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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Listen to Life

Listen. Simply, here is the heart of the Rule of St. Benedict. Listen to life. Get out of the front yard, leave the plastic ornament world, and join the adventure tour. Enter the mystery. God is still able to surprise us. God, after all, is still God, and we are not. The world is indeed full of mystery...

If we learn nothing else from St. Benedict, he would have us remember this: When the bells ring, listen. When the young speak, listen. Listen to the prayers of the poor. Listen to the baying, the singing, the praying, the mourning, the laughing. When the music plays, when the night stands still, when loss cuts into your gut, when joy lets you leap over the tallest building in a single bound, pay attention to the moment, to all the moments and all the people and every breath you take beneath the ancient sky.

It would be spiritual apartheid to suggest that God is heard only in monasteries, only among Benedictines, or only through Benedictine spirituality. The Irish speak of a tradition of "thin places." It is believed among them that there are sequestered, sacred places on earth where, if you listen very carefully, you can hear God more clearly and feel God more closely than you thought possible....

Make a habit of reminding yourself several times a day to try and be more attentive. It might be as simple as writing "Listen" into some of the empty lines of your planning book or calendar. It is often between the lines and in the empty places where we hear God.

(Taken from Benedict's Way: An Ancient Monk's Insights for a Balanced Life by Lonni Collins Pratt and Father Daniel Homan, OSB) For more on the Rule of St. Benedict, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_St._Benedict

I started reading this devotional book, Benedict's Way, on my sabbatical in November, and as soon as I finished it, I started over. Today I finish it for a second time. I will miss it for awhile... but it launched me on a great new path of listening in the quiet and in the noise, in the profound and in the mundane, for the voice of God. I often hear Him in His Word, the Bible, but now I hear Him in birdsong, in friendship, in the news, in books, in music, in conversation... God is always talking to us. But we are rarely listening.

Next devotional I'm going to use: Listening to Your Life by Frederick Buechner. Stay tuned.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Cauliflower Conversion

Even though it's not Thursday, I have another great recipe to post because I got some great cauliflower at Fairview yesterday. This one has converted two cauliflower-hating friends into big fans, and Cari Stone has told me she cooks this regularly for her family after having it at my house. Look at all the spices in this recipe - fantastic!

serves 3-4

a piece of fresh ginger, 2 1/2 by 1 inch, peeled & chopped OR 2-3 tsp minced ginger
1 lg head fresh cauliflower
(1 c frozen peas if you want)
3-4 tb vegetable oil
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp red or green hot sauce, or 1 fresh hot green chili
1 packed cup coarsely chopped cilantro
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp garam masala
1 tb lemon juice
2 tsp salt

Put the ginger into a blender with 4 tb water and blend until smooth.

Cut off thick, coarse stem of cauliflower & remove all leaves. Break large flowerets into smaller ones. Try to preserve as much of stems as possible.

Heat oil in wok or 10-12 inch skillet over medium heat. Add ginger paste and turmeric. Fry, stirring constantly; after 2 minutes add chile sauce or green chili and cilantro. After another two minutes, put in cauliflower (and peas). Cook and stir for 5 minutes. If necessary, add 1 tsp warm water at a time to prevent sticking.

Now add cumin, coriander, garam masala, lemon juice, salt and 3 tb warm water. Cook and stir for about 5 minutes, then cover, lower flame, and let cook slowly for 25-35 minutes, stirring gently every 10 minutes. The cauliflower is done when it is tender with just a faint trace of crispness along inner spine.

Serve over steamed basmati rice or with any kind of lentils and raita.

Taken from "An Invitation to Indian Cooking" by Madhur Jaffrey. This is a hilarious old school Indian cookbook that I saw was just re-issued. It's worth getting.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Thursday Recipe

I've gotten some feedback that my recipes are a hit, so here's my weekly Fairview recipe. It is VERY good. (But then again, why would I post a recipe for something that tastes lousy...)

