
A. W. Tozer

Friday, August 29, 2014

Totes Tomatoes

Well, this summer has provided a BUMPER crop of tomatoes, thanks to my housemate's dad roto-tilling the beds before we planted. We feasted all summer on cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, fat and sassy Heirloom tomatoes and last but not least, some Gilberti tomatoes (which look very much like big ol' chili peppers on the outside, but are meaty and tasty tomatoes on the inside).

From Caprese salad to omelettes to pizza to tacos to a quick thrown together rice-and-vegetables something-or-other, these little red balloons of deliciousness have delivered every time.

I am sad to see them go, so I wanted to go out with a bang. My latest issue of Vegetarian Times gave me just the recipe to do so. This recipe, even for a half batch, required a whole mixing bowl of the season's end of tomatoes. It was crazy to cut up so many and see them get pulverized into a glistening and mouth-watering sauce.

If you want a flavorful dish with lots of color and texture, this does the trick. Enjoy! (And farewell, sweet tomato friends... see you next summer.)

Tomato Curry with Tofu and Vegetables
serves 6 (remember, I made a half-batch)

Curry Sauce
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, minced (4 tsp.)
1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1 medium white onion, diced
5 large tomatoes, chopped (6 cups)
⅓ cup plain yogurt
¼ cup raw cashews
½ tsp. ground turmeric
¼ tsp. garam masala, optional

Tofu and Vegetables
2 Tbs. vegetable oil, divided
1 16-oz. pkg. firm tofu, drained, pressed, and cut into ½-inch cubes
8 oz. white button mushrooms, quartered (3 cups)
½ cup frozen peas, thawed

1. To make Curry Sauce: Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger, and sauté 30 seconds. Add onion, and sauté 5 minutes more. Add tomatoes, and cook, stirring frequently, 10 minutes. Transfer to blender (I used my immersion blender directly into my soup pot), add yogurt and cashews, and purée until smooth. Return sauce to saucepan, and heat over medium-low heat. Add turmeric and garam masala (if using), and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, and cook 20 to 30 minutes, or until thickened. (I made this sauce in the afternoon, then threw everything else together that night before din din.)

2. Meanwhile, to make Tofu and Vegetables: Heat 1 Tbs. oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add tofu, and sauté 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden-brown. Transfer to plate, and set aside. Heat remaining 1 Tbs. oil in same skillet, add mushrooms, and sauté 5 to 7 minutes.

3. Stir tofu, mushrooms, and peas into Curry Sauce; season with salt, if desired. Cook over low heat 5 minutes, or until heated through.

September 2014, Vegetarian Times p.10

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Quips, Quotes and Questions, 8-24-14

I tend to come across so many thoughtful, humorous, challenging, troubling, encouraging quotes and links in any given week, that I've decided to compile them regularly here...

Many churches sing the hymn, “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy,” but the church is not always generous in dispensing it. God does not dole out mercy like cookies only for good, repentant children. God’s mercy is not conditioned by our response. God is mercy. So, wide is wider than we guess. (David Buttrick)

Reading through the Book of Esther... once Haman tricks King Ahasuerus into eliminating the Jews, there is this simple and telling statement: "The king and Haman sat down to drink; but the city of Susa was thrown into confusion." (3:15) As power is abused, those in control move on, numbed and blissfully unaware, while suffering abounds in their midst.

Jesus is still held in the captivity of middle class respectability. Christians are expected to behave according to culturally sanctioned norms of allegiance, fidelity, obedience and respect…. We have come a long way from the fiery prophetic figure of Nazareth who shocked and disturbed the conventions of his day in the name of justice and liberation. Our respectability has taken a terrible toll on the authentic calling of Christian life. We have lost sight of the deeper vision and lost heart for the passion and enthusiasm of God’s New Reign. (Diarmuid O'Murchu)

Joyful hope is the hallmark of genuine discipleship. We look forward to a future full of hope, in the face of all evidence to the contrary. Hope makes us attentive to signs of the in-breaking of the Reign of God. Jesus describes that coming reign in the parable of the mustard seed…. Though it can also be cultivated, mustard is an invasive plant, essentially a weed…. We can, indeed, live in joyful hope because there is no political or ecclesiastical herbicide that can wipe out the movement of God’s Spirit. Our hope is in the absolutely uncontainable power of God. We who pledge our lives to a radical following of Jesus can expect to be seen as pesky weeds that need to be fenced in. If the weeds of God’s Reign are stomped out in one place they will crop up in another. (Pat Farrell OSF)

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring."—Martin Luther King, Jr

The final secret, I think, is this: that the words "You shall love the Lord your God" become in the end less a command than a promise. And the promise is that, yes, on the weary feet of faith and the fragile wings of hope, we will come to love him at last as from the first he has loved us--loved us even in the wilderness, especially in the wilderness, because he has been in the wilderness with us. He has been in the wilderness for us. He has been acquainted with our grief. (Frederick Buechner)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

What is Success?