1/4 c soy sauce
2 tb balsamic vinegar
2 tb honey
2 tb sesame oil + 2 tsp oil
2 tsp cornstarch (OK, this sauce is awesome - use it for any stir fry)
8 green onions, chopped (optional ingredient)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tb fresh ginger, minced and peeled
1 head bok choy - bottom third discarded, leaves sliced and diced (not too small)
12 oz extra-firm tofu, cut into cubes
12 oz package udon noodles or linguine, freshly cooked

Fry up tofu in skillet over medium heat with 2 tsp oil.Whisk soy sauce, vinegar, honey, only 1 tb oil and cornstarch in small bowl to blend. Keep turning them over in skillet till edges are a little crusty. Set aside.

Heat remaining tb of oil in wok or large pot over medium heat.

Add onions, garlic and ginger and stir 30 seconds. (Ginger might spatter, be careful). Add bok choy and saute until it begins to wilt, about 2 minutes.

Mix in tofu, then noodles, then soy mixture. Stir until sauce thickens and coats noodle mixture, about 1 minute. Season with salt and sesame seeds.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Pray the suffering church in Zimbabwe

The Religious Liberty Commission has urged 'the Churches of the Anglican Communion to join with the Anglican Church of Southern Africa in observing Wednesday 25 February 2009, Ash Wednesday, as a day of prayer and solidarity with the Zimbabwean people.' Furthermore, they are calling on ALL believers to lift up the church in Zimbabwe.

Go to http://www.assistnews.net/STORIES/2009/s09020085.htm for more info.

Really - allow your heart to feel the things that Jesus feels. Our brothers and sisters in Christ are suffering for calling on His name. Let's pray for them.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Marking Time

Since November, I have been using a devotional titled Benedict's Way. It is a lovely, simple book that gives thirty devotionals related to the Rule of St. Benedict, a set of teachings used by most monastic orders to give structure and direction to their spiritual communities. I picked it up in my pursuit of greater intimacy with God and a desire for more simplicity in the way I ordered my life.

Today's reading, titled "Marking Time," really spoke to me as I passed through a significant marker yesterday:

We can't control time, but we can mark it. ... Rather than trying to manage time, Benedict asks us to embrace it, to walk into it, to hop on the bucking bronco and ride it until our last gasp of air. (223)

God, today I say yes to another day and all its opportunities. Tonight I say thank you for another day and all its opportunities. I am in a cycle of seasons that seems to be taking me somewhere. Help me remember that time is an ally and not an enemy. These seasons that come and go are taking me to you. Give me faith to hold on to that knowledge. Amen. (225)

This week, Christians will mark time with the beginning of Lent this Wednesday, Feb. 25. Think about marking some time between now and Easter, to prepare your heart and mind for what God will say to you. Make the soil of your heart ready to receive the seeds of his grace.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


As I exit the pastoral ministry at Santa Barbara Community Church, there simply are no words for what I’ve been feeling and experiencing these last few days. The profound sense of love, of loss, of joy, of sadness, all arm-wrestling inside of me at the same time… It just makes want to go to bed. But ultimately, I believe and embrace the fact that I have been deeply blessed to have known so many, so well, for so long.

During a graduation commissioning service one year at church, I said that when a graduate leaves, it is not as if I had a room for him or her in heart which will just get filled by another student once the graduate moves on. Rather -- it is as if my heart has many rooms; and in each heart room, the bed is made and the light is on, ready for that student to come and visit when they call or come home. It was always available. It has been extraordinary to watch a wealth of people grow up – physically, emotionally and spiritually. I just beam with delight at the thought.

Yet I also cannot deny that to have kept this many rooms ready in my heart has been tiring at times - but it has always been worth it. I have never tired of loving so many, so much. I know this is Jesus in me. A human heart is not capable of loving this many people. I know my own heart isn’t able to do this, anyway.

So to “leave” this church family now is beyond difficult. I ache over all the relationships I have. Each one is real and true. Each person sets off a slide show in my head whenever I see them. I feel the laughter, the tears, the huge experiences and memories, again and again. I am so thankful to have a good memory – I can recall so many amazing details!

The depth of things I'm hearing from people is overwhelming. I cannot take it all in. People are writing the dearest things in cards and emails. I am fortunate to get to hear it. Thank you Jesus. So much. You are far too kind in allowing me to hear people's hearts. This is but a tiny nibble of how You must feel! It nearly crushes me. How do You do it?

As I leave this body of believers, I step into so many unknowns, I feel like I’ve been launched from a cannon out into a giant canyon. I have no idea if I have a parachute, a bungee cord, or a net to catch me. Or nothing! It is exhilarating and utterly terrifying at the same time. Only your hand Lord is there. Please catch me. And take care of those whom I love. You love them far, far more than I do.

I loved you so much that I was delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but my life as well, because you had become so dear to me. (1 Thessalonians 2:8, slightly adjusted ☺)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

So I Never Saw the Movie...

...but I heard this quote today on Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac and it just works:

"Deliver me from Swedish furniture.
Deliver me from clever art.
May I never be complete.
May I never be content. May I never be perfect."

The nameless narrator of Fight Club
written by Chuck Palahniuk

Friday, February 20, 2009


I am surprised that I got more remarks about my recipe posting yesterday than I have about the profound quotes and things.... hmm... guess it just show that we all love good food.

Yesterday I got some kohlrabi at Fairview... yes, what is that, you ask. Look it up on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kohlrabi. It's other lovely name is "German turnip." Wow, sign me up.

Hands down it is one of the most unattractive vegetables that God has created. When I was peeling and chopping it for soup tonight, I felt like I was murdering one of the characters on Monsters Inc. It totally looks like some alien being. But this recipe worked - winter comfort food, for sure.

Kohlrabi Soup

1 1/4 lb kohlrabi (2-3 bulbs)
6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (oh gosh, why not? Live a little)
1 white onion, chopped
4 oz bacon (4 slices)
1 carrot, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped (I'll admit I put in five)
2 large potatoes, diced (I left the skins on)
salt and pepper (I put in 1 1/2 tsp salt)
1/4 c diced fresh parsley

1. Peel the kohlrabi (kill the alien!) and dice. Cook the bacon, then remove from heat for later use. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil in a saucepan, add the onion cook over a low heat for about 3 minutes until translucent, stirring continuously.

2. Add the kohlrabi, carrot, garlic, potatoes and 6-8 cups of water and bring to the boil. Dice up bacon and add that too.

3. Cook with the lid on for about 1 hour. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a soup tureen, add the remaining oil and serve immediately.

I would also recommend tearing up some bread and putting it in the soup. It soaks up all the flavors and makes it more hearty.
The Non-Possessive Life
by Henri Nouwen

To be able to enjoy fully the many good things the world has to offer, we must be detached from them. To be detached does not mean to be indifferent or uninterested. It means to be non-possessive. Life is a gift to be grateful for and not a property to cling to.

A non-possessive life is a free life. But such freedom is only possible when we have a deep sense of belonging. To whom then do we belong? We belong to God, and the God to whom we belong has sent us into the world to proclaim in his Name that all of creation is created in and by love and calls us to gratitude and joy. That is what the "detached" life is all about. It is a life in which we are free to offer praise and thanksgiving.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

If it's Thursday, it must be Fairview...

Every Thursday I pick up our share of produce from Fairview Gardens (www.fairviewgardens.org), the local CSA (um, Community Supported Agriculture for you rookies!) farm in Goleta the Good Land... this week was yet another great haul o' goods, and I opted to make the recommended recipe for the week tonight for dinner - quite tasty I might add:

1 sm head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 tb vegetable oil
1 onion, peeled & thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled & minced (I put in 3 - I lo-o-o-ve garlic)
1 potato, peeled & diced (the recipe didn't say this, but I would microwave the potato for 2 mins before putting it in the skillet)
1 c fresh or frozen peas
2 ripe tomatoes, diced (I used a can of diced tomatoes)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin - use 1 tsp
1/2 tsp ground coriander - same
1/2 tsp brown sugar - yep, add more!
1/2 tsp salt
1 c water
1/4 c plain yogurt
2 tb chopped fresh cilantro

In a saucepan place a steamer basket over 3/4" of water. Arrange cauliflower in basket. Bring water to full boil, cover & steam for 5-7 minutes until tender. Set aside.