One of my daily devotional sources comes from a blog called Inward/Outward. This was today's reading:
Only when we see ourselves in our true human context, as members of a race which is intended to be one organism and “one body,” will we begin to understand the positive importance not only of the successes but of the failures and accidents in our lives. My successes are not my own. The way to them was prepared by others. The fruit of my labors is not my own: for I am preparing the way for the achievements of another…. Therefore the meaning of my life is not to be looked for merely in the sum total of my achievements. It is seen only in the complete integration of my achievements and failures with the achievements and failures of my own generation, and society, and time. It is seen, above all, in my own integration in Christ. (Thomas Merton)
First of all, Thomas Merton is one of "my" writers. I gobble up so much of what he's written, and know that I'm really only understanding about 33% of what he's saying. But I pray the for the Holy Spirit to keep shedding light to me.

I grew up in a world were my value was measured, at least from the way it felt to me, by my accomplishments. I was asked about how many A's I got, how many tennis matches I won, how many awards I received, how much money I earned, how much weight I'd lost. At the end of the day, it's what I achieved that seemed to matter most. Others were openly disappointed when I told them I was jumping off the career track I entered after college graduation and jumping onto the train to vocational ministry. Later someone told me that I had been living under my potential for quite awhile. As a result, I have spent nearly all of my adult life continuing to seek after success in ministry to somehow "prove them wrong."

I regret these deeply misguided efforts. But God has brought a lot of healing to me in this, and I am trying to live, more and more each day, in light of the truth of Merton's words here. Both my "achievements" and "failures" add up to something far larger than what I understand. I am being shaped for eternity. My actions have impact beyond what I will ever see -- which is a good thing. And what I perceive as success and failure are supremely limited in scope.

I am part of God's people, and I have benefited from the saints who have gone before me. My actions will bear fruit primarily in those who come after me. As I was reminded today in scripture, "I have been crucified with Christ and yet I am alive;  yet it is no longer I, but Christ living in me."  (Galatians 2:20) What matters is how he is becoming greater in my life, and I am becoming less. (John 3:30).

May we each learn how to live truly "successful" lives, counter to the materialistic, foolish, short-sighted world around us, fixing our eyes on Christ.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Funky and Fabulous Fritters

Thumbing through my latest issue of Vegetarian Times, I came upon a recipe for which I had a few, but not all ingredients. I felt brave enough to do some substitutions because of what I had on hand, and the results were quite tasty. The original recipe is not online yet, but here's what I did.

Zucchini and Sweet Potato Fritters
serves 2

1/4 lb. zucchini, shredded (substitute for okra from the original recipe)
1/2 sweet potato, shredded (about 1/2 c total)
1/4 sweet onion, diced (substitute for shallot)
2 tsp agave (substitute for honey)
2 tsp tamari
1/4 c egg white (you can use a whole egg if you want)
1/4 c masa flour (substitute for yellow cornmeal)
1/4 c toasted walnuts, minced
2 tb coconut oil, divided


  1. Combine zucchini, sweet potato, onion, agave, tamari, egg, walnuts and masa flour in large bowl. Refrigerate for 15-30 mins.
  2. Heat 1 tb oil in pan over medium-high heat.
  3. Scoop mixture into large golf-ball size spheres and flatten slightly in pan. Cook for 8 minutes, flipping once.
  4. Repeat with remaining oil and fritters. 
  5. Serve with a bit of tamari sauce, if desired.
I ate this with some scrambled eggs for additional protein. It would be a nice side dish too. Yum it up!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Graduation-Goer

Chalk up another year. On May 2nd and 3rd I attended the Baccalaureate and Graduation Ceremonies, respectively, of Westmont College. If I tried to add up the amount of graduation and promotion events that I have attended for all the jr highers, high schoolers and college students I have known and loved since 1984.... let's just say it would be a large number.