In large non-stick skillet or wok, heat oil. Add onion and garlic,
saute for 3 minutes. Add potatoes & peas, cook for 5 minutes over medium-low heat until potatoes are tender. Add tomatoes, cayenne pepper, cumin, coriander, brown sugar, salt, steamed cauliflower, and water. Simmer over low heat for 5 minutes.

Just before serving, remove skillet from heat & add yogurt and cilantro.

I served it over brown rice. DEEE-lightful!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Suffering Believers in China

At Urbana 2000, I first learned of the need, and the power, of intercessory prayer in regard to the needs of the persecuted and suffering church around the world. That year, I continued to pray for the church around the world through a book titled Operation World.

But since then, sometimes sporadically, I have kept praying by using a weekly email from the Religious Liberty Commission - go to www.worldevangelicals.org to receive it yourself.

This spiritual practice has changed my life - for several reasons:
  1. It gives me huge perspective on most of the things that worry me. I tend to worry about stress and my to-do lists, and then I read about people dying for claiming the name of Christ. Duh.
  2. It gives me more of God's heart for the world.
  3. It draws me into relationship with my brothers and sisters in Christ.
  4. It keeps me informed of world news that may not get reported on ABC or in the papers; so when I hear about other things on the news about various countries, I am reminded to pray for the spiritual battles going on there as well.
So here is the posting for this week. I just try to pray over 1 bullet point per day, and actually look at a world map when I do so. Use Hebrews 13:3 to guide you:

Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | No. 517 | Wed 18 Feb 2009


Protests or 'mass incidents' have been on the rise in China over
recent years. Not having democratic institutions, free media,
openness and due process, this is the way Chinese citizens can
express their anger over corruption, injustice, human rights
abuses, low wages, wealth disparity, workers' rights and the like.
Anger is likely to rise further this year as unemployment reaches
critical levels due to the world economic downturn which is
lessening global demand for Chinese products. Furthermore, a group
of dissident intellectuals published their 'Charter 08' on 10
December 2008 -- a manifesto calling for sweeping political and
human rights reforms. Despite Chinese Communist Party (CCP) efforts
to block access to Charter 08, it has now been signed by more than
2000 Chinese citizens, including numerous prominent intellectuals
and officials. Many China watchers are expecting a sharp increase
in anger, dissent and 'mass incidents' during 2009, with an equally
sharp increase in official reactionary repression.

President Hu Jintao recently ordered his military commanders to
'strengthen military discipline' so as to keep the People's
Liberation Army (PLA) loyal to the CCP through this year of
economic difficulties and emotionally charged anniversaries: the
50th anniversary of the Tibet uprising (10 March); the 20th
anniversary of the June 4 democratic movement; and the 60th
anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China (1

Last week China underwent a UN Human Rights Council 'Universal
Periodic Review'. After delivering a lengthy boast, the Chinese
delegation rejected the criticism levelled at it by a few and
basked in the praise of the majority. China rejected proposals from
countries such as Australia, Germany and Canada that it improve
religious liberty and end torture, the death penalty and arbitrary
detention. Only the accepted proposals are listed in detail for the
report including: Egypt's proposal that the death penalty be
continued; Sudan's proposal that 'reform of re-education through
labour' be pursued 'according to the Chinese system'; Zimbabwe's
proposal that poverty be reduced; and Cuba's proposal that China
continue to crack down on (allegedly) subversive human rights
defenders. In all, the majority voted that China's human rights
record was 'on track'. Naturally China sees this 'victory' as a
vindication of its policy.

Meanwhile, persecution of the Church is escalating. According to
China Aid Association (CAA), house-church Christian Yuan Shenlun
(70), who had already spent 14 years in prison for his faith, was
arrested on 20 January and accused of 'using an evil cult
organisation to obstruct justice'. On 4 February police seized
Christian lawyer Gao Zhisheng from his home in Beijing. Goa, a
former member of both the CCP and PLA, has been arrested before and
during September-October 2007 was tortured so severely he wanted to
die. (See http://chinaaid.org/ .) Gao's present whereabouts are
unknown. Four of 60 house-church leaders arrested in Henan Province
on 11 February remain in custody. On 4 February Compass Direct
(http://compassdirect.org ) reported that the CCP 'has ramped up
efforts both to identify Christians and to portray Christianity as
a subversive foreign force'. This is a very dangerous development.


* God to build, sanctify and refine his Church in China so that in
holiness she may shine as a light in the darkness -- a light
that exposes lies and reveals truth, for the sake of the Kingdom
and glory of God.

* the Holy Spirit to fill all Chinese Church leaders with courage,
faith, insight and wisdom, drawing them deep into his word and
into prayer; may every effort of the CCP to contain the Church
be confounded and that it may in fact continue to grow.

* Yuan Shenlun, Gao Zhisheng and all other Christians in prison
and labour camps for their faith and practice, that they may
experience the fellowship of Christ, and that God's angels will
mercifully restrain the fists and rods that are raised against
them. 'Are they [angels] not all ministering spirits sent out
for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?' (Hebrews
1:14 ESV)


Tuesday, February 17, 2009


From my latest issue of the New Yorker. I will admit I don't always get the cartoons, but when I do.... ah, that's nice. At least I hope I get them. Hmm.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Faith, Prayer, Sloth, Transformation

Reading Acedia & me by Kathleen Norris - various quotes that I like:

"We shortchange ourselves by regarding religious faith as a matter of intellectual assent. This is a modern aberration; the traditional Christian view is far more holistic, regarding faith as a whole-body experience." (p. 84)

"Prayer is warfare to the last breath." (Abba Agathon, quoted p. 96)

"If the Church has made too much of the sin of pride, which seduces us into thinking too highly of ourselves, it has not made enough of the sin of sloth, which allows us to settle for being less than we can be, both as individuals and as a society." (p.113)

"The concept of sin... is meant to encourage people to believe that they are made in the image of God and to act accordingly. Hope is the heart of it, and the ever-present possibility of transformation." (p. 114)

This is a fabulous book. It talks about "acedia," which I had never really heard of before. It's difficult to define - but I think I understand it to basically be the temptation to not stick with it when it gets hard to be faithful. It was a term first applied to monks and nuns living their simple and arduous lives, and the temptation to chuck it! But this book applies the same temptation to artists, writers, even married people who want to give up on their vows. It's all about commitment of all sorts, and following through when you don't feel like it.

New hymn

An old hymn, written by William Sleeper (what a fabulous name!) in 1887, that I just heard anew last week at a conference. Go to iTunes and hear the Shelly Moore Band sing it.

Out of my bondage, sorrow and night,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into Thy freedom, gladness, and light,

Jesus, I come to Thee;
Out of my sickness, into Thy health,
Out of my want and into Thy wealth,
Out of my sin and into Thyself,
Jesus, I come to Thee.

Out of my shameful failure and loss,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into the glorious gain of Thy cross,
Jesus, I come to Thee;
Out of earth’s sorrows, into Thy balm,
Out of life’s storms and into Thy calm,
Out of distress to jubilant psalm,
Jesus, I come to Thee.

Out of unrest and arrogant pride,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into Thy blessed will to abide,
Jesus, I come to Thee;
Out of myself to dwell in Thy love,
Out of despair, into raptures above,
Upward for aye on wings like a dove,
Jesus, I come to Thee.

Out of the fear and dread of the tomb,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into the joy and light of Thy home,
Jesus, I come to Thee;
Out of the depths of ruin untold,
Into the peace of Thy sheltering fold,
Ever Thy glorious face to behold,
Jesus, I come to Thee.

I thought I knew what freedom was. How good it is to discover new layers of it. I did not realize how deep the bondage to fear goes until Jesus sets me free of it. To have the weight lifted is a wonder. Thank you Lord for your tender and persistent grace.

My favorite line:
Out of myself to dwell in Thy love..."

The older I get, the more I see that all of life is really about learning how to shed our self-obsession. Denial of self, with its fear, its sin, and its smallness, sets us free to be who we were created to be. Glory.