Truth be told, I am not usually excited as I leave the house for one of these things. I make sure I've loaded up enough on sunscreen, water and snacks to get me through it. Thankfully, I have also learned that I can ask a family to save me a seat rather than head out early in order to save one for myself. I try to arrive right as the graduates are heading in, so I can give a quick hug, a big smile, and a whoop whoop to as many of them as I can. Then I scramble up to my saved seat, and settle in for an utterly predictable program.

Why do I put myself through it? I mean, really, I cannot recall a memorable speech by a famous dignitary, or a mind-blowing piece of advice that has been given. There are usually some stumbles in the program -- microphones don't work, someone trips, or music doesn't work out... So it is clear that we do not attend these things because of the quality of the performance.

Nevertheless, it's a significant marker.  They have accomplished something, and that feels good. I enjoy seeing the giddiness of the graduates. They really have no idea what awaits them, but I don't worry about that. I think they should enjoy the fact that they are finished, and get to celebrate it publicly.

I come to you humbly though, in needing to admit that despite my long history of attending these sorts of things, I actually came away with a revelation this time. I realized that graduation is as much for me as it is for them. Huh?

Many years I had a student who was in a search for the meaning of life. He had grown up in a Christian home, with parents who were robust faith followers, actively involved both in their church and interestingly, in national conversations about faith. This student was already rather cynical. He did not want to come to youth group, but we had a pleasant friendship and he was fine with meeting every other week or so for lunch and conversation. At one point, he had to read The Moviegoer by Walker Percy. He told me that the book's plot centered about an existential search in some ways similar to his own, so I told him I would read the book so that we could talk about it.

As it says in the Wikipedia description of the novel, "He [main character, Binx Bolling] day-dreams constantly, has trouble engaging in lasting relationships and finds more meaning and immediacy in movies and books than in his own routine life.... The loose plot of the novel follows The Moviegoer himself, Binx Bolling, in desperate need of spiritual redemption." 

I find a key quote from the book so compelling: "What is the nature of the search? you ask. Really it is very simple; at least for a fellow like me. So simple that it is easily overlooked. The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life."

Indeed. Aren't we all sunk in the "everydayness" of life? I want to pretend I live life every day to the fullest, and seek after purity and meaning in all that I do. But if I'm honest, I struggle as I string together day chock full of work and errands and house-cleaning and bills and a deep need to sleep. Somewhere in there I try to earnestly pursue a life of spiritual discipline. But with only limited success.

Before I sound too existential and bleak, I want to get to my point: I discovered last weekend that yet another graduation ceremony was a good wake-up call for me personally. It forced me to stop, reflect, and be reminded of what I am about. Like the Moviegoer, I am on a search. I heard some heartfelt speeches that expressed real hopes and dreams, and I chose to use this opportunity to hear all the sentiments shared in the context of how my own life has unfolded. I stopped to recall how I felt at 22, and what I feel and experience now at 53.

I also paused to consider how I have been spending my life, having poured into many students, some of whom were graduating that day. Some of them I had known literally since birth, and others I had met with weekly in Bible study and substantive conversation for years. Was it worth it? Had I used my time well? Yes. I shuffled through mental pictures of memories and conversations and how much these young adults had grown up. Which prompted me to rejoice and be grateful for the privilege of walking with them for awhile.

Years ago I discerned that funerals are actually for those who are left behind, not the one being memorialized. Funerals provide closure, a time to remember, a time to weep in order to start putting the pieces of life back together without that person, for better or worse. I came to see this past weekend that graduations function in much the same way. True, these events are certainly for those being celebrated, unlike a funeral, since the graduates are still very much alive. But these ceremonies are also for those watching: the parents and relatives who are blinking away the tears, stunned at the realization that it all happened way. too. fast. For the professors who toil away, year after year, wondering if what they are doing is worth it and getting a brief blast of joy in getting to share this beautiful moment with their students, shedding the binary relationship of instructor and student, instead getting to be united with them in celebration. And for the mentors, who invested and encouraged and prayed and laughed and pushed. At graduation we get a chance to say, "There, I've done all that I could. I may be done, or not. But I will stop and look backwards, recalling God's faithful and guiding hand and direction." Importantly, this keeps me going.

So I am a Graduation-Goer, who benefits from being reminded that we are all searching, and that periodically, we need to stop and see how that search is going.